Burglary takes away nonprofit's ability to help clients travel; community gives it back

Take the Next Step Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Lunstrum knew something was wrong when she arrived at the TTNS Drop-in Center on Saturday, Sept. 10. Items were shuffled around and the atmosphere felt distinctly off.

She contacted Drop-in Center Director Janos Kendall, who advised her to check the nonprofit's supply of transportation-related resources.

They were all missing.-á

TTNS is a Monroe-based nonprofit that offers "friendship, help and hopeGÇ¥ to its clients in need. The organization serves low-income and homeless individuals, providing an array of services. In order to help clients with their transportation needs, TTNS keeps a supply of gas cards, bus tickets and ORCA cards, which are pre-paid cards accepted by Community Transit, Sound Transit and several other public transportation agencies. Whenever a client needs to go to a job interview, a drug and alcohol assessment or a mental health-related appointment, TTNS is able to help.

Since many services require a trip into Everett, the ability to provide transportation-related assistance is crucial. Losing the entire supply ' worth about $225 ' was a huge hit, Lunstrum said.

"That was the only thing that we could see was gone,GÇ¥ she said. "There were other things of value, but they didn't take those things.GÇ¥

Lunstrum contacted the Monroe Police Department, which is investigating the break-in. She also put out a plea to the Monroe community through Facebook, to see if she could drum up support. The response was practically instantaneous, Lunstrum said.

Monroe residents and business owners came forward to help, including Big Dog's Hot Dog Joint owner Jerry "Big DogGÇ¥ Dixon, Sahara Pizza Monroe owner Bridgette Tuttle, Roots Landscaping, Brian Grant and Erin Smallwood. Lunstrum said people donated through the TTNS website, and showed up at the Drop-in Center with gas cards and cash. In just a few short hours, the value of the supply had been replenished and then some ' just in time to serve a family in need.

"There was a family that came in and needed transportation, and we were actually able to get it to them because of the gas cards that people had dropped off,GÇ¥ Lunstrum said. "It was really, really awesome.GÇ¥

TTNS is primarily funded through individual cash donations, in-kind volunteerism, grants and community partnerships, Lunstrum said. The organization strives to keep a low overhead, which enables it to dedicate 93 percent of donations to programs. TTNS is working to build a more robust network of donors that might be willing to become regular contributors.

"We desperately need businesses and individuals to sign up to give to us monthly,GÇ¥ Lunstrum said. "We need income that we can really count on.GÇ¥

Cash funding is used to help support things like transportation resources and TTNS flex funds, which are emergency funds made available to clients during times of great need. A homeless individual might apply for flex funds to help them obtain housing, Lunstrum said. Flex funds can also be used by qualifying families facing eviction or a power shut-off.

"Those are the kinds of things that that money goes towards,GÇ¥ she said.

While TTNS is disappointed that the break-in occurred, the organization is grateful for the level of support it received in response. The incident has helped build a wave of momentum, Lunstrum said, and she is hoping it will continue.

Dreadnought Brewing is a returning supporter, having held its first TTNS fundraiser brewing contest last year. This time, the brewery will hold a series of TTNS fundraisers to celebrate Oktoberfest. Every Friday in October, the craft alehouse will feature an exclusive specialty brew, brewed by a guest brewer. For each pint of that particular beer that's sold, Dreadnought will donate $1 to TTNS. The series kicks off on Friday, Oct. 7, and will feature live music by local band, Hard Knocks "n' Country.-á

Other businesses have come forward to help as well, Lunstrum said.

"We've had a couple businesses sign up to start giving to us monthly,GÇ¥ Lunstrum said. "We're just kind of hoping that it'll keep going.GÇ¥

For more information about TTNS, visitwww.ttns.org.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment