Cooking Matters classes cater to all ages

On a basic level, we eat to survive – but food is usually so much more than that. It can be a comfort, a social activity and even a pastime.

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Cooking Matters students each got a chance to work over the stove, scrambling eggs and making fried rice.

At a recent cooking and nutrition class held by Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, this was the topic of the nutrition lesson: to be mindful of what we eat and why we eat it. Cooking Matters hosts 6-week classes for people of all ages throughout the year, but this particular class was for families with children in middle school.

Cooking Matters, part of the national Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, teaches families and children how to buy and cook healthy food on a budget. The goal is not only to teach, but also to provide a space for participants to share experiences and information. Cooking Matters Program Coordinator Nicole Dufva says, “We try to foster a dialogue about what it means to eat healthy for each person.”

In the area, Cooking Matters partners with up to 60 community organizations to host and teach classes. The recent class for families with middle schoolers was a satellite program at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, run by the nutritionist at the clinic, Rebecca Finkel.

Though it’s the satellite program’s 8th year, this was Rebecca’s first time teaching a class specifically for families with middle schoolers. Before, the clinic hosted classes for families with children ages 8-13. This change was made in response to parent comments, suggesting that working with peer groups is more productive and fun for their children.

Rebecca explains that middle schoolers are old enough to do more actual cooking than younger children, so “it’s a good time for them to gain basic skills and nutrition awareness so that if their parents are at work or away, they can make something easy and healthy to eat.”

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The near-finished product: fried rice with tofu

After the nutrition lesson, the kids practiced cracking, scrambling and frying eggs to use in the main dish, fried rice with tofu. Meanwhile, the parents sat down to talk with Rebecca.

Rebecca explains that parents’ participation is equally important for this age group, because the parents are responsible for “setting the food environment.” In other words, parents are responsible for the food that is available if their children want to make food for themselves.

“The food environment also determines the rules around eating together,” says Rebecca. “Is the TV on during the meal? Are screens allowed during the meal? What do they discuss at the table?” The parent group discusses changes that could be made in the household to create a healthier lifestyle, including cooking together, getting more exercise or eating meals together.

On the 5th week of each class, the group travels to a local grocery store to practice shopping for nutritious food on a budget. Many families may consider fresh produce to be too expensive, so Cooking Matters emphasizes the health benefits of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables; in general, all classes focus on a plant-based diet.

Besides fried rice with tofu, this group made a delicious mango salsa to snack on during the class. At the end of the night, everyone received a copy of the recipes and a bag of fresh ingredients so that they could enjoy the dishes again at home.

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.

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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.

How to talk to other white people about race (& why it’s necessary)

Kayla Blau, author.

Kayla Blau, author

This post was authored by Kayla Blau, Children’s Advocate with Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing. It originally appeared in The Seattle Globalist and is reprinted with their permission.

We’ve all been there. Enjoying a family dinner and great-aunt Sally makes a snide remark about “Mexicans taking our jobs.”

Not wanting to make waves at a family gathering, my typical pattern would be to let it slide and stay silent. I’d roll my eyes and text my “conscious” friend about the experience, leaving the comments hanging triumphantly in the air.

And what had my silence done? Absolutely nothing but perpetuate the racist culture I claimed to want to dismantle.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Great-aunt Sally is just old and ignorant! But every racist joke, comment, dynamic, or law that goes unchecked, especially by white people, reinforces and perpetuates a racist society. It normalizes racism. It becomes accepted and expected. It gives the illusion that racism ended with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, when people of color are still being targeted and murdered by the police.

While overt racism appears to have lessened in the past 50 years, it is still extremely active and deep-rooted in our society’s psyche.

It usually freaks other white people out when I use the term “white supremacy” to explain how our society accepts racism, but it simply puts a name to the oppressive structure that means, for example, that we don’t have to fear being shot while walking in the dark wearing a hoody, while others do.

After learning the brutal reality of racism and privilege, white folk (myself included) often lament, “what can I do? I can’t accept these injustices…what can I do about them?”

