The Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community is nearly 1 year old, and co-directors Ben and Susan Paganelli are ready to build on the foundation that has been laid.

The partnership was established by a grant from the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation awarded to the KP Community Council. The goal was to support major, cooperative and sustainable community improvement and to focus on families in need. The grant also provided funding to meet immediate needs.

“We’ve been thinking about what makes a healthy community,” Ben Paganelli said. “It is one that takes pride in helping itself, is connected, and defines itself by its strengths rather than by its needs.”

Much of the work of the partnership has been to establish those connections and to make them sustainable.

A steering committee provided oversight, Paganelli said. Three working committees (hunger, transportation, and health and wellness) met to identify gaps and resources and to make recommendations for use of the grant funds for immediate needs.

The co-directors set up a website and a Facebook page. They identified more than 60 service organizations and businesses and met with at least three-quarters of them, creating a map of what assets they provide. They held community forums to get input from local residents about what they value now and what they think will be important in the future. They used that information to produce a survey distributed through the website and at various locations in the area.

The working committees disbursed $30,000 in immediate-need funding for initiatives such as providing prescription medicine subsidies and setting up a medical supply and vaccination fund; subsidizing field trips for Evergreen Elementary School and increasing the KP Bus Connects summer schedule; providing food vouchers to Backpacks 4 Kids and supplementing the local food banks, Communities In Schools of Peninsula and the Red Barn Youth Center.

As the partnership became more visible leaders and organizations offered more help, Paganelli said. The working committees discovered ways to share resources and to maximize efficiencies:

  • KP School Bus Connects expanded their schedule, which in turn enabled a new CISP summer youth program at Key Peninsula Middle School and increased participation numbers at the Red Barn.
  • At a Hunger Committee meeting, one group mentioned they had access to an underutilized refrigeration van, making it available to another food bank organization. During another meeting, one committee member helped another source more affordable supplies through group purchasing power.
  • At a Health and Wellness Committee meeting, Crossroads Treatment Center of Lakewood offered free drug and alcohol screening for the Key Free Clinic.
  • Camp Seymour partnered with the Red Barn to supply healthy food for the after-school snacks Red Barn offers.
  • Realtors in Gig Harbor Rotary offered furniture from homes that had been staged. CISP then worked with the NW Furniture Bank to take the furniture and offer CISP clients vouchers for it when needed. The realtors found a use for unwanted furniture and CISP did not have to store it.

“I see the partnership as being the connector—the ‘if’ for the community,” Paganelli said. “It begins to change the paradigm. Rather than saying ‘I need,’ an organization says, ‘I can do X if I have Y.’ We help find the Y to make X happen.”

The partnership is applying for a renewal of the Milgard grant, which was originally planned as a multiyear program. The partnership expects to have community action plan based on the past year’s results and research by December.

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