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On Board
Elana Mainer and Room One

photoElana Mainer, who took on Room One’s executive directorship more than a year ago, says she is working with a strong board and clearly defined goals to bring expanded social services to residents of the Methow Valley.

Elana Mainer took over the executive directorship at Room One, the valley’s social services resource center, less than two years ago. She walked in the door planning to make Room One “a flagship organization for all of Okanogan County.”

As the Oct. 26 Soup Dinner—the annual fundraiser that brings in one-third of Room One’s operating budget—was approaching, Mainer sat down with Methow Grist to reflect on what’s been happening since she arrived.

Mainer joined the staff just as Room One’s board of directors was starting work on a three-to-five year strategic plan. “We decided to strengthen the programs we had,” she said. Everything was evaluated. Goals were established. Tighter data collection procedures were put in place. And every program is being measured by the question, “Are you meeting the goal you set out to [achieve]?”

“We’re a really small organization,” said Mainer, who added that the goal is to run “replicable programs” and be able to measure their “true cost.” She took the job partly because she wanted to address the systemic causes of social problems and try to “get upstream” of them.

One strategy she’s following is to reach out to people with talent and skills who live in the Methow Valley and link them to local social needs. She said she’s also strengthening connections between Room One, which is housed in a modest manufactured home in Twisp, with existing programs and resources available at the county level and beyond.

Specific programs continue to address women’s health and give support to victims and survivors of domestic violence. However, the onetime “mothering group” is gone, replaced by an ongoing series of classes on parenting skills such as the positive discipline class offered last summer. The classes are offered on a sliding fee scale.

And while Room One continues to teach sex education and healthy relationship classes in the schools, the curriculum was scrutinized and tweaked to make sure the content is widely accepted as effective, according to Mainer.

There also is a new emphasis on staff training. Three Room One staff members are enrolled in Planned Parenthood University, a one-year online course. “It’s an amazing resource,” Mainer said. It’s happening because “an ally in the community opened a door for us.”

The Suicide Prevention Team is another example of ongoing staff education. Mainer said she’s observed that what’s working best for individuals contemplating suicide and families dealing with suicide is to come to Room One where “everything is confidential and closed.”

“Numerous people, both individuals and families” have been helped, she said, adding that there’s been a shift toward having a cadre of staff with deeper training.

photo of hand painted bowlsFour of the dozens of bowls to be sold at Room One’s annual Soup Dinner fund-raiser on Saturday, Oct. 26. The event brings in about one-third of the annual budget.

Thanks to a grant from Okanogan County Behavioral Health the Room One staff will be receiving six hours of additional training in a Question, Persuade, Refer protocol to deepen their suicide intervention skills, she said. Proponents of the QPR method want those trained to be as comfortable with suicide intervention as they are starting CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), Mainer said.

Room One also started a quarterly mental health providers’ meeting so local professionals could share their observations and gain a better understanding of community-wide needs. The group is continuing to meet bi-annually.

Another example of a need Room One is helping to address, according to Mainer, is that of having a student and family social worker available. The Methow Valley School District position was not funded at last year’s level. But the application process is underway for a position funded by Room One, the school district and the Public School Funding Alliance. Mainer said whoever is hired will have work space at Room One as well as at Liberty Bell High School and Methow Valley Elementary School.

photoRoom One's rented office space on Lincoln Street in Twisp will be for sale next year. Photo courtesy of Room One.

Other new programs include a Women in Recovery series facilitated by a volunteer local therapist “with lots of experience.”

And The Lookout Coalition started by Dr. Raleigh Bowden to deal with end of life medical care and aging issues also has moved under the Room One umbrella.

Unchanged is the center’s long-standing emphasis on education about domestic violence and support for victims. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Mainer recently invited Margo Amelong, executive director of The Support Center in Okanogan, to speak to the local social services Roundtable group.

“The United States and Canada have a wonderful network of help” for victims of abuse, Amelong told her audience. She said the Support Center, which is 35 years old, is part of that network. The center is working with seven adults and six children from the Methow Valley, she said.

The center offers advocacy for victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and general crimes, according to its informational brochure. It also has a 15-bed shelter.

“There often is an intersection between mental health and violence,” Mainer said at the meeting. “More than 80 percent of homeless women with children have experienced domestic violence,” she added.

“We are not attorneys but we’ve had all the training and we work closely with Northwest Justice,” said Amelong.

The Support Center also offers an anti-bullying curriculum called “Second Steps” and adult and teen versions of “In Her Shoes,” aimed at fostering an understanding of domestic violence.

And a new project called “Crossing Borders” is assisting women with immigration papers, Amelong added.

Room One works closely with the Support Center and that’s one reason Mainer is supporting the upcoming ballot measure to create a bus system that would link the Methow Valley with Okanogan and Omak. “Having a transportation service is so key to a rural community like ours,” she said.

The most recent example of Room One taking advantage of out-of-valley resources was the decision to become information central for the Affordable Care Act so local uninsured and underinsured people could get assistance. “Good mental and physical health is a way to get upstream of poverty,” Mainer said. “It was a board decision to go take this on.”

Two staff members received training through Empire Regional Health in Spokane. But because staff hours had to be added that were not in Room One’s budget, “that put us over budget for the year,” she said.

Mainer is counting on the upcoming fundraiser to “be a huge success” and bridge the budget gap.

Among the upcoming challenges at Room One, Mainer listed deciding what to do about the service center’s rented building at 315 Lincoln Street S. in Twisp. She said it will be coming on the market in 2014. “I would like us to own a building . . . We have a lot of decisions to make around that.”

Another item for this winter’s agenda is figuring out what to do with an offer of free passes, equipment and lessons from the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association, Winthrop Ice Rink and the Loup Loup Ski Bowl and business sponsors. MVSTA approached Room One with the offer, Mainer said, adding that it’s too soon to know whether there’s interest among client families and what “the barriers look like from our point.”

Whatever happens, Mainer is counting on the decision-making team of staff and board members. “I’ve never participated with a board like this one,” she said, describing them as a group of talented and skilled individuals who are “strong and committed” to Room One.

For information about Room One, it’s programs and the upcoming Soup Dinner go to


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