This is literally it: Talking to other white folks about race, and, more specifically about whiteness, is one concrete way to undo racism as a white person. Unlike at a black-led march — this is where our white voices are needed.

Conversations with loved ones are tough. It is something I continue to struggle with in my own family and friends.

But we must push through discomfort to talk about race, even with great-aunt Sally, even when it feels completely unproductive and frustrating.

I mean honestly, people of color have enough to worry about to talk to a defensive white person about race. It can be extremely re-traumatizing for a person of color to have to justify their oppression to a white person, and it really is not their responsibility to do so.

Whether we like it or not, white people created racial oppression, therefore white people need to be part of the movement to undo it.

After much trial and error, here are a few tips about how to talk about race with other white people, drawn from my experiences of talking to my white family and friends, learning from other anti-racist white people, and advice from mentors of diverse backgrounds:

Educate Yourself First

Because white people are so uncomfortable with naming and discussing race, conversations can easily become argumentative or defensive.

The hope is to avoid calling the person you’re talking to racist and storming out (been there). I’ve found it helpful to educate myself about the real racial history of our country (spoiler alert: there was a genocide here, not a corn-filled dinner party), reflect on my own connection to whiteness and racism, and remove judgment of other’s understanding of race and privilege.

If we were raised and socialized in the U.S., we have all been receiving unconscious (and sometimes blatant) messages about white superiority and negative stereotypes about people of color since birth.

While it’s easy to dismiss other white folk as racist or bigoted, it is unfair to negate our responsibility to view every conversation about race as an opportunity to educate and learn, while processing the extremely complex emotions that come with it.

When I first started talking to my 62-year-old Jewish father about race, I would often leave the conversation feeling deflated and frustrated. When I told him Native Americans were mass murdered, he would respond with doubt and denial.

It wasn’t until we visited an indigenous peoples museum with facts of ethnic cleansing (over 90,000 indigenous people were murdered by white settlers) and displacement (hundreds more died on the Trail of Tears after false treaties were signed) that he began to open his eyes to the deception of the white narrative of U.S history.

Only then could we begin to have honest conversations about our country’s patterns of genocide, displacement, and racial oppression. Because he responds more to fact and logic than emotion and storytelling, the wall of white fragility was broken.

That being said, the more educated you are, the better equipped you’ll be in having discussions based in fact and analysis, rather than defensiveness and judgment. Plus, exposing yourself to the racial history that was not taught to us in school will only deepen your own understanding, allowing linkages to be made between your own family history and racism (which is difficult but necessary work in itself).

If you are personally connected to the person you’re talking to, try to tailor your approach to engage them in difficult conversations based on their personality and what would resonate with them (i.e., documentaries, intersectionality to other forms of oppression, mixed-media, art, scientific reasoning, etc.).

With all the accessibility of resources, we must educate ourselves and our community if we truly want to work for change.

Use Non-Violent Communication Skills

During an incredibly insightful event, “Dear White Allies: A Training,” put on by Black Lives Matter DMV, participants were urged to use non-violent communication skills to do effective racial justice work in white communities. Too often white people shut down due to discomfort during conversations about white supremacy, and claim to be victims when called out on our privilege.

One way to use non-violent communication skills to remediate this is “connect before you correct,” meaning, make a human connection with someone before calling them in on their ignorance.

For example, instead of leading with, “you ignorant asshole, ‘black man’ is not synonymous with thug,” try leading with, “I hear you saying that black men are all criminals. Why do you think that is?” And continue the conversation to tease out their perceptions and stereotypes based on media portrayal, for instance.

Meet ignorance with compassion. I’m not advocating coddling white people, nor lessening the message to make white people less uncomfortable. The message should still be loud and clear, but altering the way it is messaged can be extremely useful in impact. I’ve found people respond to and learn from compassion and self-reflection, and shut down when met with judgment.

In a very frustrating conversation with a co-worker about Israel and Palestine, he continuously justified Israeli occupation with “how violent Islam is.”

