Putting veterans on Solid Ground

vets-dayMany of Solid Ground’s services support U.S. veterans in overcoming barriers to stability and living healthy lives.

While we are unable to collect demographic information on all program participants, the data we have shows that over the past year, more than 139 vets have accessed our Tenant Services program for help understanding their responsibilities and rights as tenants. Among the topics most discussed were info on rights and responsibilities, housing search and barriers, repairs, evictions, deposits and Fair Housing issues.

Two dozen vets have worked with our Mortgage Counselors to better understand and make informed choices about foreclosures; 23 more accessed reverse mortgage counseling. Seven vets have worked one-on-one with our Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coach.

Seattle/King County is part of a national movement to house all homeless veterans by Dec 31, 2015. According to All Home, our community has housed 717 veterans, with only 37 chronically homeless vets remaining to be housed.

Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing Campus is currently home to 14 veterans in transitional and permanent housing. The Veterans Program at St. Vincent DePaul, American Legion Auxiliary #227 and other area groups provide support, mentorship and community for our veteran residents.

In addition, we provided financial support to stabilize housing to 105 veteran-led families living on low or very low incomes.

Solid Ground also connects vets to volunteer service opportunities through RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) of King County. This year, RSVP is recognizing 15 local members who are veterans. The Corporation for National & Community Service designed a beautiful pin, which we will send to each of them along with a letter of gratitude for their service. It states:

The 15 veterans currently serving as RSVP volunteers have provided 3,802 hours of service over the last year, supporting food banks, adult day programs, tutoring and early childhood education programs and other nonprofits.

“This Veteran’s Day, November 11th, the Corporation for National & Community Service is honored to recognize you for serving our country through Senior Corps’ RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) of King County. As a veteran you have played a vital role in protecting our freedom and way of life and for that we are grateful.”

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years of nourishing, connecting & empowering our community

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Dinner and Auction

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Supper & Auction

On October 25, I had the opportunity to represent Solid Ground alongside Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (also Solid Ground Senior Advisor and former Fremont Public Association Executive Director) at FamilyWorks Resource Center & Food Bank’s 20th Anniversary Sunday Supper & Auction celebration. It was a joyful and inspiring evening.

For 20 years, the resource center has provided comprehensive, strength-based programming to support families in conjunction with the food bank. In addition to providing nourishing food, FamilyWorks creates programs that support and help develop parenting and life skills for individuals, families and teen parents.

Photos from FamilyWorks’ 20 years of service (click for larger images and captions)

Throughout the 20th Anniversary celebration, many stories were shared about the lives touched by FamilyWorks. One story I found especially moving featured a FamilyWorks food bank recipient who is now a trusted FamilyWorks volunteer as well as a resident of Santos Place on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus.

staff1

FamilyWorks Executive Director Jake Weber (left) with Eva Washington (right)

It is an impressive feat that our colleagues at FamilyWorks have provided critical resources to our shared community for 20 years. In particular, I would like to thank Ms. Jake Weber, FamilyWork’s Executive Director, who has been a moving force there since the agency’s foundation. She served two years on the founding board followed by 18 years of service as Executive Director.

At the dinner, FamilyWorks announced the first-ever Kerwin Manuel Impact Award, named after the late Mr. Manuel for his dedicated and courageous service to FamilyWorks and their program participants. Frank and I were honored and grateful to accept the award on behalf of Solid Ground, in recognition of the special partnership that exists between our two organizations.

I’m proud of the long-lasting and meaningful partnership that exists between FamilyWorks and Solid Ground. As FamilyWorks nourishes and strengthens individuals and families by connecting people with support, resources and community, Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty.

Our region is a better place because of FamilyWorks’ important work and the partnership we continue to share.

Student business generates impressive donation

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

In Waldorf education, 6th grade is a time when classes get deeply involved in community service. For many, that means volunteering at food banks, or doing environmental cleanup. But Wim Gottenbos’ 6th grade class at the Seattle Waldorf School spent the past spring developing a lively business that raised $2,000 in profits to support Solid Ground.

“Kids this age are starting to really see themselves,” said class parent Kimberly Hiner. In order to balance that, it is important for the students “to see greater need and the greater world out there.”

For four consecutive Fridays, the class opened shop at the end of the school day, selling their artwork, homemade lip balm, hand-knit mittens, pencil boxes, candles, baked goods and other items to schoolmates and their families. Stunning geometric-colored pencil drawings were printed as note cards and a poster, then marketed through the school newsletter.

Every one of the class’ 29 students created products to sell and took on business functions like marketing, accounting and direct sales. “I told them: ‘Every family has a strength. Find out what your strength is and bring that into this effort.'”

The project drew on many elements of the Waldorf curriculum, including geometry, handwork and business math.

Dean McColgan, Development Director at Solid Ground, spent about an hour with the students talking to them about the role of nonprofit organizations, the importance of community support, and Solid Ground’s mission and services. Dean said, “The project taught basic business principles, like accounting and inventory, but emphasized the importance of giving back to the community. When I presented to the class, I was very impressed with the students’ knowledge and eagerness to learn about the importance of nonprofit work.”

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also created from the drawings.

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also made from the drawings.

Perhaps a more long-term result of the project was how it created opportunity for conversations about privilege and equity.

“We developed an awareness of people that do not have the wealth and comfort that we have,” said Wim. “These students have breakfast every morning in their homes; they attend a private school. Most have their own rooms and own beds. So we imagine what it is like for kids of the same age who do not have the same things, who do not have breakfast, and must wait at school for their breakfast. Our task is to open the world for them, to help them connect to the outside world.”

“The students were proud of what they accomplished,” noted parent Liz Yaroschuk. “There was a sense of ownership in the business, deciding what products to sell, how much to charge. They were stunned by the amount of money they raised.”

“And,” added Kimberly, “they were incredibly impressed at what Solid Ground does.” Dean hopes to return to the school later this fall and report back to the students on the impact of their investment.

