August 19, 2021

WithinReach State of the Union: Learning from the past as we look to the future

Earlier this month, we hosted current and past Board members as well as Cynthia Circle major donors for a virtual WithinReach State of the Union. At the event we had a chance to share some of our biggest successes and challenges this past year, what we’ve learned, and what’s on the horizon.

The discussion featured perspectives on our work from Kay Knox, WithinReach CEO; Hugh Ewart, Board President; and Dr. Rupin Thakkar, Chair of our Board and Staff Antiracism Taskforce. Here are some of the highlights:

Looking Back

“As we reflect on how we survived and thrived this last year, we find ourselves leaning heavily into our agency’s core values,” said Kay Knox, WithinReach CEO. “These values helped us get through many difficulties and grow amidst the pandemic.”

This year, more than ever, we used our core value of agility to respond to the evolving needs of both our staff and our communities. When the pandemic hit, WithinReach moved its entire organizational operation, including our statewide call center, to remote work. Even with several phases of technology improvements, we haven’t missed a day of service for families.

Collaboration is at the heart of our business model and is the driver of our impact in the state. By coming together and innovating with our partners, we create better health outcomes for families. The pandemic has helped people understand that families need a coordinated system of resources, especially in a crisis. Our work on Help Me Grow, co-designed with many key partners across the state, is the solution so that families can easily access support, whenever they need it.

We are also navigating the growing awareness of and response to racial injustice in our country. Through our value of inclusion, we listen to, represent and embrace diverse perspectives and experiences in all we do. We are learning how best to support our diverse staff, and how to set an authentic, transformative and meaningful path toward antiracist action.

By stepping up to aid our state with its COVID response, we embraced initiative. Our COVID Care work began in Yakima County and has now grown to be statewide, helping people who were exposed to or diagnosed with COVID and their families find the resources and support they need to stay safe at home during quarantine. In this endeavor, we built new technologies, hired a team of 12 and designed this program.

Through it all, our staff has worked to shift and adapt to provide the highest level of quality service. In these pandemic times, we are seeing a new influx of people who are navigating community support systems for the first time, which requires longer calls, compassion and more avenues to reduce barriers.

With the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, our greatest concern has been on the health and well-being of our staff. We created new policies so that people can work remotely from anywhere in the state. We have sought different ways to retain our connection and supportive culture. It’s important to not only build pathways to health for the people we serve, but also for ourselves.

Reaching Forward

We will apply the learnings from our wins and challenges this year as we look to the future. The need for WithinReach’s work is greater than ever before. We are growing and expanding because we have a unique ability to improve health outcomes for families with young children.

WithinReach serves as a trusted link to critical resources and we have an important role in creating innovative solutions that improve health and health equity. We are working on new and improved outreach methods around food and other basic needs resources, like texting and chat functionality. We’ve also been at the table with essential partners and doctors across the state to promote not only COVID vaccinations, but keeping kids up-to-date on their routine vaccinations, which have dipped significantly since the pandemic hit.

As we move forward, we are grounded in our strategic priorities (read more about these priorities here). These priorities help us refine our focus and center our impact:

  • Improve Overall Health of Families with Young Children, with a focus on BIPOC families and communities that are furthest from opportunity
  • Address and Eliminate Racism in Our Programs, Policies and Practices
  • Foster Sustainability and Innovation

The pandemic has shed a light on the longstanding health disparities and the root causes of the disparities that lead to injustices. Families are in crisis, and that’s why our Help Me Grow work – to break down barriers and offer a coordinated system of support with seamless access – is a must. Now is the time to get it right, and we are working hard with many partners to see this come to fruition.

As well, WithinReach’s commitment to health equity requires learning and activation on racial justice – we don’t have all the answers, but we are building a transparent path to antiracist action. A newly formed Board and Staff Antiracism Taskforce is critical to our mission, and the group will share in the vision, commitment and galvanization around this priority.

Lastly, remote operations work has created an opportunity for greater representation across the state. We now have staff in Yakima, Walla Walla, Thurston, Skagit Counties and more. Having a geographically diverse staff brings new thought and local expertise into our organization, and creates a presence in Washington communities that will benefit us for years to come.