Special enrollment & the Affordable Care Act

For a large segment of the US general public, open enrollment for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 was October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Most who missed that window will have to wait until the next open enrollment period for coverage in 2015, which is November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. However, exceptions for certain life events qualify some people for special enrollment, which is year round. Exceptions include those who qualify for or are renewing Washington Apple Health (formerly known as Medicaid in Washington state), marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, foster care, or death of a dependent. There are many other qualifying factors, but all of the explanatory jargon can be confusing at times.Health Care 1985

Thankfully, our Family Assistance Program has been hard at work providing trainings and legal advice on the ACA. The purpose of these trainings is to assist people with education on and enrollment in the newly available medical insurance through the Health Benefit Exchange and Apple Health. For example, one of the major changes from the expansion of the Medicaid program affects those making up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. Specifically, if a single household earns under $1,274 per month (or $15,290 per year), then they can access Apple Health and apply for it at any time. Folks who make more than that are potentially eligible to purchase a Qualified Health Plan through the Health Benefit Exchange during the next open enrollment.

Solid Ground holds an ongoing commitment to educate and enroll the uninsured in free or affordable health care. From October 1, 2013 to May 29, 2014, 178,659 residents were enrolled for health care coverage in King County. Amazingly, 40,021 of them were previously eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled, 48,344 are receiving coverage through a Qualified Health Plan, and 90,294 newly eligible people signed up for Apple Health. Our President and CEO, Gordon McHenry Jr., couldn’t be more thrilled. “These impressive results were the work of a great partnership involving King County Public Health, our medical providers and many nonprofits, including Solid Ground,” he said in a letter to Solid Ground staff. “Equitable access to quality, free or affordable health care is essential to a community that is healthy and thriving.”

Reminder: Open enrollment for Apple Health is year-round, and applications can be accessed through Washington Healthplanfinder. If you have questions regarding special enrollment or anything else regarding coverage under the ACA, please contact the Family Assistance Program at 206.694.6742.

In Memory: Sandi Cutler

“Sandi Cutler -- a graceful leader whose vision and compassion drove lasting social change.”

“Sandi Cutler — a graceful leader whose vision and compassion drove lasting social change.”

Sandi Cutler, Solid Ground’s Chief Operating & Strategy Officer, died unexpectedly during the first week of July from natural causes. He leaves behind many loving family members, dozens of grieving colleagues and a lifelong legacy of social justice work. While not a publicly recognized figure, Sandi made significant contributions to the political life of our region, our nation’s health care system, and the stability and success of Solid Ground.

Sandi grew up in the Central Valley of California. His father was a school district administrator who worked to desegregate the public schools that employed him – which meant that he was often fired. So the family moved on, taking their active commitment to social justice to another community.

As a young man, Sandi was an effective political organizer. He was a major force in moving San José, California to change from at-large elections to City Council districts, which helped communities of color gain representation. He worked tirelessly to raise funds for candidates of color to ensure they maintained their political power.

Later in his career, Sandi became a nationally known leader in natural medicine and the public policy issues related to the integration of natural health sciences into health care. A brilliant strategic thinker and deeply knowledgeable planner, he helped turn Bastyr College into Bastyr University, one of the world’s preeminent natural health sciences institutions. He also guided the expansion of DeVry University’s medical school, turning it into the largest provider of new physicians into the U.S. Health Care system.

When Sandi came to Solid Ground in 2012, he brought more experience in developing and implementing strategies, operations management, organizational development and leadership than most people could gain in many lifetimes.

And still, he was at heart a gifted community organizer who believed that it was a successful day only if he had helped make the world a better place.

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with Sandi Cutler at Solid Ground's 2014 Stand Against Racism event

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with Sandi Cutler at Solid Ground’s 2014 Stand Against Racism event

“Sandi took great pride in his Italian heritage and a culture of living life to the fullest, characterized by love of family and community,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground. “He was always mindful of his white privilege and careful in his role in Solid Ground’s hierarchy.