My knee-jerk reaction was to call him ignorant and walk away (which I did). My other co-workers shared our frustrations with him among one another for a few weeks, but never really addressed it with him.

It wasn’t until I heard him share his sentiments with a Muslim student that I realized my comfort level was less important than any damage he could do with our students. I asked him to elaborate on where his perception of Islam came from. He thought for a moment, and uncovered the truth that his only interaction with Islam was what he’d heard after 9/11.

Taking advantage of a teaching moment, my other co-workers and I researched the 5 Pillars of Islam with him and the impact of occupation on Palestinians. While this wasn’t a magic wand for years of prejudice, at the very least he began to question his assumptions.

Calling someone ignorant and walking away doesn’t necessarily have the same effect.

Make it Personal

During a particularly challenging conversation with my dad about the Confederate flag and the nine lives lost in Charleston, it seemed like nothing was getting through to him about the weight of such a racist attack.

“Just to play devil’s advocate,” he ventured, as he often plays during our conversations about race, “isn’t the flag part of the South’s history? What’s the big deal?”

After a few failed attempts at reasoning with him, I asked him how he would feel if he saw the Swastika on bumper stickers and street corners, let alone at his state’s capitol, knowing that his father was a victim in the Holocaust.

He immediately understood, as if the window to empathy was locked somewhere in his own connotation of oppression.

While no two oppressions are the same, by linking his own history to symbols of oppression his awareness was heightened. Others have used their experiences with homophobia, sexism, or other intersectional identities to relate to oppression as a system, thus allowing space to recognize our role as beneficiaries of racism through our whiteness.

Take the Time, Do the Work

Whatever you do, keep the conversation going. Invite your friends and family members to conversation groups, movie screenings, black-led events, and community forums about racial justice to keep them looped in and accountable. Share articles and novels written by people of color. Attend undoing racism trainings. Interrupt negative stereotypes of people of color in the media by offering holistic narratives. Urge friends and family to listen to people of color when they recount their experiences. Continue processing, talking, and organizing your community.

It is all too easy to slip into the apathetic and numb existence of whiteness, to not feel connected to racism because we benefit from it.

We are at a critical tipping point in history, thanks to the media and accessibility of information. White people are beginning to “wake up.” We can’t afford to let this movement pass by without engaging our white community and supporting POC-led movements against racism and oppression.

To be sure, having one conversation about race will not solve racism. We’re looking at 400+ years of racial oppression, genocide, and violence, and unpacking the painful and visceral implications of white supremacy will take time and work and commitment.

It will be messy and frustrating and liberating but, above all, necessary to undo racism.

Community Needs Assessment a foundation for strategic planning

Gordon McHenry, Jr.

President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr.

Last year, Solid Ground reflected upon and celebrated our 40 years of service in King County and Washington state. We took time to understand the work and impressive legacy of our forebears. We recognized that the culture of Solid Ground is one of Innovation, Partnership and Action, and those intrinsic characteristics have enabled us to be highly impactful in our direct services, social justice and advocacy work.

As a Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) recipient and Community Action Agency, we are required to prepare a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) of the communities we serve. In addition to understanding the current needs of the communities we choose to serve, the CNA is also an analysis of our assets, capabilities and organizational challenges to successfully address the unmet needs of our communities.

In the 2014 Community Needs Assessment, we noted six areas of significant community need:

  • racial and economic inequities
  • lack of affordable housing
  • lack of educational attainment and opportunities
  • lack of living wage jobs
  • food insecurity and lack of nutritional education
  • inadequate access to health care and health services

Appropriately, Solid Ground has service and advocacy responses in each of these areas. The CNA also identifies some trends which we will need to better understand as we evaluate how we serve an evolving community, including:

  • growth in elderly residents
  • immigrants and refugees
  • an increasing gap in income and wealth
  • significant transportation challenges which exacerbate existing inequities

We look forward to using the 2014 Community Needs Assessment as a foundational analysis as we begin the 2015 process of creating our next agency strategic plan over the next three-to-five years.

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.

