Supporting Our Regional Communities In Time Of Need

As part of our commitment to the Pacific Northwest, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation continued investing resources to help mitigate impacts of the pandemic as it evolved through 2021. We provided swift, flexible support to organizations embedded in the communities most affected as they used their expertise to find new and important ways of showing up for those in need.

This year’s efforts built on our 2020 investments, that included PPE sourcing and donations, testing in underserved communities, and economic support for small and BIPOC businesses in our region. In 2021, we pivoted to supplying much-needed access to vaccines and further investment in testing for BIPOC communities and people experiencing homelessness, along with continued support of communities that were disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the virus. The foundation also provided sustained support for complex regional problems, including the ongoing family homelessness crisis in King County, and acted swiftly to welcome new community members fleeing the instability in Afghanistan.

And, finally, understanding that arts are an essential part of a vibrant, healthy community, we began again to support programs intended to empower young artists – from an introduction to the skills needed for a creative career to the performance of new works with the Seattle Symphony.

Health care workers did outreach to improve vaccine access among vulnerable communities in the region. Photo courtesy UW Medicine.
Health care workers providing vaccines at the Pacific Islander Community Association. Photo courtesy of Pacific Islander Community Association.
Health care workers did outreach to improve vaccine access among vulnerable communities in the region. Photo courtesy UW Medicine.
Health care workers providing vaccines at the Pacific Islander Community Association. Photo courtesy of Pacific Islander Community Association.

COVID Testing and Vaccinations

When the devastating COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation provided emergency response funding to UW Medicine and Harborview Medical Center to support COVID testing for vulnerable communities in our region.

Through two mobile vans and pop-up tents, UW Medicine and Harborview provided COVID testing for people experiencing homelessness and those who might find other testing options inaccessible. They also expanded testing and outbreak response at local homeless shelters. All told, the team administered nearly 22,000 tests and identified more than 1,200 positive cases. At least 18 percent of those receiving tests were housing insecure, though the true percentage is likely higher as this data point is difficult to collect and often underreported.

“Our ability to end this pandemic and save lives depends on improving access to the vaccine and providing vaccine information in those communities most burdened by COVID-19,” said Dr. Lisa Chew, associate professor at UW Medicine.

In February 2021, the UW Medicine and Harborview teams transitioned their mobile testing operation to begin administering vaccines and approached the foundation about reallocating the remainder of the previous grant to the new effort.

The teams activated existing partnerships with community groups, continuing outreach to people experiencing homelessness, and broadening their focus to include non-English speakers and BIPOC communities in South King County, where residents were disproportionately at risk for worse COVID outcomes. Flexible funds were an important element of success for these partnerships, allowing UW Medicine and Harborview to appropriately compensate community groups for their time and effort and further foster their partnerships to gain access to vaccine-hesitant populations more adversely impacted by the pandemic. In all, they administered 9,475 doses to some of the most vulnerable communities in our region

Partners: UW Medicine, Harborview Medical Center

I have no doubt that your investment saved lives, helped to reinforce powerful networks among the many diverse people we serve, and sustained our own resilience during a very difficult year and a half. It is a testament to the power of philanthropy to serve as a catalyst for helping people come together to meet the needs of their community.

— Sommer Kleweno-Walley, CEO of Harborview

COVID Community Relief Funds

When the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation identified this combination of priority response grants in late 2020 and early 2021, it seemed that the COVID-19 pandemic might be entering an end stage. The foundation was interested in identifying communities who had been highly impacted by the pandemic and supporting them during recovery. The emergence of the Delta variant made it clear that the pandemic was far from over, and these grants helped community groups swiftly respond to new needs.

This suite of grants included:

All In Washington Childcare Initiative for COVID-19 provided resources to allow childcare organizations to adapt to the pandemic, source necessary equipment like PPE, and stay operational. The fund allowed childcare organizations to serve essential workers and prioritized centers run by or serving communities of color. “The bottom line is that we need to urgently direct resources to address this crisis so no parent should have to struggle between their ability to secure care for their children and financially provide for their family’s needs,” said Deeann Burtch Puffert, CEO of Child Care Aware of Washington.

Na’ah Illahee Native Community Crisis Fund supported a culturally appropriate and contextualized response to the impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities. Funds helped establish community gardens and hire part-time staff to manage them, giving these gardens long-term viability. The gardens have become an ongoing source of food for community members in need. The fund also distributed over 1200 "Indigenous food bundles" across the state. These totes included basic staple goods; as well as traditional foods and safety items purchased from Native farms and producers.

Potlatch Resiliency Fund provided flexible, unrestricted emergency grants to individual artists and programs in Native communities in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho. The fund prioritized services for rural and less populated communities and projects that create hope, social connection, adaptation, flexibility, and purpose.

Pride Foundation’s Crisis Community Care Fund supported organizations serving LGBTQ+ communities in the Pacific Northwest, with a focus on those offering direct services in response to the pandemic and those facing budget crises due to COVID-19 or that required bridge funding to continue operations. The tremendous way that the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and other funders showed up for Pride Foundation and LGBTQ+ communities during this pandemic made it possible for us to invest in community-based resources and serve organizations in deep, meaningful, and rapid ways,” said Katie Carter, CEO of Pride Foundation. 

Washington Food Fund, initiated by Philanthropy Northwest, worked with established food banks and pantries to provide food assistance, and address critical needs in the Washington food assistance system, as the pandemic increased food insecurity to unprecedented levels across the state.

