Two days before Easter, Colleen’s stove and oven went out. She cooks for her family every holiday, supplying meals from a large vegetable garden at her home in East County. When harvests are generous, she shares her vegetables with the local food bank. Purchasing a big appliance can be daunting for anyone, especially for a senior on a fixed income like Colleen. She immediately enlisted her son’s help to track down a range at a used appliance store 45 minutes away. As if the distance and logistics were not enough of a challenge, Colleen was recovering from eye surgery and needed assistance with the purchase.

When Colleen and her son unloaded the unit back home, they were frustrated to find it was not the range they had originally selected. Several calls with the store led nowhere. After days of negotiating, Colleen was left with another range that didn’t work and the loss of $360. That same month, Laurie Bergerstock, the Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CFSP) Assistant at the Skagit Food Distribution Center, sent a short survey to the 230 CFSP food box recipients in the program. Laurie wanted to know if clients had adequate access to water, electricity, working refrigerators or stoves to prepare the items received through CFSP.

CFSP is a free, federally funded program for qualifying seniors age 60 or older. The food boxes contain items like fresh and canned produce, peanut butter, cereal, juice, rice or pasta, milk and protein. Boxes are delivered by volunteers or picked up at the Skagit County Food Distribution Center in Sedro-Woolley. 

Colleen shared her story with Laurie. By the end of the day, staff purchased a working range from Habitat for Humanity with a Hurdle Buster voucher. Hurdle Busters are flexible funds available for emergent, one-time client needs. The vouchers are designed to knock down “hurdles” that might lead to barriers for clients to basic necessities like food and housing. When Colleen’s stove and double oven were delivered days later, she said her prayers had been answered. We checked in with Colleen recently to see how the new range was working. “I love my new double oven stove,” she says. “I cook dinner in the lower oven and dessert in the top oven!”

A broken stove may seem like an individual or family problem, but it illustrates a bigger community issue: Due to the high cost of housing in Skagit County, it is often one seemingly small challenge that can destabilize a household. Many people live in East County because housing costs have traditionally been lower. Yet during the pandemic, the cost to buy a home in Skagit County has skyrocketed, and those costs are often passed on to renters. In the second quarter of 2021, the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce reported a 24.5% rise in median home sale prices to $500,000 across Skagit County. In the face of these community-level challenges, people like Colleen need a Hurdle Buster to keep their family housed and fed with nutritious food.

Consider giving today to help our neighbors overcome similar hurdles. Every dollar of a Hurdle Buster makes a big difference. Visit our Donate page to give today and select “Critical Needs” at check-out, or make out a check to Community Action and note “Critical Needs” on the memo line.