Driving from the heart

Ninus and Kathy Hopkins represent everything that is good about Solid Ground. Our longest-tenured Access bus operators, they are a mixed-race couple who have endured a lifetime of prejudice and racism, yet what shines through in their work is the clearest manifestation of building community that you will ever see.

Kathy Hopkins, circa 1989

Kathy Hopkins, circa 1989

When Ninus and Kathy started, Seattle Personal Transit was a small paratransit service launched by one-time Jesuit Volunteer John Rochford, who pioneered special transportation services for people living with disabilities who can’t access the fixed-route system.

In 1987, the program combined two small independent services in North Seattle. Renamed Solid Ground Transportation in 2013, it is the only nonprofit service provider of Metro Access Transportation.

Last year, Solid Ground’s Access buses provided over 330,000 rides to link people to essential resources, enabling them to continue to live independently. Even more than rides, Solid Ground’s transportation provides connection and compassion for its customers.

 

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.

Voices of Community celebrates Solid Ground’s roots

Forty years ago this season, Solid Ground’s forefathers and foremothers came together dedicated to a singular mission: They would lift up the depressed neighborhood of Fremont, building community through art, activism and a wildly positive attitude. The fruits of their labor are visible in the art-saturated Fremont community of the 21st Century; in the thriving culture of recycling started by the early Fremont Public Association (FPA); and in the legacy of good works strewn across King County in fighting poverty and oppressions.

This legacy was built not only by the FPA and Solid Ground, but also via the groups and organizations that have spun off from us: Fremont Arts Council, Seattle Workers Center, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Economic Opportunity Institute, our Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing, our Giving Garden at Marra Farm, our Sand Point Housing campus, and countless others.

On Thursday May 8, founders, friends, current staff, volunteers and program participants came together at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center (located in the neighborhood now known as the “Center of the Universe“!) to rekindle our founding impulse through story, socializing and celebration.

Some of the highlights are captured in these video clips of stories told by Armen Napoleon Stepanian – the honorary but official Mayor of Fremont, self-declared Christopher Columbus of Curbside Recycling, and legendary political rabble-rouser – and Frank Chopp, for many years the irrepressible Executive Director of FPA, now Senior Advisor to Solid Ground, and Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives. More clips will be posted on this blog soon. Enjoy the power and the passion (and sorry for the compromised audio; we’ve got subtitles to help you along!)

 

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It was 40 years ago…

Come meet founders, myths and urban legends at:

VOICES of COMMUNITY, Thursday May 8, 7-9pm
The Fremont Abbey Arts Center (4272 Fremont Ave N)

Hear from the horse’s mouth, or at least from the dog on Waiting for the Interurban, about  40+ years of innovation, partnership, hell-raising and action to end poverty.

Thanks to Fremont Brewing Company for creating a special 40th Anniversary Ale that will be on sale!

Sgt. Pepper cover with FPA faces

 

Teens going to Olympia to change the conversation

Editor’s note: Anthony Bencivengo is senior at Nathan Hale High School. For his Senior Project he is working with Solid Ground and the Statewide Poverty Action Network to engage his peers in the state political process. In this, the first of his reports, Anthony talks about recruiting youth to join him for today’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Lobby Day in Olympia.

January 17, 2014 – Robert Mercer has wanted to make his voice heard for a long time. His mother works at a psychiatric clinic that serves homeless and low-income people, and she has never shied away from discussing the obstacles they face. “Ever since I was a kid she was always grubbing about some legislation or another,” Robert recalls. “I guess it kind of rubbed off on me.” Robert is worried about homeless people who suffer from mental issues but can’t afford treatment. He fears that access to mental health services is becoming increasingly scarce as state funds dry up in an era of budget cuts. The result, far too often, has been homeless people suffering from psychotic breaks he believes could have been prevented if they had somewhere to turn for help.  “They’re in really bad situations,” Robert says, “That more state funding could have prevented.”