(Disclosure: I’ve drank the Waldorf Kool-Aid. My daughter is a 2014 graduate of the Seattle Waldorf School and my wife is on its Early Childhood staff.)

A morning of metaphors

My Saturday morning at the Union Gospel Mission’s 118 Design Workshop was a morning of simple metaphors. Ricky Jordan sat me and my 15 DukeEngage companions down and pulled out two $1 bills. One was clean and crisp – the kind of dollar bill you’d be proud to pull out of your wallet. The other he crumpled between his fingers, and then stomped under his foot for good measure. Which one did we want? The clean one, fine. But which one had more value?

The Union Gospel Mission possesses the unique insight that people unfairly judge themselves based on the image society projects on them. The ministry targets youth heavily influenced by gangs in the Rainier Valley. After having future job prospects crumpled by gang affiliation and incarceration, many of the youth forget that a dollar bill is a dollar bill. I think after being metaphorically laminated and framed on the wall, my Duke friends and I needed the same reminder.

118 Duke Engage

DukeEngage interns, during their summer of immersive service, help out at 118 Designs.

We put on our safety glasses and we got to work. The material at our disposal was not first-class lumber. It was discarded wood, punctured by rusting nails – dismissed as useless. The genius of the Mission’s 118 street outreach program is they saw opportunity in the unwanted wood. They saw the wood for its durable properties rather than its rough exterior.

We got to work trying to pry the nails out using the back end of hammers. This kind of labor-intensive work humbles. I felt embarrassed, using my entire body to pull a single nail from a block of wood and not getting a budge. The loud ringing from a dozen hammers reminded me that extracting these nails was a communal struggle. After endless swaying back and forth, just when all my physical abilities had been thrown into doubt, the nail slipped out from the wood as if it had never been stuck. At first slowly, and then faster as we developed proficiency, newly refurbished planks of wood piled up ready for use.

The 118 outreach program sees their youth through a parallel lens. The program doesn’t try to discard their members’ troubled pasts. The goal is to pry whatever challenges are preventing a stable future, and then use their difficult experiences as opportunities. For instance Ricky argues, what better qualifies a candidate for business or marketing than a history in drug dealing? Managing multiple clients, fostering trusting relationships, and networking a product are all drug peddling skills that within the right framework would translate well to a business setting.

Although we only spent a day prying nails, the members of the outreach program spend weeks using the wood to build furniture. They don’t paint over the finished product. They proudly showcase the wood for what it is now – durable and valuable – and for what it used to be – abandoned and useless. This urban style furniture fares well in the marketplace; 118 sold 62,000 dollars’ worth of furniture at their last annual fundraising event, Catalyst. Despite the furniture’s unfinished look, in fact because of its worn appearance, buyers have confidence that no amount of weight can break it.

Phone & internet discount info moving to InterConnection

Community Voice Mail was awarded a Harvard Innovations in Government Award in 1993 that lead to expansion to 40+ other U.S. cities.

Community Voice Mail was awarded a Harvard Innovations in Government Award in 1993 that led to expansion to 40+ other U.S. cities.

Starting on June 15, Solid Ground’s ConnectUp will no longer provide information and referral to the general public about phone and internet discount programs. The Community Information Line at 2-1-1 will provide referrals to phone and/or internet services. Our website content on phone and internet discounts will transition over to InterConnection at the end of June. We will post the link to that content as soon as it is available.

Solid Ground will continue to provide free Community Voice Mail as it has since 1991, when a group of folks at our forebear, the Fremont Public Association, invented the then high-tech idea of linking people experiencing homelessness to community through voice mail. Since that time, tens of thousands of people have used community voice mail to find housing, jobs and vital connections.

To sign up for free voice mail, call 206.694.6744, Tuesday – Friday, 10am-4pm.

ConnectUp’s Resource Wire newsletter will also continue to provide information on job opportunities, social services and free events via email, voice mail and social media to people living on low incomes in Seattle/King County.

Sign up for Resource Wire today!

Walsh Construction: Building communities with Solid Ground for two decades

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Walsh Construction not only understands the needs of the people and organizations they serve, but also anticipates and facilitates meeting those needs with professional expertise. For over 22 years, Walsh has supported Solid Ground’s work in a variety of meaningful ways.

Workplace giving

Giving back to the community is an integral part of Walsh Construction’s culture and values. As a company and as individuals, they contribute time, talent and finances to numerous nonprofits throughout the year and believe it’s the right thing to do.

Walsh Construction’s connection with Solid Ground began through the generosity of their own employees. From 1992 to 2001, Walsh employees contributed individual donations, despite the fact that there was no formal infrastructure for workplace giving. For the following several years, the United Way of King County’s workplace giving campaign coordinated the business’ donations. Then in 2005, Walsh began their own campaign to formally support all employee payroll contributions, a practice they continue to this day.

Every year through their employee Community Giving program, they name several community agencies and nonprofit groups – including Solid Ground – as beneficiaries. Walsh matches every dollar each employee contributes, and for several years they have reached 100% staff participation. Walsh employees clearly share the company’s values of generosity and care for the Seattle community.

Housing development

In 1998, Solid Ground (then the Fremont Public Association) hired Walsh to build our current headquarters offices in Wallingford. Then through an open bidding process in 2012, we selected Walsh to develop additional housing on our Sand Point Housing campus. From late 2013 through November of 2014, they served as general contractor for two buildings of non-time-limited housing at Sand Point. Today, Sand Point’s residential facilities total 175 units, 100 for families and 75 for singles. Of those, Walsh built 54 new residences and renovated an additional 42 units.

Throughout the process, Humberto Alvarez, Solid Ground’s Planning, Development & Operations Director, was primary contact between stakeholders, and he also oversaw Walsh’s two-phase renovation of the Santos Place transitional housing facility. Humberto says that Santos Place was occupied during the extensive restoration period, and that Walsh representatives were exceptionally respectful to the building owners and inhabitants as they conducted their detail-oriented work.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Two buildings at Sand Point were located in a Seattle Landmarks Board Historic District inside Magnuson Park, which was a Navy base before becoming a park. The buildings, while new construction, had to blend in with the historic neighborhood and meet the standards of the Landmarks Preservation Board to complement the original military housing style.