“The opportunity to be employed with Solid Ground was both inspirational and motivating for Sandi. He felt honored to continue working on behalf of those suffering from oppression and poverty, as well as from the impacts of societal barriers to justice, equity and the opportunity to thrive.”

“Sandi will be remembered as a graceful leader whose vision and compassion drove lasting social change,” said Lauren McGowan, past President of Solid Ground’s Board of Directors.

“Sandi’s kind nature and compassion had an impact on everyone around him,” said Kira Zylstra, Stabilization Services Director. “He had a profound and genuine care for the community that we serve as well as the team of dedicated staff here at Solid Ground.”

Solid Ground extends its deepest support to Sandi’s family and friends. We know that for all the loss we feel, yours is deeper and even more profound.

And as we reflect on the incomprehensible fragility of life, we are reminded to be kind to one another, to find the beauty in each day and to make sure we express our love to those we cherish.

A public memorial service will be held Sunday, July 27 from 1–4pm at Bastyr University Chapel (14500 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore).

‘It’s a broken system that’s not working’: Proposed new youth jail will increase incarceration of youth of color

In 2012, King County, WA voters passed a levy initiative to fund the construction of a new Children and Family Justice Center. Given the fact that 100% of taxpayer money will be used for the construction of the facility – not for maintaining or creating services – it’s hard to think of this facility as anything other than a reinforcement of the school-to-prison pipeline, a widespread pattern in the US of pushing students, especially those already at a disadvantage, out of school and into our criminal justice system.

In King County, African-American and white youth commit crime at the same rates, yet about 40% of detained youth are African American, and they are twice as likely to be arrested and referred to court as white youth. Incarcerating youth without providing diversion or reintegration programs increases the chances of recidivism, thus continuing the revolving door of our criminal justice system – statewide and nationally.

“It’s by design to start that process off early,” says Ardell Shaw, intern for Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network. He describes how this affects kids later in life: “A person has a felony on their record. Now they may repeat this cycle, and when they get out, they have huge amounts of fines to pay. The system creates enough stress where they perpetuate recidivism and keep that cycle going.”

New Youth Jail, King County, institutional racism, african american incarceration, king county juvenile infographic

Infographic created by Solid Ground

Now that we’ve gone over some statistics, imagine how these numbers will change after the jail is built. The county is going to have to justify spending a quarter of a billion dollars on this project somehow. Their justification will come in the form of incarcerating more youth, especially targeting youth of color.

“The purpose for building it isn’t about the renovations, it’s to put more bodies in it. Particularly African-American bodies,” says Ardell. “When it first came out they tried to glamorize it as a ‘family center’ instead of calling it what it actually was.” A youth jail.

What can you do about it?

1)     “Make calls. Support us when we have meetings.” Ardell is referring to the No New Youth Jail campaign, which is strongly backed by Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, The People’s Institute Northwest, and the Black Prisoners’ Caucus among other organizations, including Solid Ground.

2)     Call King County and City of Seattle council members Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, Kathy Lambert and Dow Constantine to say you support the demands to defer this money elsewhere.

3)     Also, Ardell encourages us to talk about it. “Make people aware that it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. That money could be spent other ways. The juvenile system is broken and they DON’T fix problems in the current system.”

“You have to deal with what the issue is, why they got into trouble in the first place,” explains Ardell. “They’re not just committing crimes to commit crimes. There are other factors … So if we can get to the base root of what that is, then we stand a better chance. Then we let the kids know there is a possibility. They need to find a way to correct their system and really offer these kids help. Not just probation, but help.”

Throwback Thursday: Emerson celebrates a year of successful composting!

This post by Apple Corps member Lisa Woo originally appeared on the Apple Corps blog.

As our AmeriCorps terms come to an end (July 15th is the last day for a handful of our team members), it is hard not to get sentimental about the past year of service. This end of term is especially nostalgic for me as I complete a two-year chapter with the Apple Corps program. So, in honor of the amazing community I have had the chance to work with and all that they have taught me, here’s a little Throwback Thursday!