Anthony (l) talks to sophmore Tanner O'Donnell about Lobby Day

Anthony talks to sophmore Tanner O’Donnell about Lobby Day

I feel it’s extremely important for our politicians to hear about these issues. That’s why, as my senior project, I’m organizing a group of my fellow Nathan Hale High School students (Robert included) into a youth contingent that will join the Statewide Poverty Action Network (a social-justice advocacy organization closely linked to Solid Ground) in its annual MLK Day legislative lobbying session in Olympia. In a few days, we’ll be meeting with our state legislators to discuss issues facing our state’s homeless and low-income communities.

For me, this is an exciting opportunity. I’ve always been deeply involved with social justice – volunteering at food banks, participating in rallies and frequently writing to newspapers and my state legislators. I feel political discourse at the state level has been overly focused on cutting safety-net programs just as the Great Recession makes them more needed than ever. I hope that by speaking personally to our legislators, my fellow students and I can help change the conversation.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. The group I’ve organized is filled with a wide variety of students who each bring in different perspectives and experiences. The common thread is their passion for social justice.

Nolan Wolf, who recently completed a stint as a state legislature page serving some of the very legislators we’ll be lobbying, is coming because, as a person with arthrogryposis (a physical disability limiting his range of arm motion), he understands what it’s like not to be expected to succeed. People, he says, sometimes see him “as a disability, instead of as a person with a disability.”

Grace Jones’s youth group has hosted middle-schoolers from low-income housing development Yesler Terrace to speak about the documentaries they’re making about the ongoing remodel of their complex to meet safety standards. Aedan Roberts has used his status as an editor for the school paper to publish the personal stories of homeless immigrants. And the list goes on. Conventional wisdom goes that teens are lazy and disengaged, but this dedicated group of student activists is anything but.

All of us are excited to go to Olympia, for a variety of reasons. Besides the chance to make a difference, students in my group see this as a chance to learn more about state government, social justice, and the views of their representatives. Most of us are optimistic that our lobbying will make a difference. “I think it’s important for people to see a large youth presence in groups working for change,” says Grace. “Teens care, we have ideas, and we want to learn more.”

“Maybe, in a year or so,” Robert adds hopefully, “A politician will vote in a different way on something because I swayed them.”

Many of us are nervous, of course. Speaking face to face with experienced politicians can be intimidating for high-school seniors barely old enough to vote. Many of us are afraid of sounding uninformed, inarticulate or timid. But from my conversations with the students I’m going with, I can tell that they have more than enough eloquence, passion and knowledge. We must always first face down our fears in order to face down injustice. That’s another change I hope will be affected on MLK Day – that we will become confident in our own strength and power to create change. Some of us already have. “I don’t really have any fears,” answers Tanner O’Donnell when asked whether the event makes him nervous. “Except for bears. They’re scary.”

To make sure you catch the next report in Anthony’s series, please sign up to have this blog’s posts emailed directly to you!

50th anniversary of War on Poverty a time to celebrate, reflect & rededicate

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson gave the State of the Union address and launched what he called the War on Poverty, stating:

Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope – some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

President Lyndon Baines Johnson

President Lyndon Baines Johnson

This historic call to action led to the Economic Opportunity Act, the Food Stamp Act and the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, it led to the creation of an array of federally funded programs targeting various aspects of poverty, including Community Action Programs, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid, Community Health Centers, Pell Grants, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Job Corps, Legal Services and the Federal Work-Study Program.

Solid Ground and our forebears – the Fremont Public Association and the North Seattle Community Service Center – were formed out of the Community Action movement. We are one of 30 Community Action Agencies (CAA) in Washington State and more than 1,100 across our country, serving people living on low incomes in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories.

Fifty years later, we know that poverty and social and economic inequities remain an unresolved and unacceptable reality in our country – a chronic and severe problem that disproportionately impacts people of color. I recognize this reality and I also reject the claim that the war to end poverty was a failure. In the ensuing five decades, our societal problems have become much more complex and our country’s economic growth continues to benefit an increasingly smaller portion of our nation’s population.

