Let’s keep watching for each other | Editorial

This has been a tough year on the islands. Several downtown storefronts are empty. Local businesses, schools, and town and county governments have tightened their belts and/or reduced services. Local workers in the public and private sector have taken unpaid furloughs. The jobless rate was 5.5 percent in September, although some experts say the rate could be higher because that number only reflects the number of people who are receiving unemployment checks.

And yet, at the risk of sounding Pollyannish, we do on this Thanksgiving eve find much for which to be thankful.

As we’ve often written in this column (quoting historian Mike Vouri), living on an island is like living on a ship at sea. We have each other, and that’s all we’ve got. So we are thankful for the many ways that islanders have each other’s backs.

No one leaves hungry from the Early Thanksgiving Dinner at Friday Harbor High School and the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Grange.

The Food Bank and the Thrift Store help those in need stay clothed and fed. Calvary Church also provides clothing and food to those having a tough time; other churches provide similar services.

The Family Resource Center teams up with the Town of Friday Harbor to help town residents pay their utility bills. OPALCO members who round out the amount they owe on their monthly bills know that the extra amount helps neighbors keep their heat and lights on as well.

Islanders needing help getting to and from medical appointments on the mainland find it from the San Juan Eagles. (We’re thankful for the philanthropy that will give us a critical access hospital in August 2012, making many of those mainland visits unnecessary.) A program, Fish for Teeth (started by local fisherman Matt Marinkovich), pays for dental care for children in need; call the county Health Department, 378-4474. The state Dental Association Outreach Program of Washington offers reduced-fee dental care for low-income, elderly, disabled, and Alzheimer’s patients; call Dr. Bo Turnage, 378-4913.

Minnie Knych works hard at the Northwest Workforce Council in Friday Harbor to connect islanders with jobs. Earlier this year, she obtained funding for paid internships and now has funding to provide islanders 55 and older with paid on-the-job training. Find out more about how she can help. Her office is at 540 Guard St., Suite 210, Friday Harbor. Call 378-4662.

Victoria Compton at the San Juan County Economic Development Council provides low- and no-cost classes to help businesses finance, grow, hire, manage, market and plan. If you own a business or want to start one, learn about the resources the EDC has that can help you succeed. The EDC office is at 540 Guard St., Suite 110, Friday Harbor. Call 378-2906.

There are, of course, numerous other programs that meet needs in the community. The Journal will profile some of those programs in December in a series called “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” The work of all assures us of this: Recovery from the Great Recession continues. We’ll get through it, but only together.

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