Walsh’s excellent work maintained the historic look of the buildings and strengthened the integrity of the structures as well. Throughout each step of the process, contractors, developers and architects met in weekly meetings to cover every detail of the project from beginning to end. By making the infrastructure more energy efficient, money saved on utility expenses could be put instead toward providing services for residents in need.

Both new buildings at Sand Point Housing were completed ahead of schedule in early December 2013 – enabling some residents to move in before Christmas! It was especially rewarding for everyone involved to give people transitioning out of homelessness a safe, warm, dry place to live in time for the holidays that year.

Event sponsorship

Walsh has also supported Solid Ground through various annual and special events over the years, including our Building Community Luncheon, which Walsh has sponsored every year since 2011.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Recently, Walsh added a personal touch to their support of Sand Point Housing residents through gifts for the children. They donated intricate wooden toys for kids to play with at the communal children’s areas in Santos Place and the Lowry Community Building. The delightful trinkets are made of durable materials that will be enjoyed by many youngsters for a long time to come.

Over the last two decades, Walsh has been a consistent, outstanding and professional supporter, and we look forward to many more years of partnership in the future!

Girls Giving Back work renovation magic at Broadview

header_logoRecently Girls Giving Back (GGB) – a nonprofit that brings youth and adults together to make a difference in Western Washington transitional housing shelters – completed the last of 31 room renovations at Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing residences for women and children. Since October of 2011, over 150 volunteers have collaborated to complete this ongoing project!

The crew started their construction revamps by building and installing closet systems into each of the units. These were constructed in a Georgetown woodshop by a team of volunteers and led by woodshop owner, John Kirschenbaum.

GGB then equipped every room with interior details including: furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, bathroom items, and a desk filled with school and art materials. They ️filled bookcases with novels and board games, and placed a fresh stuffed animal on each bed. The GGB volunteers also stocked the cupboards with perishable and nonperishable food, and hung art created by local youth and adults on every wall.

By adding all the little things that make a place feel like home, these units now have the cozy comfort of a thoughtfully furnished and decorated living space. Since most of Broadview’s residents are women and children coping with the trauma of displacement and domestic abuse, the pleasant environment of these renovated rooms offers them a peaceful space to develop strong community support systems.

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Teresa Valley started Girls Giving Back in 2009 with the mission of bringing friends together to do community outreach for social services in need of urgent help. In an effort to create an uplifting environment that fosters hope, GGB focuses on helping local shelters maintain their facilities and provide the basic necessities for the people that they serve. Along with a loyal group of ever-growing volunteers, GGB does everything possible to help improve the lives of those who need it most by donating time, energy and resources to this important work.

Their mission statement says it all:

Girls Giving Back inspires hope and brings comfort and stability to individuals and families in need by improving living conditions in Puget Sound transitional shelters.

GGB has served the local shelter community since the spring of 2009. We provide extensive updates to transitional shelters including: installing new carpet, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, closet additions and performing minor repairs. Along with these services, GGB replaces used mattresses, furnishes the units with gently used donated items, and accessorizes the units (including artwork created by local-area youth) to create a warm and inviting space for the temporary residents in these buildings.

Through GGB’s efforts, individuals seeking shelter are able to experience more than just a roof over their heads. More specifically, by living in this positive environment, they are inspired with hope and encouragement as they move forward with their lives.

Thank you, Girls Giving Back, for sharing these gifts with our Broadview families!

Upcoming #BlackLivesMatter events

#BlackLivesMatter, Hands Up Don't Shoot, Standing with FergusonSolid Ground is committed to supporting the ongoing anti-racism struggle to end police violence against communities of color. From Ferguson to New York to Seattle, we support the call that #BlackLivesMatter, and for justice for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other African Americans who are killed every 28 hours by law enforcement.

This fall, Solid Ground staff formed a Ferguson Solidarity Committee, and we have already raised over $1,000 to support grassroots community organizations fighting police brutality in Ferguson. Our committee decided this week to compile a weekly list of #BlackLivesMatter events in Seattle and distribute it to encourage our staff, volunteers, clients, donors and supporters to get involved in the local movement to end the epidemic of police violence against African Americans. Here are the #BlackLivesMatter events that we have heard about in Seattle this week; please let us know if you hear of any other events that we should add to this list.

Stop Police Brutality: Time to Build a Mass Movement

Date: Wednesday 12/17
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Africatown Center, 3100 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98108
Description: Since Officers Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo and Adley Shepherd were not indicted, protests have erupted against the violence regularly inflicted on black communities by police. The anger, grief and desire for a better world are palpable among young people and communities of color. We need to build these protests into a sustained mass movement strong enough to pressure elected representatives to address the racist police violence and brutal economic inequality experienced by people of color and working-class people every day.

What are the most effective tactics at our protests? What concrete demands should we and City Councilmember Sawant fight for together? How can we uproot the underlying system that breeds police brutality, institutionalized racism and inequality?
Bring friends and add your voice to this important discussion!

Speakers:
– Sheley Seacrest, NAACP Seattle leader
– Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant
– Devan Rogers, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
– Celia Berk, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
– Dr. Will Washington, activist against community violence

Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter Thursday

On Thursday, December 18, radical healers from across North America and beyond will donate funds raised from our services to the Black Lives Matter Ferguson Bail and Support Fund. Together, we will send the movement a huge donation for Winter Solstice, feeding the Black Queer Feminist Movement that is dreaming freedom into being right now. Join the Healing Justice effort to raise funds from healing services for the Black Lives Matter Ferguson Bail and Support Fund on December 18.