Through the past 40 years, Solid Ground and our Washington State Community Action Partnership have helped hundreds of thousands of people living on low-incomes change their lives for the better. Once, we focused on passing out food and clothes and finding people day jobs. As the causes and attributes of poverty have become more complex, so have our services. Now we address the multiple intersections of homelessness, domestic violence, mental health, mobility, education achievement, financial literacy and asset building, access to affordable health care, food and nutrition, and institutional racism.

Through 40+ years of innovation, partnership and action, we have accomplished much, and there is obviously much more to do. Among Solid Ground’s priorities in the coming year are:

  • Representing the nonprofit community on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which is charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle.
  • Continuing our leadership on the Equity in Education Coalition to address the achievement gap and deliver on the promise of a quality education for all Washingtonians.
  • Work with the national learning cluster to further Financial Empowerment and Asset Building efforts for our constituents.
  • Implement Rapid Re-Housing, Trauma-Informed Care and other pilot programs as we continually seek out best practices and more successful interventions.
  • Through direct services, and in collaboration with our education and community partners, ensure that all youth served by Solid Ground are on a stable path toward post-secondary education and career success.
  • Leverage the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid, in partnership with King County, to ensure that all of our residents have equitable access to quality affordable medical and dental coverage.
  • Increase and improve the ways we engage with our community, especially by involving the voices and real-life experiences of people living on low incomes in the political process and in shaping our work.

2014 is both the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty and the 40th Anniversary of Solid Ground! In 1964, President Johnson ended his State of the Union Address by saying, “I ask you now in the Congress and in the country to join with me in expressing and fulfilling that faith in working for a nation, a nation that is free from want and a world that is free from hate – a world of peace and justice, and freedom and abundance, for our time and for all time to come.” In 2014, that statement is my commitment and my ask of each of you.

Editors noteOne of the ways we will be recognizing this milestone is by providing platforms to lift up voices and stories from the struggle to overcome poverty and thrive. Soon, we will recast the Solid Ground Blog as the Story Ground, to host our stories and yours. Sign up here to have posts emailed to you, or contact Communications Director Mike Buchman to learn more about sharing your story.

Nourishing healthy kids & communities

Editor’s note: This report was filed by volunteer reporter Tiffiny Jaber.

In the midst of the holiday season, Apple Corps’ message couldn’t be more meaningful: teaching children about healthy eating, exercise and growing  food to perpetuate a positive community. Apple Corps members – national service volunteers placed at area elementary schools – use innovative teaching techniques to get the kids to engage in these topics.

spinach sign 008 Apple Corps teaches students in underserved communities how to eat healthier by showing them where fresh vegetables and fruit come from, and teaching them how to cook in delicious and nutritious ways. They get kids’ hands into the soil, teach them to value the seasons of the year, and empower them to grow food at home. Apple Corps creates hands-on experiences for kids via gardens, cooking in the classroom, and by taking kids to farms to see the land and the farmers who tend it.

I recently had a chance to catch up with three of the Apple Corps nutrition educators who shared some of their experiences with me. Brian Sindel and Lisa Woo divide their time between Sand Point Elementary in Northeast Seattle and Emerson Elementary in Rainier Beach, while Kelly Shilhanek works with Concord International School in South Park.

Spending four days of the week immersed at their assigned schools, Apple Corps members collaborate closely with class teachers. The curriculum is based on the Eat Better, Feel Better program, a school-based effort of Public Health-Seattle & King County that promotes positive change in how kids eat and their activity levels.

MyPlate replaces the food pyramid as a guide for healthy eating

Lessons span a variety of topics over 12 weeks. For example, 5th grade classes focus on healthy eating around the world; 3rd grade covers plant parts; and younger grades integrate food with literacy. Brian said the focus is on a well-balanced diet. “We work from MyPlate, which replaced the USDA’s food pyramid, and we incorporate all five food groups,” he said.

The classrooms that Apple Corps members visit are treated to delicious homemade food. The members set up their mobile kitchen and provide a 45-minute cooking demonstration, which is as involved and interactive as possible for the students. Some of the food can be quite different and new to the children, so it’s not unusual for them to be apprehensive before taking the first bite. Lisa and her classes start off their snack by saying, “Bon appetit! We now may eat.” Then they each take their first “bravery bite” and talk about their likes and dislikes or show their varying approval with a thumbs up.

