Community Collaboration: Base Camp
Base Camp: When the Covid-19 pandemic came to Whatcom County, the community had to act fast to protect some of our most vulnerable residents. The people staying at the Lighthouse Mission Ministry’s Drop-In Center (many of whom have pre-existing health conditions) were living in close quarters, with no ability to socially distance in the existing space. Compliance with the public health recommendations would have meant turning 110 people away, with nowhere else to go. This was simply not an option. The Drop-in Center needed a new home – and very fast. It took a tremendous effort on the part of multiple government agencies, non-profits, and private individuals who worked together to swiftly find solutions: a temporary relocation to Bellingham High School, which gave the community enough time to find a more permanent location at the new Base Camp on Cornwall Ave.
Awardees: While countless individuals and organizations contributed to the new Base Camp, the following individuals played an outstanding role in this effort. They are the unsung heroes who dedicated themselves behind the scenes, without whose perseverance and community spirit the Base Camp may not have become a reality.
- Bellingham School District Superintendent, Dr. Greg Baker – Bellingham Public Schools, led by Dr. Baker, gave Drop-In Center guests a safe place to stay for four months while the community could find a more permanent solution. Opening the doors of Bellingham High School to individuals without anywhere else to go was an unprecedented act of civic mindedness. It would not have been possible to get through this tough time without Bellingham Public School’s generosity.
- City of Bellingham, Community Development Manager, Tara Sundin – Ms. Sundin was instrumental in putting this collaboration into place at every step. Working long hours and most weekends, she brought all the stakeholders together and did everything from budget agreements to planting the trees in the courtyard. She is a true public servant who is willing to (literally) get her hands dirty!
- Downtown Business Owners, Jenn Mason (Wink Wink) & Peter Frazier (Heliotrope Hotel) – When some local businesses were resistant to the Base Camp’s new location, Mr. Frazier and Ms. Mason said, “Welcome Neighbors!” They recognized they had a role to play beyond their own businesses and stepped up to publicly offer their support of the Base Camp and encouraged others to do the same.
- Lighthouse Mission Ministries Associate Executive Director, Bridget Reeves – In her role, Ms. Reeves works tirelessly to tackle any challenge, and always with her characteristically calm and pleasant disposition. Through each of the moves, she was there to reassure and guide the guests and staff to make sure everything went smoothly. Over the years, Ms. Reeves has built strong working relationships with City and County staff, which laid the groundwork for this kind of collaboration.
- Whatcom County Health Department Human Services Manager, Anne Deacon – With addressing COVID-19 at center stage for the Health Department, Ms. Deacon began collaborating with strong community partners to support vulnerable populations. She immediately saw the larger picture, who the key partners were, and how best to utilize the resources available to support those experiencing homelessness. Ms. Deacon was thoughtful and focused in her interactions to help bring this project to fruition.