Visioning Creative Resistance: A Call & Response to Black & POC Artists Everywhere

Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 at Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98122

Why a healing and visioning event? Healing because the reality we live in is traumatizing. Healing, because we have a right to be whole despite our collective circumstance and the power in our hands to be wholly healthy human beings. Healing, because we need to be wholly healthy human beings to envision the kind of world we want to be responsible for creating. Healing, because the vision of the world we want to be responsible for creating should be born out of our highest selves, not just out of a response to our oppression. Visioning, because we are wholly powerful and creative beings. To imagine and create a world that nurtures us is our birthright.

Call For Black/POC Artists & Community support of #blacklivesmatter #blackfriday & #shutitdown: You are invited to become part of this. Live Art, poetry/spoken word, music, art exhibit/projections, DJ/hiphop, dance, Youth Speakout, Speakers Corner, reiki, video/film/photography & & &. This is a community event, $5 – 25 donation at the door (no one turned away for lack of funds). Funds raised will be donated to Hands Up United. All are welcomed to attend and dialogue.

For more information on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, please check out the BlackLivesMatter website.

Honoring our veterans

vets dayThe United States remains a country at war; indeed we are in the longest sustained period of declared war in our nation’s history. On Tuesday of this week, we celebrate Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to taking time to honor and celebrate all veterans – those who are alive and those who have died.

Our veterans provide a direct, personal and dangerous service from which we all benefit. Veterans are important members of the Puget Sound area and a special community we at Solid Ground seek to serve and support.

While war results from the inability of people and countries to resolve conflict in a non-violent way, it is critical that when we debate the decision to go to war or how war is conducted, we don’t disrespect the veterans who have chosen to serve our country. So, on this Tuesday, even as we look forward to the end of war, please take the time to honor and thank our veterans, including the 12 Solid Ground employees and our many clients and residents who are veterans. Thank you!

National nonprofit conference coming to Seattle

This November 16-18, more than 1,000 leaders and practitioners from nonprofits, foundations and corporate philanthropies across the country and around the world will converge in Seattle for IMAGINE, the 2014 Independent Sector National Conference.

IS_imagineThe conference is a rare opportunity for face-to-face collaboration, idea sharing, and knowledge building about emerging sector trends. It’s where the sector’s leading minds work together to find new ways to improve our communities, country and world. You can view the complete conference schedule here.

More than 150 top-notch speakers will be leading 30+ sessions, including: Change Agents – Community & Cultural Organizations; The Evolving Dynamics of Corporate Philanthropy; Inclusion, Diversity and Equity: Taking Our Vision from Imagined to Realized; and Capturing Hearts, Minds and Credit Cards. There is also a full track being curated by Philanthropy Northwest.

Local philanthropic leader Sonya Campion of the Campion Foundation, sums up the conference with a story: “I remember an Independent Sector Conference session where people were frantically texting and literally sprinting out to find their colleagues so that they could participate in the conversation,” she says. “What was happening in that room wasn’t just important. It was electric. Experiences like that don’t happen anywhere else in our sector.”

IMAGINE features dozens of thought-provoking sessions and more than 150 top-notch speakers, ranging from Sue Desmond-Hellmann of the Gates Foundation to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hedrick Smith to artist-philanthropist Alec Baldwin. It also turns the concept of a traditional conference upside down with creative networking opportunities, exciting social events, and dynamic performances from artists like tribal funk group Pamyua and Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

Plus, with an array of offerings like exclusive tracks for CEOs and C-Suiters, preconference sessions for policy advocates and emerging leaders, and post-conference workshops on critical topics like diversity, inclusion and best ethical practices, this is an experience everyone will be talking about.

To register, go to the Independent Sector website.

Northwest Children’s Fund & Solid Ground aim to help children in need

Next year, Northwest Children’s Fund (NWCF) celebrates three decades of helping at-risk youth, healing abused children, and strengthening fragile families. In 1985, the organization started with two goals: helping children in need and growing social service philanthropy in the community. In the 30 years since, NWCF has evolved into one of the Northwest’s premier grant-making organizations, igniting the philanthropic spirit and granting nearly 14 million donor dollars to effective agencies who share its mission of ending child abuse and neglect.NWCF 30th Anniv Partner seal

Their pursuit to end violence against children includes finding and investing in the most effective prevention and intervention programs in the Northwest. They also seek out organizations that impact different points in the complex cycle of abuse and neglect and give them the resources they need to keep children safe.

As part of their milestone celebration, NWCF has designated 30 past grant recipients as “NWCF Anniversary Partners.” Solid Ground is one of those agencies, selected for its longstanding partnership with NWCF in the fight for better lives for all of our community’s children.

What does it take to be selected as an Anniversary Partner? “First and foremost, we looked for agencies with whom we have had long, consistent and significant relationships as grant recipients. Collectively, these 30 agencies had received over 300 NWCF grants, representing approximately one-third of the funds we have distributed to date,” says NWCF’s Catherine Beard. “It is important to us that we can say with confidence that the designated organizations are current partners with NWCF in the fight against child abuse and neglect.” Many of the other partners are long-time collaborators with Solid Ground, including:

NWCF has granted over $175,000 to Solid Ground since 1993, primarily supporting programs that help families navigate through homelessness and back to stability. Since 2002, they have focused on the Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing program. The Broadview Shelter provides a safe haven for homeless women and children in a secure, confidential facility. Most Broadview residents are domestic violence survivors, and two-thirds are children. To help restore a sense of safety, normalcy and structure, Broadview offers specialized services for children including health screenings, school enrollment, computer access, homework groups, tutors, recreational outings and age-appropriate social groups.

“Since this program addresses the special needs of children who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence, we feel this really fits in with our mission – to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect,” says Catherine. Broadview’s commitment to provide safe housing and help families surviving domestic violence cope with the trauma of displacement and abuse is part of why NWCF has continuously supported this vital program over the years – because every child deserves to be safe, healthy and loved.

Paying tribute to the Martin Luther King VISTA program

Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Service team members, community builders.