All year long, students at Emerson Elementary, the site school where I have taught nutrition education, have been exploring their role as Earth Stewards through a school-wide lunchroom composting initiative co-led by myself and our fellow Apple Corps Member, Randa, who served as the Active Play Coordinator. Together, we developed a student-led “Compost Hero” lunchroom monitor program that was able to engage every student at each grade level. In addition, we held several health promotions throughout the year that allowed students to understand the close connection between environmental and personal health!

Students at Emerson embraced the title of "Compost Hero" with their fearless leader, Ms. Randa, a fellow Apple Corps Member (pictured top center)

Students at Emerson embraced the title of “Compost Hero” with their fearless leader, Ms. Randa, a fellow Apple Corps Member (pictured top center)

One such promotion was our Earth Day: Caught Green Handed Celebration, which challenged students to do good deeds for the earth and identify the ripple effects those acts have on their community. Students enjoyed posing in our “Caught” picture frame and having their photos displayed proudly throughout the school hallways.

gardening

Students turning compost into our school garden beds

The year ended strong with a final school-wide competition that pitted primary grade levels (Kindergarten, First and Second) against the intermediate grade levels (Third, Fourth and Fifth) in a Food Waste Challenge similar to the promotion held at Concord Elementary. The challenge was a great way to wrap up a year of compost education and stimulated great conversation among students about how important reducing food waste is for both our bodies and our earth, despite having a fantastic alternative waste deposit system. Paired with quality time in the garden and hands-on worm explorations, our final week of composting was nothing short of fantastic!

garden picture

A group of students deeply engrossed in their worm exploration!

Great job, Emerson Eagles!

Solstice Parade founder on building community through art

2013 Fremont Solstice Parade biker (Flickr photo by Lambert Rellosa)

2013 Fremont Solstice Parade biker (Flickr photo by Lambert Rellosa)

Long before the Fremont Solstice Parade was world-renown for the phalanx of naked bicyclists that kick it off, the event was created as a way to build community through creative expression.

The parade was birthed by Barbara Luecke and Peter Toms, migrant arts-workers who brought the concept of a Solstice Parade with them when they came to Seattle from Santa Barbara in the late 1980s. Solid Ground and its forebear, the Fremont Public Association (FPA), helped birth the parade by providing institutional support to the Fremont Arts Council. The parade was more or less grafted onto the Fremont Fair, which was produced by Solid Ground from 1974-2009. The Fremont Chamber of Commerce assumed control of the Fair in 2010.

Barbara Luecke, co-founder, Fremont Solstice Parade

Barbara Luecke, co-founder, Fremont Solstice Parade

The Fremont Parade was conceived with two fairly conservative restrictions that seemingly paradoxically fostered its spirit of pure unabashed creation: There were to be no printed words (or logos) and no motor vehicles (except aid chairs). This limited commercialization and freed participants to come together in a celebration of life and art.

Fremont Solstice Parade (photo by Eric Frommer)

Fremont Solstice Parade (photo by Eric Frommer)

Annual public workshops are at the heart of the parade, bringing artists and other participants together to create and collaborate on costumes and ensembles in an art lab environment. The parade and workshops are managed by the Fremont Arts Council.

In this brief video, Barbara Luecke tells the story of the genesis of the Parade and role that Solid Ground/FPA played in building community through the arts.

 

Power in pennies: A tribute to Penny Harvest

Unfortunately, Solid Ground is ending its sponsorship of the Penny Harvest program on June 30th, 2014. Penny Harvest advocates are still looking for a new home for the program.

Environmental stewards. Philanthropists. Community leaders. These are not usually titles we give to kids, even if the phrase “making a difference” is constantly pushed throughout school curricula. Is there a way that schools can facilitate the kindly intentions of students who are just at the beginning stages of a lifetime of learning? With the Penny Harvest program, one can truly call these little humanitarians, from kindergarten to 12th grade, bighearted superstars.

