Michelle Hankinson stands in front of the Renton Area Youth Services office in downtown Renton. While RAYS is merging with two other nonprofits, much of it remains the same. Courtesy photo RAYS.

Michelle Hankinson stands in front of the Renton Area Youth Services office in downtown Renton. While RAYS is merging with two other nonprofits, much of it remains the same. Courtesy photo RAYS.

Local RAYS joins nonprofit Childhaven

Renton Area Youth Services has been working with local families for 50 years.

Renton Area Youth Services (RAYS), a nonprofit that has supported Renton and Skyway families for 50 years, is now merging with two other local nonprofits to increase services and strengthen family support, at a time where need has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.

The board of directors for Childhaven, RAYS and Art with Heart unanimously agreed to this, which went into effect June 1. The merger will not change the name of RAYS, but instead it will operate as a part of Childhaven, another local nonprofit that provides a safe place for children and families.

“This is a big announcement for the community, and a good move,” former executive director of RAYS Michelle Hankinson said.

The three nonprofits felt their values all fell in line and that working together would make they offerings to families and children stronger. Childhaven calls itself “constructively dissatisfied” with the status quo of outcomes for children in Puget Sound.

CEO of Childhaven Jon Botten said they worked on a business plan over a six month period to see if it was possible to better serve kids and families together by adding on other nonprofits. It isn’t a cost saving measure, but more resources around the same costs, he said.

While these talks have been going on for several years, the intensification of family needs as a result of COVID-19 and the related recession did speed up the merger. Data emerging around children’s mental health in relation to this pandemic is also showing that there will be an increasing demand throughout the next year in services, head of programming at Childhaven Megan Beers said.

Hankinson said with RAYS primarily serving in Renton schools, COVID-19 closing schools has made it challenging to offer their mental health services to students.

For families who are served by RAYS, they don’t have to expect any immediate changes in services, Hankinson said. Instead there will be some new resources available for Renton families. They are retaining services, programs and staff.

“Between Childhaven and RAYS, we will be serving from age zero to 80 years old,” Hankinson said.

RAYS will be updating any changes on their website and social media, as well as having discussions with their clients about what the future holds.

All of the nonprofits in this merger are coming from places of strength, Botten said, but as the recession continues other nonprofits might not be able to weather this storm alone. Most nonprofits have had to reduce services or lose staff during the new recession, but partnerships are forming to help combat that. This can protect from the loss of nonprofits that was seen in the recession from 2007.

“Other (nonprofits) are starting to realize that this is going to be a necessity, coming together, in order to come out of this in a better position to meet the needs of the community,” Botten said. “You don’t have to be in a position of desperation, but actually the best time to do it is when you’re still healthy and strong.”

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