National Service team members, community builders

In 1985, with Dr. King’s words ringing in their ears, Solid Ground (then the Fremont Public Association) launched a VISTA program to develop community leadership and fight poverty through National Service. In 1989, the program was christened the Martin Luther King VISTA Corps.

“The brilliant thing about the program,” remembers Lynn Livesley, one of the initial corps members and current Executive Director of Literacy Source, “was always the attitude that ‘We can do this.’ The glass was always half full. It was always very positive and we got things done. … The idea of bringing literally hundreds of people into this work is ‘power in numbers,’ and working towards social justice by working with the passion and commitment of people who want to see change in our community. It was an exciting time.”

In subsequent years, Solid Ground developed National Service programs to effectively address literacy, develop community-based violence prevention, and support anti-poverty capacity building throughout King County. At one time, we managed the state’s largest group of National Service programs, with 150 AmeriCorps & VISTA members. Backed up by a deep anti-oppression training program, Solid Ground’s National Service programs developed a strong reputation in the community.

 

AmeriCorps Program supervisor Kim Gordon tutoring, circa 1999

AmeriCorps Program Supervisor Kim Gordon tutoring, circa 1999

Lynn Livesley, MLK VISTA, circa 1985. Lynn was later program manager and director of the agency's national service programs

Lynn Livesley, MLK VISTA, circa 1985; Lynn later became Program Manager and Director of the agency’s suite of National Service programs

MLK Corps member Mark Santos Johnson and Deputy Mayor Bob Watt, circa 1993

MLK VISTA member Mark Santos Johnson and Deputy Mayor Bob Watt, circa 1993

Pat Russell, former MLK VISTA program supervisor, circa 1988

Pat Russell, former MLK VISTA Program Supervisor, circa 1988

On August 31, 2014, we ended the MLK VISTA program, marking the end of an era. The Washington Reading Corps, JustServe AmeriCorps and Pathway to Career Corps had closed in recent years. All were afflicted by variations of the same fatal challenge: changing priorities and practices mandated by the federal contracts that funded them.

For instance, changes in the direction of the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) meant that “for the first time in our long history of partnering, (we) were not in agreement (with CNCS) around creating leaders who understood the connection of racism and poverty,” noted former MLK Program Supervisor, Edna Sadberry.

For over 25 years, these programs helped develop countless resources, organizations and leaders in the fight against poverty. More than 2,500 corps members graduated, and former members now hold leadership positions in many innovative and effective organizations including Solid Ground, United Way, Literacy Source, Real Change, YWCA, Seattle Young People’s Project, El Centro de la Raza, 501 Commons, Wellspring, American Friends Service Committee and many others.

“It created a space for a lot of our community leaders to grow,” stated former MLK team leader Nicole Dufva. “You learned a lot and you grew a lot. What it teaches, what it draws your attention to – it can be that starting point for a lot of people.”

Our sadness at closing the program is leavened by our pride in its accomplishments and enduring contributions to our community. Edna, Nicole and Julz Ignacio were the last in a long line of incredibly talented and dedicated staff of our National Service programs. Please join me in honoring their work, the many great leaders who preceded them, and the lessons this agency has learned through their service.

And we shall have to do more than register and more than vote; we shall have to create leaders who embody virtues we can respect, who have moral and ethical principles we can applaud with an enthusiasm that enables us to rally support for them based on confidence and trust. We will have to demand high standards and give consistent, loyal support to those who merit it.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1989_MLK-edited

September 2014 Groundviews: ‘Sharing in the goodness’

Groundviews is Solid Ground’s quarterly newsletter for our friends and supporters. Below is the September 2014 Groundviews lead story; please visit our website to read the entire issue online.

Stacy Davison in her garden (photo by Jenn Ireland)

Stacy Davison in her garden (photo by Jenn Ireland)

When you step through the front gate of Stacy Davison’s Maple Leaf home in North Seattle, you enter a lush gardening wonderland. Ornamentals and flowers commingle happily with edible crops. Trellises tower over raised beds – one bordered festively with partially-buried wine bottles – and many labeled with creative hand-painted signs. Wind your way down the flagstone path to the backyard, and you’ll find more verdant richness, plus treasures such as a bunny hutch, a chicken coop with a “living” roof covered in succulent plants, and a former garage converted into a cozy teaching space: Stacy’s one-room Seattle Urban Farm School.

Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program makes it easy for backyard and P-Patch gardeners like Stacy to donate their extra produce to local food banks and meals programs, getting fresh vegetables onto the tables of families who need them. For about three years now, Stacy has donated 10% of her harvests from her bountiful garden to her neighborhood food bank. Then about two years ago, she says, “I got inspired to teach a class, posted it on my blog, and it sold out.” Initially holding classes in her living room and garden, last winter she transformed her “junky old garage” into her schoolhouse. And keeping in tradition with her commitment to donate 10% of her harvests, she decided to donate 10% of class proceeds to Lettuce Link as well – a natural next step for her.

Setting down roots

When you see her garden, it’s hard to believe that Stacy, a 5th grade teacher by profession, previously “had no idea what a giving garden was.” But when a friend invited her to a fundraising harvest party in the backyard giving garden of former Lettuce Link Farm Coordinator Sue McGann, she says, “I was enthralled with Sue’s garden, and mine was just taking off. And I remember distinctly coming home and being inspired to start a giving garden of my own as a way of giving back. I was excited!” She immediately wrote a blog post announcing it: “I’m going to be a giving gardener!” Then she began to plot out which beds she’d use to grow extra food to donate to her local food bank via Lettuce Link.

Stacy says that as a kid, her family moved around so much that she knew she wanted to have a home, and she literally ‘set down roots’ as soon as she could. She describes her personal journey with gardening: “My dad was a musician; we were on food stamps. As kids, we thought that that was cool money! But later, I understood what that meant: not having money. We ate a lot of cereal for school lunch – and a lot of pancakes for dinner – foods you end up eating when you can’t really afford to buy food. I remember being hungry a lot.” Also, she says, “I work with students who don’t have access to food that I would like them to be eating. So personally it kind of tugs at me.”

