By Laura Swanson
The stigmas and stereotypes run rampant when it comes to “needing help” and there are often what seem to be insurmountable barriers to asking for help. Leslie Day and Keshia Miller, two moms who have “been there”, found themselves in the position at the beginning of the year to be the ones to give back. Self-described yard sale/thrift store shoppers, they knew first-hand how difficult it can be to find a home, let alone household items, furniture, clothing and so much more. It started with an infant foster child and gathering baby items, and the women realized that if they were having problems getting the items they needed, others were too.
That’s when Leslie and Keshia a launched The Bear Den. A community project sponsored by Fulcrum Community Resources, a local incubator that has assisted several local organizations to become established, and so fundraising and donations are tax-deductible.
“We have been an organization since January 2019 privately started and funded, and non-profit since March of 2019 thanks to our fiscal sponsor Fulcrum Community Resources,” explains Leslie. “From January to now, we have accomplished so much even we are amazed,” she added. With a simple interview and vetting process, The Bear Den works to find what folks need. “We’ve assist 167 families through the Homeless Connect, our Easter event, the clothing bank and filling other household needs,” added Leslie. “We are dedicated to helping those in need everyone from families, single adults, homeless, people starting over that need a fresh start.”
The Bear Den is a community resource organization (as a project of Fulcrum Community Resources, donations are tax-deductible) helping those in need, and often help by referring to other programs that can provide services that are needed. Based out of Nehalem, The Bear Den takes donations of usable household items from all of Tillamook county. Those in need, clients can meet with the Bear Den advocates (Leslie and Keshia) Monday through Friday by appointment, from 10 am to 4 pm. “We do a short intake to find out what they need and then do our best to help them obtain it. We understand from our own experiences in life sometimes people need a little help but just don’t know where to go or who ask. We want to be able to be that help, the push in the right direction and the little voice that says “you can do this” while still remembering that ultimately no one can truly help anyone but themselves,” explains Leslie.
They hit the ground running with participation in their first event, Project Homeless Connect in January 2019. They helped 33 families with much needed personal hygiene items, all collected as donations from the community and local businesses, as well as able to give referrals and information about other resources in the area. “It was our first event and very rewarding,” said Leslie. “It felt good to be able to help so many people and see their smiling faces for something as simple as a toothbrush and some shampoo.” Personal hygiene items are the #1 most requested items by local agencies.
In April 2019, The Bear Den hosted their first event for Easter at the Nehalem Bay United Methodist Church, where with the help of community donations and personal funds, they put together 47 Easter baskets full of goodies for local children. There were activities for the kids to do and even the Easter Bunny himself there to take pictures every family took home one 8×10 color photo.
Continuing to expand community partnerships, in May, the Bear Den took over a clothing bank in the basement of the United Methodist church on 10th in Nehalem. The clothing bank, as well as an emergency food pantry is open to the public every Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm, manned by church volunteers. The Bear Den got it all cleaned up and organized with shelving units and hanging racks, and now it’s all set up for the community to go in as needed and “shop” for items they need. With the help of a private donations and credit from Home Depot, and lots of organization, they renovated the small storage closet and keep it stocked and organized.
In the planning stages, the Bear Den is gathering donations for a “Prom Closet” for the 2020 Prom for Neah-Kah-Nie high school. The “Prom Closet” event will be at NKN in April. With over half of the NKN student body in a household that is at or below the poverty line, many can’t afford prom attire. The Bear Den has been collecting formal wear and accessories for both girls and boys. “We have reached out to the high school with a formal letter explaining our plan requesting we work together to make it a great experience for the kids, and we waiting to hear back and solidify a plan/dates, etc. after the first of the year,” said Leslie. The Prom Closet collection could use portable clothing racks and formal wear of all kinds, especially for the boys.
The helpers are asking for help — for the most part, Bear Den expenses, such as rental on a storage unit, gas, miscellaneous supplies, etc. — have been covered by Leslie and Keshia and a few donations. But with circumstances changing, and the need growing, the Bear Den needs the community’s help to continue.”This is something that I want to continue, and I know that to be sustainable, we need funding/grants – we need to learn how to find and obtain funding that can be used for much needed things for the organization,” said Leslie. “That’s why we are so thankful for the assistance of Fulcrum, and the generosity of this community.”
It’s the Giving season – and the Bear Den is filling a variety of needs in our community, and now, they need help to continue to provide donation pickups, store furniture and household items, and more.
Just like the basic needs they are helping others with, they need help with fuel costs for donation pickups; laundry costs for cleaning donations; and help with storage unit costs.
To donate: Go to their website – www.thebeardean.webnode.com – or for tax-deductible donations, send checks in care of Fulcrum Community Resources (with THE BEAR DEN) in the memo, mail to PO Box 136 Nehalem, OR 97131
Leslie and Keshia are passionate about giving back, “We are very dedicated to our cause and organization because we’ve been there, we can relate to the struggle to provide basic needs for your family,” said Leslie. “We understand the difficulties of asking for help and have found that we can break down the barriers to reach more people that are in need. We always promise to uphold the highest standards in compassion as well as boundaries, knowing we can only do so much for others they must take the steps to make changes in their lives as well.”
If you know someone that needs help with clothing, household items, etc., contact Leslie or Keshia at 503-395-7316, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact via Facebook or their website at www.thebearden.webnode.com.