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BOONE — After having to cancel its biggest fundraiser of the year, OASIS staff are wondering how they’ll make up the potential $25,000 to $30,000 shortfall the agency may face.

OASIS was set to host its 17th annual Midnight at the OASIS event at The Beacon on July 17 — with entertainment provided by Soul Benefactor — and decided to err on the side of caution by canceling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceeds from the Midnight at the OASIS event help the agency provide the continuum of free and confidential services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

OASIS Outreach Coordinator Sara Crouch said the agency hopes society will have a sense of normalcy come July, but the agency would rather not take the risk of event goers possibly contracting the virus.

Crouch said the fundraising event is a testament to the area’s support for the agency — with an average of $25,000 to $30,000 in community donations brought in each year. Additionally, she said the 42 years of service OASIS has given to the area is proof that the agency can navigate difficult financial situations.

“But this is different,” Crouch said. “This is not anything we’ve ever experienced as a whole world, (and) as an agency this is throwing us hurdles … we don’t have a road map for this.”

The potential shortfall comes at a time when the agency has seen a recent spike in the need for services. According to Crouch, OASIS served nearly double the amount of clients in March than it had in the same month in 2019. While COVID-19 had been occurring in other counties for months and the U.S. had its first confirmed case in late January, it was in March when the nation and N.C. started to really grasp what impact the virus would have.

In March 2019, OASIS served 44 adults (not including their children); this is compared to the 81 adults (not including children) that the agency served this March, according to Crouch. April saw about a 10 percent increase, with 49 adults served in the month in 2019 and 54 adults served in 2020.

What Crouch found interesting, however, was the number of clients OASIS has taken to its emergency shelter. In April 2019, OASIS served 22 adults and their children at its emergency shelter. While at first this sounds comparable to the 21 adults and their children served at the emergency shelter in April 2020, Crouch mentioned that the OASIS shelter is currently operating at a reduced capacity.

“I thought that number was insane because at first glance it’s pretty much the same,” Crouch said. “But when you consider that our shelter is at a reduced capacity and we still sheltered that same number of people, that can start to tell you a bigger picture.”

The reduced capacity was put in place to implement social distancing. Even though the OASIS shelter may not be taking in as many people currently, Crouch said the agency isn’t turning clients away. OASIS is still serving people and finding shelter for them — it just might be a different location. Once the OASIS shelter becomes full, staff will reach out to other agencies. Crouch said placements at other locations may not be reflected in the OASIS data, and so numbers could potentially be higher.

Watauga County Clerk of Court Diane Cornett-Deal said that her office had a total of 10 filings for domestic violence-related matters since March 16. Of the 10, eight filings were for domestic violence protective orders and two were no contact orders. Cornett-Deal noted that typically courthouse staff receive about 10 filings a month — about an average of 120 or more per year — prior to the pandemic.

“We tried to make sure everyone knew that we were available for filings and that there was a process in place through both OASIS and NC Legal Aid to assist anyone who might need help,” Cornett-Deal said. “My prayer is that people who really needed help received it through some means.”

To continue to provide services, Crouch said OASIS hopes people will still donate to the agency even though the Midnight at the OASIS event is canceled. While the agency does receive grant funding and could potentially solicit additional grant monies, Crouch said grants can restrict the uses of the funding. Donations allow the agency to be more flexible to meet more needs of clients, Crouch said.

The hope is that those who wanted to attend Midnight at the OASIS or have attended past events would still make a $40 donation that would typically be their event ticket cost. Crouch said a $40 donation would “go a long way,” since $50 helps to cover one night at the agency’s emergency shelter for one person.

Crouch explained that OASIS also receives money at the event from individual and business sponsorships. Sponsorships range from bronze to gold levels depending on the donation sizes of $250 to $1,000 or more.

A bronze level sponsorship of $250 could provide money for child care assistance for a working parent. Crouch mentioned that often a person may not leave a situation where there is interpersonal violence due to a worry of not having money if they were to leave. Holding a steady job sometimes depends on consistent child care, and therefore OASIS offers to assist with expenses, Crouch said.

A silver level sponsorship could provide rental assistance in which OASIS can help fund placement in safe housing for clients. A gold sponsorship of $1,000 or more can support the operation of the OASIS emergency shelter for one month, according to Crouch. She added that OASIS is willing to accept donations on a monthly basis until a person or business could meet their sponsorship level amount.

Crouch said OASIS has already seen support from the community in other ways. For example, the agency recently made a social media post soliciting masks for staff to return to the OASIS office, and Crouch said within 30 minutes of the post many community members had already responded with ways they could help.

“I think it’s amazing that our community has been really rallying (behind) agencies and people who need support,” Crouch said.

For more information or to donate to OASIS, visit www.oasisinc.org.

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