Even now, she says, “Donating food can be challenging. When you spend a lot of time growing it, there’s a tendency to want to…” she hesitates a moment, “…not hoard it, but enjoy it. But I’m fortunate to be in this place now, and to have a space where I can grow my own food. This is my passion and love in life.

“My mission is to grow as much food in my yard as possible to provide food for myself – and I want to share the food as my gratitude for what I’m able to enjoy. And it feels good! I always feel so proud of what I’m donating, and being able to contribute in that way. I’m sharing in the goodness that I’m enjoying for myself.”

When she started teaching classes, Stacy says, “I realized my teaching skills plus my passion for gardening came together, and I came alive more than I have in a long time.” In her first year as a giving gardener, “I donated about 10% of the total pounds that I grew. So that’s been my mark: 10% of Farm School proceeds go to Lettuce Link – money and food to people who need it. Setting a goal for myself, it’s sort of like making a direct deposit.

Stacy at the front of a class in her Seattle Urban Farm School (photo by Jenn Ireland)

Stacy at the front of a class in her Seattle Urban Farm School (photo by Jenn Ireland)

From giving gardener to donor

“If you make a commitment and be really clear about what the commitment’s going to be, then it’s easier to stick to, or it becomes a habit. For me, the percentage has been a fun challenge, and I don’t even think about it anymore, it’s just what I committed to, and I feel good about it. It’s like a bill. A feel-good bill!”

Making the transition from volunteering to also being a donor “felt really manageable to me. I believe in the organization. Donating monetarily has allowed me to feel like I’m still contributing, even when my harvests aren’t strong or I’m not able to participate as actively because of time. I want to do my part to support it in whatever way I can,” she says.

“My work with Lettuce Link has been a way of making my gardening activity even more proactive and connected with the community than it was before. I’m not just playing in the dirt – even though that’s great and it is my therapy. It’s less a solitary thing, less just about me and what I’m eating, and more about what I’m eating plus what I’m able to share. I feel immense gratitude for what I have and what I’m able to contribute. So that’s been amazing, and it feels good.”

Upower: Combining physical fitness & confidence for youth

Growing up, there was never any question about whether or not I would be able to play softball for my high school. I played co-ed tee ball when I was 8, then graduated to slow-pitch for a community center team in middle school, and finally moved on to fast-pitch at Roosevelt High School. I had my very own uniform with a bright green “22” on the back of my gold-and black-striped jersey and stretchy Kelly green pants.

Sure, I didn’t have the nicest mitt in the outfield and sometimes getting to and from practice or games was difficult with two working parents and no car to transport myself. But I never questioned that playing sports was something that would ever be out of reach for me or anybody else. That it was a privilege within itself. Until I heard about Upower.

Andrea & Deiosha

Andrea & Deiosha

Upower is a nonprofit organization that brings fitness activities, specifically CrossFit, to high school teens in underserved communities. For families living on low incomes, opportunities for physical activity can be few and far between. Not all teens can afford participation in club or varsity sports, so Upower partners agencies that serve youth and local schools with fitness outlets to offer this free afterschool program that focuses on improving physical fitness in a safe environment for youth.

This year, a guidance counselor at Roosevelt High School looking to recruit more teens for the program put Jill Beck, co-founder and coach at Upower, in contact with Joanna Tarr, Children’s Advocate for the youth living on our Sand Point Housing Campus. “Being able to work with someone who knows these kids as much as Joanna does enables us to make sure the kids are successful. That’s why the partnership is important,” says Jill.

Attendance is mandatory for students and coaches. The experienced fitness coaches – in which there are at least two in every class – act as mentors for the teens, so they’re expected to have a “90% attendance rate, which is the same as the students. When you can’t come to work, you don’t just NOT show up! We’ve established that with our kids. They want to be accountable,” says Jill.

When it comes to the instructors, “We expect them to develop those relationships with these kids. When they develop a relationship, talk a little bit of trash back and forth, then that’s great.” Jill earned her spot as a crowd favorite. “Jill was there, always on top of things, making sure you had a goal in the first place. I bonded a lot with Jill,” says Andrea Rodriguez Fabian, 16, one of the Roosevelt students living at Sand Point who participated in the program.

Another participant, Deiosha Sparks, 15, says of the coaches, “They don’t let you slack or anything. They make sure you have done something new each day. They let you do what you do best. And you’ll be coming home sore and sweaty but after that day you’ll be like, ‘Wow, did I just do that?’ You feel really good about yourself!” Even Joanna noticed the positive effects of the workouts. “They would come home every day a little sweaty, looking a little tired, but with big smiles on their faces.” Even though school is out for summer, those smiles were still present.

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest-to-bar pull-ups!

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest to bar pull-ups!

“They push you hard to reach your goals, and they try to make it fun, too. I had some trouble with the pull-ups but I managed to try it out and put myself out there,” says Andrea. Andrea started the program stepping onto a 12-inch box, but by the end of the program was jumping onto an 18-inch box! Deiosha says, “It made me reach higher for my goals. Because I’m very active, but I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength, so it made me push harder to try something new.” Like chest to bar pull-ups. “I had never gotten my chest all the way up so one day I did it and I was really excited.” Deiosha says excitedly, reliving the moment as she speaks.

The classes are designed to help kids maintain a healthy weight and develop healthy habits – lifting their physical confidence – which can positively affect their academic performance. Beyond the goals of physical fitness, the UPower classes use an inclusive approach: the belief that anyone can be an athlete, as long as they believe in themselves. And this belief can also have an impact on the mental health of teens. “It’s about cheering on other people,” says Jill. Obviously, it works. “My confidence,” Andrea smiles when I ask her what she gained from the program. Andrea also recognizes the intensity of the classes, but encourages others to participate if they have the opportunity. “At first it might seem hard, but by the end it’s all worth it for your own benefit,” she says. Deiosha nods in agreement. “It’s very positive because it makes you think you can do things you never thought you could do.”

