A day of food, fun and free music for a good cause

Eleven bands, a bodacious barbecue, ice cream and a chance to go to Maui. That’s seven hours of live music, free.

Eleven bands, a bodacious barbecue, ice cream and a chance to go to Maui.

That’s seven hours of live music, free.

This is what you’ll get if you attend WISH-AID, the Whidbey Island Share a Home benefit from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1.

But beyond having a day of fun in Freeland, WISH-AID benefits a program that seeks to offer affordable housing solutions to those in need on Whidbey Island.

WISH director Doris Newkirk said she hopes the benefit will fill the gap in the organization’s budget to provide that extra money needed by many home seekers who come up a little short each month.

“I’m very excited about WISH-AID. The funds from WISH-AID can help people make their rent, or just help them with energy sources when it gets cold,” Newkirk said.

The day of music will take place in the parking lot of the Interstate Label Building in Freeland, next to La Vida Verde’s VIDAstore, which will hold its annual warehouse sale with 10 percent of the proceeds going to WISH.

VIDAstore owner Michael Barker said the company, which provides fair-trade household items and art imported from traditional cultures of the world, has donated a portion of the business’ proceeds to a Nicaraguan school for the past three years.

This year, Barker and his wife and business partner, Kris Barker, felt compelled to give back locally.

“There are too many homeless people on this island and in the world,” Barker said.

Newkirk said the community’s generosity is crucial to WISH, as a large part of its budget comes from private donations. Other funding comes from grants.

The need is never-ending.

“Just this morning, a young couple came into the office and told me that the husband had lost his job, they must move out their house by Aug. 1 and they have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old child. They have nowhere to go and they need help,” Newkirk said.

Newkirk said that most of the people who come to WISH don’t ask for much. They just need a little extra something to get them through a hard time.

“We have extraordinary stories that include the rural working homeless who can no longer afford the high-priced rents on the island,” she said.

And leaving the island is often not an option for many of the families.

“These are people who were born here, whose families have lived on the island for generations. This is home to them.”

Newkirk said that many of the homeless people of Whidbey Island are invisible. They find respite in the woods, in the park-and-rides or even in the Walmart parking lot. She said that there are more than 200 homeless children on the island, some living in cars with their moms and who take public transit to school every day.

“Those are the people we’re trying to help,” Newkirk said.

Since there are no shelters for the homeless on the island, Newkirk said the Whidbey Island Share a Home program is a godsend to many people who need a boost.

The WISH foundation was started about five years ago as a project of the Soroptimists International of South Whidbey. The program was successful enough to spin off on its own.

Here’s how it works.

After a thorough background check is done on both home seekers and home sharers, people are provided with either a private room with a shared common living area, or they rent a small, separate apartment from the provider.

Home providers may be willing to share their home in exchange for rent, services or a combination of both. For older home owners, sharing can mean they can remain independent and stay in their own home rather than having to move to a nursing home.

“We’ve provided more than 1,200 people with some form of resource in hard times. We don’t just do housing,” Newkirk said. “We do the best we can to find a person help.”

WISH works with other organizations such as the Good Cheer Food Bank and Helping Hand to find other services for the homeless.

Admission to WISH-AID is free, but donations are welcome.

The music stage will feature headliner Beverly Graham, as well as the stylings of Trilogy, One Horse Band, Days of Yore, Bayview Sound, Dandelion Greens, Julie Pigott, Skatomatic Weapons, Barbara Phillips and Mira, Click Conservatory Teen Jazz Band and the Swinging Nettles. All the musicians have donated their services for the day.

WISH-AID will be held at Interstate Label, 1715 East Main St. in Freeland, and will proceed rain or shine.

For more information on WISH, call 331-5910 or 800-864-7549 or click here.