Making McMinnville a Better Place for Children and Families

A Family Place Volunteers

A Family Place volunteers Vicki McConnachie (left) and L.V. VanBlaricom make a big difference for families and children in McMinnville. They are pictured in the diaper bank and clothes closet where they volunteer. A Family Place is a program of Lutheran Community Services Northwest.

They work as a team without pay. Satisfaction comes from knowing they’re helping some of McMinnville’s youngest and their parents.

L.V. VanBlaricom and Vicki McConnachie are friends. When VanBlaricom retired three years ago, she decided to volunteer at A Family Place, a relief nursery run by LCS Northwest in McMinnville, OR.

A Family Place is a stabilization program for at-risk families. The goal is to stop the cycle of child abuse and neglect with a blend of therapeutic early childhood services and comprehensive family support. There are relief nurseries throughout Oregon run by various organizations.

“My daughter runs a relief nursery, so I decided to get involved,” VanBlaricom said. “It’s all about the kids.” Six months after she started, she persuaded McConnachie to join her.

Relief nurseries have a physical component for basic needs. A Family Place operates a diaper bank and clothes closet, where the two women volunteer. Families can get an emergency 3-day supply of diapers once a month, clothes, sheets, blankets, footwear, books and sometimes toys for children up to age five. They even stock maternity clothes for expecting mothers.

What sets A Family Place apart from other relief nurseries is anyone in need in McMinnville can access the diaper bank and clothes closet, not just people in the program. Some would see that as a burden, but it’s more of an opportunity. All diapers come with information about a Family Place in English and Spanish, so their work has led to referrals for the relief nursery and other LCS Northwest programs.

On Tuesdays, VanBlaricom and McConnchie sort, organize, wash and mend. On Thursdays, they open to the public from 10 a.m. to noon. Teachers have been known to show up for items, along with home visitors in The Family Place program. There are five volunteers who help out, but McConnachie has taken volunteering up a notch.

“Vicki is very resourceful,” VanBlaricom said. “She is out there making connections in our community.”

Volunteers hit yard sales in the summer to stock up on children’s clothes. At one of these sales, McConnachie told the host family about A Family Place. Turns out the family was connected to a golf tournament run by Cascadia Steel. The family helped direct proceeds from the golf tournament to A Family Place.

McConnachie also used her part-time job at a local bank to establish a giving tree for children of A Family Place for Christmas. She persuaded a former co-worker who now runs a credit union in town to start a giving tree there.

“I tell everyone at the bank who cares to listen about this place,” McConnachie said smiling.