Amy Woodward is the Executive Director of Pass the Hat, a local organization that provides financial relief to families experiencing tragedy by collecting $2 per month from each donor. Pass the Hat’s mission is to help families in need, and to inspire and allow everyone to become a philanthropist.
What brought you to Bellingham?
My husband. We met 22 years ago. This was a good meeting point, and we were happy to stay.
What is your favorite spot to relax in Bellingham?
The beaches are so special. I love to find quiet spots and put up a hammock there. We search for agates and spend a lot of time exploring coastlines. You never know what you’re going to find!
Is there a spot that people should know about that’s underappreciated?
I’m a photographer, so a favorite of mine right now is Locust Beach. Locust is spectacular; you can spend hours exploring during low tide.
Do you take photos for yourself, or hang them somewhere?
I consider myself a hobbyist. I volunteer as a photographer for the Bellingham Roller Betties; I’ve done that for four years. I do shoot for others, but primarily I keep it as my happy place for myself to have a creative outlet.
What do you like best about Pass the Hat?
Number one, hands down, accessibility. It’s so simple for everyone. That’s the beauty of it. An entrepreneur’s $2 is the same as a millionaire’s $2 is the same as a students $2. We’re all in it together. We can do great things. Many hands make light work.
How often do you make distributions?
As often as we are able! We meet once a month, and look at the requests that come in. Just a few months ago, we had several intakes in one month. We try to help as many local families as we can. That’s our biggest obstacle right now—getting the word out there, and being able to meet everyone’s needs. The need is out there.
How does the distribution process work?
Pass the Hat has an Appropriations Committee. We meet monthly, and work directly with the Bellingham Police Department, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Red Cross, and the Whatcom County Support Officers. The Support Officers come to Pass the Hat when a family has experienced a sudden and tragic loss of life, and we do our very best to help. When something happens in town, we know about it.
We distribute funds directly to vendors. The money that we distribute monthly really depends on what needs arise. If we don’t have an intake that month, we have an opportunity to save money for another local family in their time of need.
What do people not understand about the organization?
That we are 100 percent run by volunteers. There is not one paid person in our organization. We put every single dollar we get back into the community. With the exception that we had to make business cards. [Laughs]
What would you like to see come to Bellingham?
You have to pinch yourself living here. We have everything. We have breweries, beaches, mountains. In terms of commerce and business, we have everything we need. We have high quality education, and wonderful public service. It’s a sweet spot. I don’t think we lack for anything.
Is there a local Bellingham business you want to give a shout out to?
Boundary Bay Brewery. I love the family community they’ve created. I love that you can bring your kids, there’s music, dancing, and games. It’s so family friendly; everyone should visit.
Do you have a favorite spot downtown?
And when you go to the record store, what do you buy?
Records! Vinyl. Anything that catches my mood for the day.
What are people always surprised to learn about you?
Some people still don’t know that I’m a photographer. I keep it pretty close to my heart.
If you had to enroll at Western today, what would you major in?
Creative writing. I love to write. I journal for my kids. My mother did it for me, and my grandmother did it for my mom. I actually have hardbound books that we’ve put together of my mother and my grandmother’s writing. I’d like to carry on that legacy.
What is your biggest need at Pass the Hat?
For people to share our mission with their friends and family. We really want you to get excited about it. We want you to share it with your neighbors, your teachers, your friends, and your family. We want that message to have an organic way of passing from friend to friend, and for them to get just as excited about it as we are.
We need community partners. If a local business has a desire to join us in our mission, we’re happy to come in and discuss it. We are so proud to be involved!