Lifestyle

Community Celebration

Nationally-acclaimed local band SisterMonk Harem are donating their musical talents for the fundraising event at Bayview Hall next Saturday.  - Photo Courtesy of SisterMonk Harem
Nationally-acclaimed local band SisterMonk Harem are donating their musical talents for the fundraising event at Bayview Hall next Saturday.
— image credit: Photo Courtesy of SisterMonk Harem

One thing that makes South Whidbey stand out from other places is the willingness of community members to help each other out.

But one thing Whidbey Islanders have in common with most every one else are the high costs of medical care.

That’s why when one of South Whidbey’s own suddenly faced unexpected medical bills, both friends and strangers decided to throw a fun fundraiser to help cover the added expenses.

Victory Schouten has been a South Whidbey Islander for 17 years. Schouten is president of the Washington Poets Association, and is responsible for bringing the “Burning Word” poetry

festival to the island. She is actively engaged with poetry and the community.

It was just weeks before the poetry festival in April, when Schouten found out she had to have surgery.

“When I realized that something was terribly wrong with my artificial hip, my heart just sunk,” Schouten said.

She was worried not only because of the pain and surgery ahead, but also because of the medical debt she knew would soon pile up.

Schouten is now recuperating from the unexpected surgery, but she and her husband are still facing extra, uncovered costs from the procedure.

Without Schouten ever saying a word, local residents responded. They decided to do something for their friend — someone they knew would do the same for them.

“I come at this from a personal experience. When I was a teenager my older sister had health problems. Then my father had health problems,” said Joni Takanikos.

“Even if you have insurance, what’s not covered will be pretty devastating to the average family,” she said.

Benefit organizers decided they would hold a fundraiser that would be fun at the same time — “Which is what this community is all about,” Takanikos said.

Now, organizers are inviting every one to help out Victory and her husband Rob Schouten in a community event at Bayview Hall.

It will feature a silent auction,

buffet and poetry reading. To top it all off, participants will hear the live music of popular local band SisterMonk Harem.

“We really just want people to come and have a good time,” Takanikos said.

“Part of it, too, is just supporting

people when they are going through something,” she added. “This community is pretty amazing that way.”

Schouten said she was absolutely overwhelmed when she found out there was going to be a fundraiser to help her out with the medical bills.

“I am much more comfortable organizing fundraisers for other causes than being on the receiving end,” Schouten said.

Not that she had much of a choice. Schouten said her friends who are organizing the event very kindly but succinctly suggested she get over it, and accept her community’s help.

“With great gratitude, that is what I am doing,” Schouten said.

Everyone is encouraged to come to the event and be part of the larger community, including those who don’t

personally know the Schoutens.

The suggested donation is $10. But organizers say contributions of any amount are welcome.

“It’s one of those things where we don’t need to give someone a ton of money, but if we all give a little bit,” Takanikos said. “Then we will all have a good time — and we will be able to cover the expenses their insurance didn’t cover.”

Any funds raised beyond the Schouten’s medical expense needs will be donated to Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund. The local non-profit helps community members cover medical expenses that go beyond those covered by insurance.

The event at Bayview Hall next weekend is a time to celebrate community, to kick back or boogie down and have some fun.

“I imagine the event as a celebration of community and connection,” Schouten said.

She said she’s grateful for the volunteer cooks and organizers, as well as those donating services and items to the silent auction. The beneficiary is excited to take part in the event herself.

“I look forward to reading some of my favorite poems; and listening to the irresistible music of SisterMonk Harem, who are generously donating their performance,” Schouten said. “I am only sorry I won’t be in dancing form yet.”

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