In order to create that positive attitude in class, instructors focus on creating activities that are inclusive of all levels of fitness and socioeconomic backgrounds. “For example, we held a Nutrition Challenge in the spring. Our nutritionist didn’t make it about shopping at Whole Foods, because not everybody can afford that. The first week of our challenge was to substitute water for sugary beverages. That doesn’t cost you anything; that actually saves you money!” Jill explained.

Inclusion seems to be a common theme at Upower. Every new student is interviewed in order to get to know them and their ambitions, as well as any existing obstacles such as lack of workout attire, which is graciously donated to UPower by members of Northwest Crossfit (NWCF).“They feel normal when they’re not wearing ‘kind-of, sort-of’ workout clothes,” says Jill. The space is also donated by Jake Platt, NWCF owner.

Moving forward, Jill tells me that, “We look forward to expanding the partnership for the upcoming school year. We’re there to provide a positive place for these kids. We don’t know what’s going on with them or what challenges they have, but we reward good attitude and effort and pushing yourself to be better than what you were an hour earlier. We hope to act as a stepping stone that can help the kids break the cycle of poverty.”

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Dusty Strings SING!: Sing-alongs to benefit Solid Ground

Kate Power & Steve Einhorn

Kate Power & Steve Einhorn

When was the last time you participated in a sing-along? Around a campfire? At a service? With your child? With friends? With strangers? Was it an uplifting, collective experience? Or awkward and embarrassing? Lastly, was it for a good cause?

The reason I ask these questions is because I bet 80% of you cannot remember the last time you participated in an informal group singing session. For one full hour. With a bunch of people you don’t know. That was free. But that also asked for donations to help those who need it most: those living in poverty.

The Dusty Strings SING! is an hour-long sing-along open to the public every Wednesday from 12pm-1pm at the Dusty Strings music store located in the Center of the Universe (also known as Fremont, Seattle). The SING is open to the public, all voices are welcome and it is free. However, donations in any denomination are encouraged, all proceeds benefitting Solid Ground.

Kate Power, Music School Director at Dusty Strings and Steve Einhorn, Musical Instructor at the Dusty Strings Music School, who host the SING every week, brought the idea of the Dusty Strings SING! in 2013. However, this is not the original site of their community singing endeavors.

In 1994, Steve and Kate bought Artichoke Music, then a store in Portland, Oregon that sold musical instruments. Inspired by the musical social justice movements of Pete Seeger, they decided to hold events to raise funds to donate to the Sisters of the Road, an agency and café in Portland that provides meals and services for people experiencing homelessness.

“One Pete Seeger concert would teach you a lot about social justice through song,” says Steve. “We were both raised in that generation of songwriters, like Bob Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary, who were singing about civil rights and progressive social issues.” And while those artists contributed to progressive action during their time, Pete really encouraged his audience to sing along and actively participate in what those songs were about. “Seeger was really a great model for ‘we shall overcome’ and [how to] come together with all of those people,” Steve says.

Once they got comfortable in Portland and cultivated some change by connecting with customers on a more private and smaller scale, they wanted to expand that connection to the community. “And we tried to figure out, ‘How can we [give back to the community] in a way that is meaningful?’ ” So they decided to hold concerts every year with a well-known lineup that included a raffle to give away a guitar. They raised $10,000 for every guitar given away, all of which was donated to Sisters of the Road.

Kate says they picked this particular cause “because everyone relates to hunger. Even if you have the money.” She also explains that embracing this type of open format for musical events in a come-as-you-are environment can create meaningful experiences for all participants while giving any afforded proceeds to those who need it most. This being said, it isn’t atypical to hear popular folk singers such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips and the like at any given sing-along. However, the floor is completely open and Kate and Steve take requests for all kinds of music. And all ranges of singing abilities, from those who can’t quite carry a tune to professional harmonizing masters (harmonies are openly encouraged), are invited to attend.

I had the good fortune of attending the most recent SING!, and while Kate and Steve hovered five feet in front of us (a group of about 15), adjusting their acoustic guitar straps and tuning the instruments up just right, Kate mentioned to the group that there’s nothing quite like collective singing. While Steve fiddled with the tuning nobs at the top of his guitar, softly strumming each string, she said sometimes it even brings her to tears. “Music is really how we come together,” Kate says. I couldn’t agree more.

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You can find out more about Kate & Steve’s ongoing musical adventures through their website, Quality Folk.

University Rotary Club’s gift to Solid Ground has the kids jumping with joy

joey jumpsThe Rotary Club of the University District selected Solid Ground to receive a gift in honor of the club’s 75th anniversary. During the club meeting in Dec. 2013, Solid Ground’s Resource Development Director Dean McColgan and Director of Residential Services Dee Hills received the generous $50,000 gift from Marella Alejandrino, University Rotary President.

The gift funded the creation of a playground at Brettler Family Place, projected to open in March 2014, on the Rotary Club’s anniversary month. This partnership and gift will benefit the families of our Sand Point Housing Campus, and will be a step towards helping children overcome the impact of homelessness.

Solid Ground’s President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. stated, “University Rotary truly understands what it means to be a good community partner. This generous gift will go a long way in helping our Sand Point families continue to move beyond the issues they face due to poverty and help them build a better future.”

“Rotary’s motto is Service Above Self,” Alejandrino said. “We seek community partnerships with organizations like Solid Ground that provide vital services to our community. We’re delighted to have chosen a project to bring exercise and joy to the children of the Brettler Family Place.”

This partnership with the University Rotary Club will play a positive role in the lives of Sand Point Campus children, giving them a joyful place to play and grow for years to come!

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Visit the University Rotary Club website for more information about the organization.

Youth Service America gives Penny Harvest a shout out

Contributed by Kathleen Penna, Interim Penny Harvest Program Coordinator

Adams Elementary check presentation to PAWS

Penny Harvest Philanthropy Roundtable members from Adams Elementary School present a check to one of their chosen grantees, PAWS.

