Planting Seeds in Bellingham

Back in 2014, Ray and Carol Dellecker began contemplating an idea. Wanting to create generational and transformative change for the youth in Bellingham, they knew a quality education was a path to exiting poverty and vastly improving one’s life. They began thinking about the idea of a college savings account.

For the next few years, they researched and talked with local leaders. They were on a mission to see if there was an appetite for such a program. Ray has volunteered for Bellingham Public Schools, while Carol has served on the board of the Whatcom Community Foundation. It was here, that an idea began picking up steam.

Local leaders introduced them to the WA529 Program. The Guaranteed Education Tuition program is a Washington 529 prepaid college tuition plan that helps families with young children save for future higher education expenses. The State of Washington guarantees that the value of the account will keep pace with the cost of college tuition, no matter how much it changes in the future. With a vehicle for their support, now Ray and Carol needed an audience.

Ray and Carol met Lindsey Karas, Resident Services and Education Manager for Mercy Housing Northwest, who oversees Sterling Meadows. Pre-pandemic, Mercy Housing Northwest’s Sterling Meadows, a diverse, bi-lingual family community in Bellingham, WA., boasted a graduation of 98%, thanks in part to homework clubs and other initiatives launched by Mercy Housing Northwest’s Resident Services team. The community is mostly students who are first-generation American or newly immigrated. Despite fantastic graduation rates, many students struggled with accessing secondary education. Instantly, Ray and Carol knew they could make a difference here. The stars were aligning.

With a generous $25,000 gift, Ray and Carol created college savings accounts, using the GET WA529 program, for every student living at Sterling Meadows. After years of work, dedication, and hours in conversation with partners, the Dellecker’s recently met with Sterling Meadows families to announce this new and heartfelt initiative. It was a big night for both the Delleckers and the community, as the roots they had planted in 2014 could start to grow into something bigger and more beautiful.

Now, Ray and Carol have even bigger goals. While this humble couple recognizes the seeds of hope and possibility they have planted, they want to encourage others to join their effort. That encouragement is already gaining steam with a generous donor pledging $10,000 for the students of Mercy Housing’s newest community in Bellingham, Trail View.

“We want to make sure we exclude no one from this program. We have a dream of expanding throughout the district and touching the lives of every student in Bellingham,” said Ray and Carol. “To achieve this goal, we will need partners and other donors to come on board.”

As Ray and Carol rally friends and neighbors for the next chapter of their dream, Mercy Housing Northwest can only say, thank you for investing in our future.