Island Angels open resource center in Freeland
— Created March 24, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Alec Brown
Island Angels, a grassroots charity organization created by Cindy Buchanan and local Whidbey Islanders, has opened a physical resource center on 1689 Main Street in Freeland. It shares the resource center with Oasis for Animals and WI Drive. Anyone can come into the resource center and request household items, toiletries, or anything else they might need.
Island Angels began after Buchanan started coordinating donations on Facebook, and it grew far faster than she anticipated.
“It’s really become an overwhelming thing,” Buchanan said. “I started it March 15 of last year when COVID broke out. A lady posted on Facebook that she had some free food. An elderly lady answered it and said that she would take it—but it was already taken, so then she posted ‘Well if anyone has anything extra they could spare, think of me.’ So I said right before her post, ‘What do you need?’ Then people started jumping in.
“I personally messaged her, and it ended up being that she had COPD, which was a high risk, and her husband was in third stage of cancer,” she continued. “So they couldn’t go to the grocery store, they were elderly, low income. So I put back on the post that this is what they needed and a bunch of people just jumped on.”
“She was so overwhelmed,” said Buchanan. “We filled her freezer, her refrigerator, and all her cupboards. She was overwhelmed. She was crying…and after that happened, she posted a thank you to all of us. So then I got another message from somebody else, ‘you helped this lady can you help me?’ I put out a post and we did it again.”
Soon enough, the community mobilized around this single act and offered resources to anyone who requested something.
“Pretty soon it became five people asking me a week,” Buchanan stated. “I’d say by July I was doing 20 people a week. And then it just kept growing. Now we’re up to 175 people per week that we deliver to.”
Island Angels is a grassroots community organization. As such, they get no financing from outside sources. Their money is received from donations, auctions and fundraising.
In addition to giving food and items to those in need, they also offer a variety of other services. They have helped seniors pay their phone bills and helped people afford car repairs such as batteries, oil changes and general maintenance.
“Last night I had a woman reach out,” Buchanan said. “She’s extremely depressed—just lost her dog—and having a hard time. But she felt like if she had a car, then she could socialize and help and even deliver for me. So one of the other angels happened to put this post up. His mother had recently passed away and he was trying to sell the mother’s car before his father decided to drive it. So he was looking to sell the car. I asked how much for the car…they gave me the car today to give to this woman. And it is not a cheap car. It’s a Lincoln town car. Probably a 2015. It’s totally maxed out…And they have a date tomorrow to go dog walking.”
The organization has rapidly expanded, and Buchanan is now coordinating with a number of other charities to provide to the community. Its physical resource center is now the nexus of its operation, where anyone can come in to request the things they need.
“We have little TV’s, VCR, DVD players, household items, just about anything they need,” Buchanan stated. “We have a food pantry. We have meat, dairy, diapers, things for seniors—you know, we keep everything on hand for people. And if we don’t have it, we have our resource page and will ask for it and get it for people.”
The process for requesting help is so easy that many people who come to the resource center are caught off guard.
“There’s no paperwork,” said Buchanan. “It’s funny when people come in. They ask how much it is, I say ‘there’s no price, if you want to make a donation, you’re welcome to, but if you want it, take it.’ People look at me like ‘that sounds like a prank…’ But we get this stuff for free! There’s no reason to make money off of it if people need it.”
The resource center, as well as a new van that Island Angels recently acquired, both come from a generous donation by Clayton Granby.
“This is how I got the resource center started,” Buchanan explained. “A nice man, Clayton Granby, decided he wanted to do a money match. Every dollar I raised, he would pay me $4, up to $5,000. Within 24 hours, with his money, I raised $8,000. With that $8,000 I bought our van from Life Church up in Oak Harbor; they gave me an awesome deal, and I paid for two months’ rent at our place, and we continue to fundraise and auction things off that we get donated which are super nice.”
While the van wasn’t useful to the church due to the pandemic, it now finds new purpose with Island Angels.
“They used it for their youth group,” Buchanan mentioned, “but since COVID, they aren’t allowed to put a bunch of kids [together] — you have to be a family group, so it makes no sense for them to sit on this van. We needed one because we go up and pick up food boxes for families, and we were renting a van every weekend. We pick up 100-150 boxes every Saturday.”
Anyone interested in contacting Island Angels to lend or receive assistance can got to its resource center or post to its Facebook community at facebook.com/groups/415194956273893/.