On September 26, Youth Service America highlighted youth philanthropic efforts across the country. Solid Ground is excited that they recommend Common Cents Penny Harvest, the largest youth philanthropy program in the country. (Solid Ground operates the Seattle branch of Penny Harvest.) Also in the report: A new study finds that 90% of youth ages eight to 19 participate in philanthropic efforts. We believe that engaging young people in strengthening their communities is a vital part of ending poverty.

Penny Harvest provides young people, their families, and their schools with the tools to take action and create positive social change on the issues they see impacting their communities. To start each year, students collect and gather coins. Student leaders at each school research issues impacting their community, interview organizations working on those issues, and make grants to organizations they see having the greatest impact.

Registration is still open for the 13/14 school year! If you are interested in signing up your school, please register at www.pennyharvest.org/SignUp, or email pennyharvestseattle@solid-ground.org for more information.

Financial empowerment Intensive Learning Cluster update

art by Rainer Waldman Atkins

art by Rainer Waldman Atkins

Last October, Solid Ground entered into a very exciting partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). Solid Ground was selected, along with four other organizations nationally, to participate in an Intensive Learning Cluster allowing us to work on further integrating financial empowerment into the services provided through Solid Ground.

Our goal is strengthening the economic security of the families and individuals we serve, and addressing deep-rooted issues that face households getting by on low incomes in our communities.

This Learning Cluster came to a close in March and we are now charged with keeping the momentum going and using all of the tools and new ideas that were raised throughout the last six months.

The highlights of this experience and some of our lessons learned along the way are featured in a brief published by CFED and posted on the CFED blog.

Pouring on the support

Executive Chef Augi and General Manager Tino in the kitchen

For many years, the Nickerson Street Saloon has come up with creative ways to support Solid Ground. With the support of their suppliers, they have a tasty history of donating a portion of their holiday beer revenues to Solid Ground.

This year is no exception: Through the end of the year, they will donate a portion of the sales of every glass of New Belgium’s Shift Pale Lager to Solid Ground. Stop on by for a fine brew to support a fine cause!

Also, last week Nickerson Street Saloon hosted its second annual Thanksgiving feast for clients of Solid Ground and the FamilyWorks food bank.

“Our involvement with Solid Ground started through Kira Zylstra [who manages Solid Ground’s Homeless Prevention Programs],” explains Chris “Tino” Martino, General Manager.

“She worked for me for a number of years and it was a natural fit. I think our goal as a business has always been to be partner with our community. We have always thought of ourselves as a neighborhood restaurant and part of that includes trying to help out and give something back. Fortunately we have been successful enough to be able to host these types of things and have always had great support from our vendors like Georgetown Brewing, New Belgium Brewery and Columbia Distributing.”

Tino adds, “Our Thanksgiving meal was something we started last year. We had talked about it for a number of years and last year it just sort of came together. Kira pointed me towards Jake Weber at FamilyWorks, and we just went with it. I’m really looking forward to this year. I was really struck by how grateful and thankful all the people we had last year were. I thought it was nice that we were able to serve people in the context of our restaurant; I think our guests enjoyed it. It’s something we plan to continue to do as long as we can.”

Kira volunteered on Thanksgiving, helping to serve the 75 guests. “This wasn’t a buffet: We served our guests and got them what they wanted,” she said. “It was a really welcoming environment.”

“Chris Gerke is the owner of the Nick and he has always been the reason we try to do what we do,” Tino says. “Giving back and trying to leave things better than you found them is something he has always preached and I have embraced as well. In the end, helping to care for each other is something I believe we are all responsible for and a great reminder of how fortunate I have been in my own life. Perspective is always a good thing.”

‘Rebuilding the plane while we fly it’

Boeing Dreamliner in flight

Boeing Dreamliner in flight (photo used by permission of The Boeing Company)

Solid Ground is pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $85,000 from The Boeing Company to support our Strategic Approach to Meeting Community Needs project.

“In an environment of increasing needs and diminishing resources, strategically-driven planning can significantly impact the amount and quality of services,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground. “This project will enable Solid Ground to more clearly focus resources against critical priorities and establish a framework for continuous assessment and reporting of our performance.”

The end result will be to better serve more people and have a greater impact on their lives.

“Boeing is committed to partnering with organizations that help individuals in our community struggling with poverty and unemployment,” said Gina Breukelman, community investor for Global Corporate Citizenship. “We have a long history of partnering with Solid Ground and are excited about investing in their work to improve internal systems so that they can efficiently and effectively respond to the increased need for their services.”

The Boeing grant builds upon other recent awards of $25,000 from Enterprise Community Partners and $50,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support aspects of Solid Ground’s strategic planning and program assessment processes.

“A lengthy cycle of growth followed by recent years of economic contraction created some challenges for Solid Ground,” said Sandi Cutler, Solid Ground’s Chief Operating & Strategy Officer, who will oversee the project. “Years of growth created a variety of programs, often with divergent procedures and systems. Solid Ground’s Board of Directors recognized the need to adapt our way of operating in order to meet the new demands facing the organization.”

“This strategic project amounts, in many ways, to rebuilding the plane while we fly it,” McHenry said. “And so, even while we take this strategic step, we continue to provide 60,000 people a year with housing, food and nutrition, counseling, legal aid and other resources to help them escape poverty and thrive.”

“Solid Ground’s effort is consistent with a larger regional effort that is transforming how nonprofits bring a renewed focus on effectively merging vision, leadership and planning into our work,” Cutler said. “The essence of this initiative is the integration of better systems, practices and methods, creating a ‘new normal’ that makes the entire organization more sustainable, and enables us to deliver better services.”

McHenry said, “We must become more effective and more efficient in order to improve the resources and support we provide to those who rely on our services, many of whom have  multiple challenges to self-sufficiency. We are grateful for this partnership with The Boeing Company to support this vital work.”

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