During the pandemic, there has been a series of impacts that have forced many nonprofit organizations to postpone or even cancel some of their community projects. Through external funding, these organizations have been able to resurge some exciting ways to provide for the community and preserve the wonders of Olympia. The Olympia Yacht Club (OYC) provided $6,000 grants to multiple nonprofit organizations in Thurston County, including the Hands On Children’s Museum, the Puget Sound Estuarium, and the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association (SSMHA).
The Olympia Yacht Club has been offering grants for three consecutive years and has found that their funding has been even more important in the aftermath of shutdowns and pandemic restrictions. “The club wants to be a good neighbor in the community as well as promote our waterfront,” says OYC Community Grants Coordinator Don Sloma. “We want to support projects that encompass both of those things.” Nonprofit organizations with projects or events that align with the OYC’s mission can apply with an application and letter of interest at the beginning of each new year.
Hands On Children’s Museum
The Hands On Children’s Museum was awarded a grant for their Curiosity Kits. These marine-themed kits were designed to help students in the Olympia School District learn about various types of jellyfish and the oyster filtration process in a fun and creative way. “The marine kits were in response to teachers asking for ocean-related lessons based on some popular activities from our Nature Play Program,” shares Senior Visitor Engagement Manager Amanda Wilkening. “We picked these two lessons because we thought they would be the most exciting and engaging.”
The Hands On Children’s Museum provided Sea Jellies and Oyster Filtration Curiosity Kits to nearly 170 elementary school students in the summer school program. Through the OYC funding, they were able to supplement the cost of materials and saved the staff time by preparing the kits in advance. “When we started this in May 2020, we had no idea how big the kit program would get,” says Amanda. “We would have never been able to achieve such amazing results without the generosity of funders like the Olympia Yacht Club.” You can experience the fun of the sea jellies activity for yourself at the Hands On Children’s Museum.
Puget Sound Estuarium
The Estuarium has been hosting the community program Pier Peer since 2016, which benefitted from grant funding from the OYC this year. “Pier Peer presented a unique opportunity for the public to see intertidal species that are active at night and broadens their understanding of these species,” says Executive Director Paris McClusky. “The more we know about the incredible biodiversity of intertidal life in the South Sound, the more inspired we will be to protect this estuary and ecosystem that we and so many plant and animal communities call home.”
With OYC funding, the Estuarium was able to replace some of the nets and lights used in the Pier Peer program. This grant also helped fund essential staff supporting the program, including the Estuarium’s graphic designer Elisa McGee and Program and Volunteer Coordinator Clarissa Felling. This funding allowed Elisa to create both physical and digital media for outreach in the community and supported Clarissa in the implementation of the Pier Peer programs and the recruitment and training of Pier Peer volunteers. Community members can register online to experience the exciting nighttime wildlife of the South Sound.
Olympia Harbor Days
Olympia Harbor Days was originally founded in 1973 by the SSMHA and has been a community favorite for many years. The festival typically attracts 55,000 over the Labor Day weekend and is completely free to the community. Due to concerns for safety due to COVID, the SSMHA opted to host Olympia Harbor Days Lite in 2021, which was a one-day, scaled-back version of the annual event. “We had many positive compliments about the health and safety protocols that we put in place,” shares Executive Director Carol Riley.
The event normally takes a full year to produce, and even Olympia Harbor Days Lite required a great deal of resources and manpower to bring to life. Through the OYC and other community support, the event was a success and has been the only live maritime festival in all of Washington in 2021. “We are thankful for the OYC members who put this grant program into place and providing the funds to allow us to market to and reach a larger audience,” says Carol. They are hopeful that they can resume their full event in the coming year.
The SSMHA has also been in the process of restoring an Olympia tug that sank in the Hood Canal in August of 2017 and was offered to the nonprofit. “We didn’t want to lose the Parthia’s 40-year-long Olympia working waterfront history, so we went to work to acquire and fund her rescue and permanent restoration,” explains Chuck Fowler, who has been involved in the Parthia Project ever since. The OYC has awarded grants for the Parthia Project two years in a row to help fund the overall project. So far they have raised $250,000 and need another $300,000 to complete the restoration To contribute, you can donate online today. Once finished, the Parthia will be displayed on Percival Landing as part of Olympia’s Tugboat Heritage Walk attraction coming in 2022.
Thanks to the OYC, many Thurston County nonprofit organizations have been able to further fund their projects to bring more to our community. If your local nonprofit has a maritime project or event in mind, you can learn more about applying for grants by contacting Don at email@example.com.