South Whidbey Rotary funds community grants

— Created April 6, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey is serious about pitching in to make a difference in its community.

The group recently awarded five grants to nonprofit organizations it felt most needed support in their missions to assist members of the community. These financial awards were based on what South Whidbey Rotary has identified as the most pressing needs among residents on the south end of our island.

While it is not unusual for organizations like Rotary to help with community causes and service, South Whidbey Rotary took a unique approach to identifying how it could best serve the needs of these organizations and its community. It began with developing a strategic plan, followed by conducting a community needs assessment.

“We developed a strategic plan under my leadership, which started July 1,” said South Whidbey Rotary president Marie Plakos. “We really needed a plan to move members forward and do the most we can do. We spent four months on the strategic plan and out of that came four committees, one of which is a community service/grants committee. Part of the committee’s goals was to do a needs assessment, so when we do grants, we are targeting where we can work with the community and engage other organizations to work with them.”

Plakos said South Whidbey Rotary had been gathering lists of organizations for several years, so committee members began making calls to nonprofits on the south end. After speaking with at least 30 different organizations, she said the needs assessment really highlighted affordable housing as the biggest need.

“Affordable housing is obviously not something we could fund, but we can join in any planning that might take place,” Plakos said. “So our second choice was to look at families and family needs, especially the organizations we walked to that served children, the elderly and veterans and those at risk of losing their homes or homelessness.”

According to Plakos, South Whidbey Rotary had $8,000 to give out in community grants, so they chose approximately 10 organizations, examined their financials and decided to focus on family organizations that were not highly funded and could put grant dollars to good use.

In the end, the organizations selected included Helping Hands of South Whidbey, Kids First of Island County and Mother Mentors, all of which received $2,000. The Hub After School and Whidbey Veterans Resource Center each received a $1,000 grant.

Plakos said Rotary members’ service to these organizations doesn’t end with the presentation of the checks, however.

“We will continue supporting those organizations through the process of giving grants, but we will also revisit our grant recipients,” she said. “Where we see a place for us to step in and help and where we see a need, we will step in with hands-on assistance.”

In fact, plans have already been made to partner with the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center for upcoming summer events, something representatives of that organization feel will help grow awareness of some of the challenges veterans on Whidbey Island face.

“We are excited to work closely with the Rotary Club and grow this strong, long-lasting partnership,” said Chris Hudec, WVRC board president and Air Force veteran, in a press release. “With nearly 20 percent in Island County having served in the military, together we recognize that veterans make up an important part of our island’s identity.”

South Whidbey Rotary also plans to continue to do what it can to further the goal of creating more affordable housing on the south end.

“Down here on the south end it’s been hard going, moving forward with how affordable housing will happen, whose property will be involved and how the community feels about that,” Plakos said. “We are here when the community begins to move forward, helping in any way we can. We don’t have funds, but we can go in and do service kinds of things.”

For her part, Plakos said the needs assessment opened her eyes to the kinds of help local nonprofit organizations offer to the community and how they coordinate with one another.

“I’m impressed with how closely knit all of the service organizations are to help on this island,” she said. “There are more groups than one imagines. I was amazed at how many resources there are, I’m just not sure how well known they are.”

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey is 24 members strong. Plakos said this hard-working group is also giving out $18,000 in scholarships to students, all part of members’ enthusiasm for serving their community. New members are always welcome and can find information on the club and its meeting schedule online at

Plakos said this group is ready and willing to pitch in and help wherever it can, no matter how many members it has.

“It makes us feel like want work harder, give more,” she said. “I’m so proud of the groups here on the island and the fact we can help and participate in helping those families and individuals who need the support. It gives us a great deal of pleasure to say we can do this. And it keeps us going – what else can we give away?”