Penny drive at Adams Elementary School, 2011

Penny drive at Adams Elementary School, 2011

Bringing the drive to Seattle

In 1992, Solid Ground (then known as the Fremont Public Association) partnered with Family Services (now Wellspring Family Services) and Atlantic Street Center to create Common Cents to teach area youth about homelessness through a spring coin drive paired with educational presentations. Around $40,000 per year was raised to serve families experiencing homelessness, all the while engaging thousands of students in philanthropic efforts.

In 2005, the program became affiliated with the New York-based Common Cents and changed the name of the local operation to Penny Harvest. The model of the program also shifted from funding three specific organizations to allowing youth to select who and what to fund, and expanded to include a stronger focus on social justice work. Penny Harvest is now a national service-learning program engaging students between the ages of four and 18 in processes of philanthropy including gathering pennies, grant making and taking action as leaders in their community. The program introduces students to the power of giving and volunteerism, and thus they learn the right steps to drive change in their communities. Organizations that have received donations include everything from safe housing for youth and families, animal welfare, environmental justice to individual sponsorship of a homeless man in the neighborhood.

Find a penny, pick it up…

Kathleen Penna in a van full of sacks

Kathleen Penna in a van full of sacks

Different than your typical fundraiser, the Penny Harvest was more like a scavenger hunt at times. “Pennies are usually very accessible, especially to young people. You can find them everywhere. [Students] look under their couches, ask their neighbors. They have big jars that they keep in their schools,” says Kathleen Penna, Community Development Program Coordinator (and former Penny Harvest Program Coordinator) at Solid Ground. “They’re also something that we don’t often think of as useful anymore, because you can’t buy anything with [just] pennies.” When asked what was her favorite part about the actual collection of pennies, Kathleen says, “It was cool to see the giant piles of pennies. We had U-Haul vans that were full of pennies.”

This sort of energetic strategy can really get kids engaged, allowing them to experience the difficult, hands-on work it takes to fundraise. It also increases excitement around getting involved in the decision making process on where to allocate the funds, a task for which the students are 100% in charge.

Ana Lucía Degel as a Penny Harvest Youth Board member,  June 2005

Ana Lucía Degel as a Penny Harvest Youth Board member, June 2005

One former Penny Harvest participant, Ana Lucía Degel, says that this kind of empowerment “has profoundly shaped my ability to examine my role in my community, my own privilege, and my determination to affect change through the work that I choose to do.” Ana Lucía  is currently an Education Specialist with Treehouse, providing dropout prevention services and education case management for youth who have experienced foster care. “Penny Harvest planted the seed within me that I am capable of dreaming change that seems impossible, and I can find ways to take steps towards that change by working within my community.”

This sort of sentiment can be heard from students and adults alike. “Our main goal is that young people learn that they can and do make a difference at a very early age,” says Mike Beebe, former Penny Harvest Program Manager at Solid Ground. “Learning about community input, mapping community assets, community organizing. What we can do working together is so much more powerful than what we can do as one person. In some ways, I think that challenges the narrative in our country around individualism,” says Mike.

Steering the ship

Penny Harvest Youth Boards consisted of 10 members and were open to any student who committed to it. This past year, there were a couple of members who started in 2nd grade and are now of driving age. Of their role over the last few months, Kathleen says, “They are really steering the ship of the program.”

Ana Lucía says that one of her favorite parts of the program was being on the Board. “I really began to feel empowered to make a difference in my community,” she says.

The Board typically met every Monday and talked about the visioning and transitioning of the program, wrote and sent out appeal letters, and planned events like the Youth Philanthropy Summit.

Youth Board meeting in 2002

Youth Board meeting in 2002

The Summit was always a special time of year. “This year we had about 140 students who came to the Summit. They got the chance to meet about 30 different organizations from across the city that do a wide variety of work and really connect with them on a different level,” explains Kathleen. After that initial meeting, students then workshopped and dug into the root causes of issues they care about most. “It’s really complicated and complex and compacted. It was really cool to see everyone from the 16-year-old Youth Board members to the kindergartners who were there,” says Kathleen.

