bulletin board
events calendar
business directory

best friend
news briefs



Help Wanted
Erin Flahive studies social service needs

Erin Flahive, a Vista volunteer, is assessing social service needs in the Methow Valley. The results will guide strategic planning for Room One.

The five most critical local social services needs emerging in the first phase of a survey being conducted by Room One are: improving local transportation options, having more mental health services, establishing a place for young people to hang out, having more affordable family activities and increasing affordable, quality child care services.

Erin Flahive, who is conducting the assessment as a Vista volunteer on a one-year assignment, talked about her preliminary findings at this month's Social Services Roundtable meeting, and in a recent interview.

“Transportation has been the biggest need to show up,” Flahive said. She's found people who need a way to get to doctor appointments, some who could be working if they had transportation to and from a job, socially isolated parents and young people who could get out if they had a way to do so. Lack of transportation “is a barrier for employment and for getting to youth and school events,” she emphasized.

Flahive has started researching how other rural areas cope with transportation problems. She said finding a solution is especially important here because so many social and medical services are outside the valley -- in Omak, Okanogan or Wenatchee.

Since September, Flahive has gleaned information from several focus groups as well as from individuals at the senior center and from conversations with people receiving food and other services at the local food bank. She's gone door-to-door canvassing residents of the low-income apartments and the trailer park in Twisp. She also has met with the Lookout Coalition. And she said conversations with teachers, and with parents who have children in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, have been very helpful.

Mental health services are another need here, Flahive said. “That’s a big one... I think there are more emotional needs [in this rural area],” she added, sharing that she’s talked with people who live within a mile of town, where things are going on, and yet they feel isolated and depressed. She’s found this is especially true for people over 50. “That’s one of the reasons Guardian Angels is so well spoken about,” she said.

“People are very aware of The Cove and have all sorts of good things to say about The Cove and Guardian Angels,” Flahive added. The Cove, at 128 Glover St. in Twisp, is the valley’s food bank and oversees the “angel” program administered by Eunice Marchbank. She matches volunteers with needs such as having a social friend or someone to help with chores and errands or provide a ride to a doctor’s appointment.

Another observation Flahive shared is that there are people who aren't aware of the services available to them. "Some clients have brought up that they don’t know who to ask for help or where to go.” There's also the stigma attached to asking for help if you're used to being self-sufficient, she added.

“We need to get the word out more,” she said referring to Room One. Many people think Room One’s programs are just for women and children. However, it is the main clearinghouse in the valley for meeting social service needs directly and for referring people of all genders and ages to whatever assistance they may need.

Flahive said the need for a place young people can hang out and get involved in activities comes up frequently. And the transportation challenge is related, she added, because even if there were a gathering spot for kids, getting there could be a hurdle.

There is a valley teen center in the formative stages, and the group of people working to make it happen have sponsored one event at the Community Center in Twisp. A board has been formed and is applying for non-profit status, according to Sarah Longino-DeKalb, Room One outreach worker.

Flahive said other family needs to emerge are a need for more child care services, including places that take infants, and having more affordable family activities. “One parent suggested having a social gathering one night a week.”

In January, Flahive will reconvene her oversight committee and report on findings. The next step will be to prioritize needs and design a survey for wider distribution.

The assessment is looking at needs both met and unmet. The results will be made public and will guide Room One’s strategic planning, according to Karissa McLane, executive director. Room One is at 315 Lincoln St. S., in Twisp.


read past feature stories in the archive >>