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Children's Home Society ready to help families facing uncertainty

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Families already facing difficulties before the pandemic now face even more.

The local Children’s Home Society of Washington stands ready to help families through the challenges to come.

Regional Director Meagan Anderson-Pira said methods of helping simply needed to be adapted to the new situation.

“It’s going very well,” Anderson-Pira said. “We’ve transitioned quickly, very well.”

The 30 local staff members are still working, now from home. Nobody was laid off, she said. But home visits have changed from in-person to online.

The building is closed for walk-in assistance and everything other than two classrooms with a small number of children. That was reopened in early May with rigorous health testing and cleaning twice a day.

Services provided in Walla Walla include help with early learning, homeschooling, coordination with parents and partnerships with other organizations, Walla Walla Clinic pediatrics and Valle Lindo.

Under normal circumstances, Children’s Home Society provides family support, summer programs, food distribution, after-school programs and support for adoptive parents. Most of these services have moved online.

The staff has been incredibly flexible, according to Anderson-Pira. They needed to be to make the transition. Challenges included getting the technology to work: the computers, phones, printers.

“It’s tricky to work from home,” she said.

Families with young children have a lot of challenges. And their teachers miss the students. The healing solution for both of those needs was to keep connected online and then advance to home delivery of supplies.

Most teachers are now working from home, so they delivered food and diapers and were able to see the kids from the car, she said.

Currently CHS is holding steady.

“We anticipate a great increase in need,” Anderson-Pira said.

She suggested seeking help now rather than trying to tough it out and wait until the pandemic is over or the situation gets worse..

“We’re here, we’re ready to help,” she said. “We have a family navigator, to help anybody, everybody.”

The organization can connect and refer people to needed resources. Federal and some state money helps support CHS in addition to donations.

“We do run on money from donors, and grants. We are seeking out every form of funding. We are very blessed with funding. Money given here stays here,” Anderson-Pira said.

CHS in the Valley is in good shape for now because staff were able to have a fundraiser in February before the virus changed everything.

They also have the opportunity through June 15 with the Family Connection Challenge Match, in which an anonymous donor will match each dollar given, up to $250,000.

The pandemic brought more hardship to everyone, families continue struggling but the outlook of those in the organization is bright.

“I wouldn’t be in this line of work if I wasn’t an optimist,” she said. “I believe in families and relationships. We’re all struggling with this new experience. Families are resilient; the community is strong. I believe we’ll get through this. When we go through rough times, at the other end we’ll be stronger. I’m amazed at the resiliency of people.”

For more information, visit ubne.ws/2ZYJO94.

Karlene Ponti can be reached at karleneponti@wwub.com or 509-526-8324.

Karlene Ponti began as Special Publications Writer in 1999, work includes Lifestyles, The Weekly and Business Monthly. After Wa-Hi, Ponti attended Whitman and is a UW graduate. Later she was ordained a Christian minister at CDM Spiritual Teaching Center.