September 22, 2022

WithinReach State of the Union: Growth, Opportunities and New Initiatives

Last week, we hosted Cynthia Circle members, past and present WithinReach Board members, and other partners for a virtual State of the Union. At the event, WithinReach CEO Kay Knox shared high points of the last year, and the growth, opportunities and new initiatives that lie ahead. As well, we heard from new Board President, Eric Tatsuno, about the Board’s strategic focus and their role in our anti-racism work.

Here are some highlights from the event:

Program Impact

  • We launched our state’s Plan of Safe Care with 40 birthing hospitals this year. WithinReach helps families and babies, who are identified at birth with substance exposure, connect to basic needs support and resources in their communities. The goal of this work is to mitigate risk of future involvement with Child Protective Services, which disproportionately affects families of color, specifically Indigenous, Black and Latinx children and families.
  • Our Care Connect Washington work has expanded, providing support to Washington residents who are in isolation due to a COVID exposure or diagnosis. We helped develop this program in response to the high number of cases in Yakima at the beginning of the pandemic, and now provide technical assistance for regional hubs throughout the state. This establishes critical “surge support” for our state for any crisis.
  • We led a number of innovative efforts around food access this past year, including hosting the webinar series “Food Access is Community Care,” which centered local BIPOC leaders cultivating relationships and alternative systems around food justice. In addition, we facilitated a powerful partnership with Safeway and Northwest Harvest that enabled us to provide nearly $200,000 worth of grocery gift cards to clients experiencing food insecurity.
  • One of our largest endeavors is expanding the statewide Help Me Grow network. WithinReach is working with local communities and champions to envision and direct the development of coordinated, regional resource networks to better serve families. Help Me Grow is established in King, Pierce, Yakima, Kittitas, and Skagit counties, and we have emerging work in several more rural counties across the state.
  • In partnership with Kauffman and Associates, an Indigenous, woman-owned, local consulting firm, we are studying how the Help Me Grow model can work for tribal communities. As well, WithinReach is part of a cohort of organizations helping undocumented immigrant families learn about and benefit from the Immigrant Relief Fund, which offers cash grants to people affected by the pandemic who have not been able to receive federal stimulus or unemployment insurance due to their immigration status.

Growth and Opportunity

As is evidenced in the work above, WithinReach’s work continues to grow and innovate to meet the needs of families and communities in the state. This requires growth in our team as well; we anticipate having nearly 80 people on staff by the end of this fiscal year. “What we do is so important, and how we do it is critical to creating lasting social impact,” said Knox. “If COVID has taught us one thing, it’s that we need to listen to and center our employees, our most important resource.”

To that end, WithinReach is focused on a number of internal efforts to support this growth:

  • We are in the midst of restructuring our large direct service team, to position us for the work we are doing today, and allow us to scale up and do bigger work in the future.
  • We recognize that retaining staff is key. WithinReach instituted a minimum livable wage this past year, revisited our paid holidays to offer more choice and to honor Juneteenth, and provided additional compensation for bilingual staff for the added value they bring to our work through culture and language.
  • We strive to increase the diversity of our leadership. We are placing new emphasis on professional development and the creation of promotion pathways, with the goal of growing more leaders of color within our organization.

Board Priorities

WithinReach’s new Board President, Eric Tatsuno, has a rich and varied experience with the organization. He started out as an AmeriCorps member eight years ago, doing community outreach at food banks and enrolling people in Medicaid, then moved on to become a committee member and Board member. “I have firsthand experience of WithinReach’s impact in the community, and I am honored to serve as a champion of the work,” said Tatsuno.

Tatsuno shared more about our active and engaged Board of Champions. In an effort to create the biggest social impact possible this year, the Board will help develop a clear strategic direction for the organization. WithinReach is currently operating in a two-year strategic framework, developed mid-pandemic and carrying us through June. It is now time to revisit strategies that will best propel us into the future.

Another key focus for the Board this year lies in their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Foundational equity training for both the WithinReach staff and Board has helped us gain a greater shared understanding of racial disparities and equity issues. With these learnings, we will continue the important work laid out in our 10-priority anti-racism action plan, and explore the Board’s role through committee work.

All of what we heard from Knox and Tatsuno represents the work of many dedicated WithinReach staff and supporters, and is a testament to our strong partnerships in the community. It offers a snapshot of the different ways we are working to enhance the ways families connect to resources, and how we can increase equity and access to better serve Washington families.