The UW Washington Food Security Survey continues to track the effects of COVID-19 related health and economic impacts on food security levels across the state and has identified striking inequities in food insecurity. The survey team provides regular updates that inform the operations of food banks in the region and the decision-making of policy makers across the state.

These investments not only helped many organizations stay afloat during incredibly uncertain economic circumstances, they also helped many groups expand both the type and breadth of the services they were able to offer to communities in crisis.

— Katie Carter, CEO, Pride Foundation

One of the threads that ties this diverse group of grants together is trust in the community. The funds provided were largely flexible, allowing both the foundation and the groups we supported to get dollars out the door quickly. The organizations were all deeply embedded in the communities they serve and were best positioned to determine the most pressing needs.

Partners: All in Washington Childcare Initiative, Na’ah Illahee Native Community Crisis Fund, Potlatch Resilience Fund, The Pride Foundation’s Community Care Fund, Washington Food Fund, University of Washington, Seattle Foundation, Philanthropy Northwest
Gardner House and Allen Family Center, serving families in the Mt. Baker neighborhood of Seattle. Photo courtesy of Mercy Housing.

Continued Work on Homelessness

Family homelessness in King County, as in many other places around the country, is a complex region-wide problem with no silver bullet. Lasting solutions will require buy-in from the entire community: government, business, philanthropy, and individuals. In 2021, we saw the tangible results from the long-term investments of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, but also the incredible ongoing need which is exacerbated by effects of the pandemic on the economy, service providers, and shelter availability.

The foundation’s flagship initiative in addressing homelessness, Gardner House, opened in 2020 and is operated by Mercy Housing Northwest. It continues to provide high-quality, affordable housing to 94 families, around 120 adults and 130 children, along with access to supportive services. The Allen Family Center, located on the first floor of Gardner House, offers services to prevent or shorten family homelessness and strengthen families living in or near poverty. Mercy Housing Northwest, Mary’s Place, Childcare Resources, and Refugee Women’s Alliance staff the Center as a partnership, creating a “one stop shop” for families. Many families access different types of services at once, including affordable childcare, safer and more stable housing, and job search and readiness support. Of the roughly 240 individuals served, many report that they are more confident while navigating systems on behalf of themselves and their children.

Homelessness is consistently ranked as a top concern of people in the Puget Sound area, and the ongoing reporting and community events hosted by The Seattle Times Project Homeless help inform public conversation. This year, the foundation and our philanthropic partners supported the team in covering stories that provided insight into the new Regional Homelessness Authority, dug into the data on service outcomes, and examined the factors driving homelessness as well as proposed solutions to visible homelessness.  

Partners: Mercy Housing Northwest, Mary’s Place, Childcare Resources, Refugee Women’s Alliance, The Seattle Times, Seattle Foundation



Emergency Afghan Refugee Relief

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan especially threatened the lives and livelihoods of women and girls as they are stripped of human rights including access to work and schools. The threat prompted thousands of families and single women to relocate in hopes of securing basic rights and liberties. As the Pacific Northwest prepared to welcome Afghan refugees, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation provided emergency support to three trusted community partners: Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Afghan Health Initiative, and Refugee Women’s Alliance, in alignment with our commitment to invest in underserved communities including during emergent situations. We also followed our learnings from COVID-19 relief funding and provided flexible support to community-led groups and those with a track record of delivering results. Groups allocated the funding where it was needed most – direct support to refugees, rental assistance for families in transitional housing, hiring additional staff who speak Dari and Pashto, and transportation assistance.

Partners: Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Afghan Health Initiative, Refugee Women's Alliance
Photo courtesy Media Skills Arts Center.
Photo courtesy Media Skills Arts Center.

Arts Career Education for Students

2021 saw the completion of a successfully piloted project that provided creative Career and Technical Education to Seattle high school students. A foundation grant enabled Seattle Public Schools to stand up a new Media Arts Skills Center, supported staffing in the first years of the project, and allowed the center to establish itself as a sustainable program with growing enrollment.
Based on stakeholder feedback, the Media Arts Skills Center developed a course focused on four media arts disciplines with viable, living wage jobs after graduation: graphic design, web design, animation, and audio-visual engineering. Thanks to strong partnerships, students have had opportunities to participate in residencies, internships, field trips to businesses and non-profits in the creative industries, and presentations from guest speakers. The staff and students have been highlighted at school board meetings and district events as a model of what successful creative, student-centered, project-based learning looks like.

Over its four years of operation, the demand has grown for both the regular school year program and the Summer Skills Center Courses which offer additional classes like video production, virtual reality, and multimedia broadcasting. Along with the establishment of the Media Arts Skills Center, which is now fully funded by the school district, a playbook was created on how to design, build, and recruit for new Seattle Skills Center courses.

Partners: Seattle Public Schools, City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle Foundation

Showcasing Emerging Artists

The Seattle Symphony is relaunching Octave 9 as a hub for new creative content generated through collaboration between musicians and artists, both local and international. Octave 9 began programming as a digital hub, and in 2022 – as public health guidance allows – the 80-seat space will host events showcasing emerging artists, with an emphasis on BIPOC and female creators.

During COVID, the Symphony broadened their audience with live digital broadcasts, reaching more young and diverse populations than ever before. Octave 9 will build on that momentum, creating an immersive environment through music, art, workshops, and other events.

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation funds kickstarted the new program, supported infrastructure improvements for streaming content, and will help launch the performance program in 2022. The first half of the year will include at least six emerging artists concerts, ten symphony musician concerts, ten live broadcasts and online productions, and curatorial and marketing services.

Partner: Seattle Symphony

Protecting Our Regional Ecosystems
Photo courtesy American Rivers.