Continuing the mission

Sometimes it seems crazy to think that something as small as a penny could ever make a difference in anyone’s life. A piece of currency that has been, for some years now, considered almost unnecessary in our economy and one that is constantly on the verge of becoming obsolete. However, the mission of the Penny Harvest program is to turn one person’s inept coinage into a student’s philanthropic development that benefits the community.

“The most meaningful social change that’s happened in this country, it’s the youth and young adults who’ve led that effort,” Mike explains to describe the program’s impact. “But we’re even taking it down to kindergarten age and saying, ‘Well, they can do that right now.’ We don’t have to wait until they’re high school or college age, or wait till they’re in their 30s. Let’s not waste time. Let’s support them in doing that now.”

If you are interested in assisting Penny Harvest in finding a new host organization, please contact Common Cents through Mike Beebe at 206.354.7312 or mpbeebe@gmail.com.

40 years of healthy food & food justice

Food Bank waiting 1993

Customers in line at the Fremont Food Bank, circa 1987; the Food Bank was transferred to FamilyWorks in 1999.

For more than 40 years, Solid Ground and its predecessor, the Fremont Public Association, have been feeding a hungry community and promoting food justice.

In 1974, our Fremont Food Bank was one of the first in Seattle’s north end. But it takes more than distributing food to fully address hunger.

So we started working with food banks, educators, chefs and businesses to help families develop skills to improve their food security and build lifelong healthy eating habits.

Solid Ground's Food Resources transports produce to local food banks throughout Seattle.

Solid Ground’s Food Resources transports produce to local food banks throughout Seattle.

In 1979, we partnered with the City of Seattle to create Food Resources, which developed into the backbone of the Seattle food bank system, providing administrative and technical support and transportation.

In the late 1980s we organized Lettuce Link to support P-Patch community gardeners and other backyard gardeners to grow produce for local food banks, and to provide seeds and vegetable starts for families who patronized food banks, supporting them in growing their own food – but the need for fresh produce was far greater.

Solid Ground now operates farms in the South Park neighborhood and at the Rainier Vista housing community.

Solid Ground now operates farms in the South Park neighborhood and at the Rainier Vista housing community.

So in the mid-1990s we partnered with community groups and spearheaded the Marra Farm Coalition to steward one of two remaining original farmland sites in Seattle at Marra Farm. There, hundreds of volunteers a year tend our Giving Garden to grow organic produce for people with limited access to nutritious produce, and we engage people in organic gardening, food justice and environmental stewardship. The Giving Garden produces about 25,000 pounds of fresh organic produce each year. In 2011, we opened a second urban growing operation adjacent to the Rainier Vista housing development, Seattle Community Farm, which provides education and inspiration while engaging the local community in growing fresh produce to support food security in Southeast Seattle.

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

During the mid-1990s we also launched a partnership with the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength to bring Operation Frontline (now Cooking Matters) classes into our community. These six-week courses are presented at community-based partner organizations throughout Western Washington. They utilize volunteer chefs and nutritionists to support healthy cooking skills, nutrition education and food budgeting. Share Our Strength was also our partner in turning the Fremont Food Bank into the region’s first Super Pantry, which married emergency food and a full array of family support services. The Super Pantry eventually spun off as a stand-alone nonprofit, FamilyWorks.

In 2005, our nutrition education and skill-building efforts expanded into local schools through the Apple Corps, which uses national service teams to address the root causes of hunger and other health inequities in low-income communities.

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

The Giving Garden at Marra is our outdoor classroom. Students from Concord International Elementary School and other partner organizations learn about environmental issues in their community as they also learn to garden and prepare nutritious food. Our work in schools and with other community organizations is an important aspect of a growing movement towards a sustainable food system that is equitable for all.

We believe that ending hunger and creating equitable access to healthy food starts with breaking bread together. It draws on the experience and expertise of many organizations, community groups and individuals. And over 40 years, the education and access supported by Solid Ground helps empower people to achieve food justice.

For more information about this work and how you or your group can get involved, contact Gerald Wright, Hunger & Food Resources Director.

Cooking matters vol 2013

 

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