Veggie Mike Kim w-Andrew Ku 056Last year Brian led a Garden Recess Club for teacher-selected 3rd graders who needed extra engagement. Club sessions focused on different gardening lessons. At the end of the year, Brian put the mini-lessons together into an hour-long final session that the students taught to their classes. Brian was amazed to see these students, who were usually so quiet and disengaged, have the opportunity to be the experts and leaders for the rest of their classrooms.

The elementary schools each have their own vegetable garden onsite. The children also take field trips to various farms. Lisa notes, “All of (children in) the school have an opportunity to engage with farming in some capacity. … Concord students go to the Giving Garden at Marra Farm, a production farm Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link runs to support area food banks.” Emerson Elementary visits the Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands. Kelly is looking forward to spring when three of the six grades she works with have the opportunity to experience basiccarrots garden education at Marra Farm rather than in the classroom.

Both Lisa Woo and Brian Sindel were awarded the title of Conservation Champions last year by the Seattle Public Schools. In addition, their respective schools received $400 to recognize their work. The money went toward greening the schools. Emerson Elementary plans to initiate a composting program with the awarded funds.

Not only are the children benefiting from the Apple Corps program, so are their parents and communities. The entire school community takes part in  the Farmers Market nights Apple Corps organizes for the school families. The events are free, with all of the produce donated by PCC. Concord International Elementary holds a multi-cultural night where families bring prepared food and share an amazing feast. Marra Farm hosts a Community Kitchen where farm volunteers and sometimes students set up a primitive kitchen to prepare freshly harvested organic produce for families and volunteers.

Apple Corps members also rally the community together outside of their classrooms and teaching gardens. Third to 5th grade girls from Concord take part in a bi-yearly 5K run with the internationally-renowned “Girls on the Run” program.

This link to the “Plant Part” Potstickers activity page and recipe gives an idea of how the children are taught about plants with a delicious recipe.

You can support Apple Corps by donating through Solid Ground’s website and designating Apple Corps. If you have any questions about Apple Corps, or to see how you can get involved in this amazing program, please contact Apple Corps Supervisor Samantha Brumfield.

Day of Caring Resource Exchange

Editors note: This report was written by Solid Ground Tenant Counselor, Jeanne Winner

Photo courtesy of United Way of King County

Photo courtesy of United Way of King County

On September 17th, I had the honor of participating as a service provider in the United Way’s Day of Caring Resource Exchange along with a few of my coworkers. There were over 1,400 homeless adults who attended in order to receive information, products and services for themselves. This was an impactful and deeply meaningful event for those who were there.

The 600 service providers and volunteers were encouraged by United Way staff “to treat people as ‘honored guests.’ Most of these folks walk the streets and people look away from them. By giving them your full presence and assistance, you are giving a great gift to them, and to yourselves.”

My colleague, Judy Poston, and I shared a table where we did outreach about Solid Ground’s Tenant Services and Financial Fitness Boot Camp programs. We passed out printed materials and talked to 100 people about the challenges they face while trying to find affordable housing.

Judy spoke with people about ways they could work towards repairing their credit, and I talked with people about housing search and tenant rights.

It was apparent that the tables which provided information and products were important to the attendees; yet, it seemed that the booths which offered services right there touched the individuals at a much deeper level. Vince Matulionis, Director of Ending Homelessness for the United Way, told KUOW reporter, Deborah Wang, “The importance of getting a haircut, getting your picture taken, making a phone call, getting your feet washed – most of us in our daily lives tend to take for granted. But when you are homeless, rarely do those types of things come easily and quickly to you.”

The day’s results were amazing. Not only were the participants appreciative and grateful, but for many of the providers and volunteers, it was a deeply-felt experience.

The United Way has organized this event for the past nine years, providing one day a year for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle to get their basic needs met all in one place. The next one is in April. To me, one day a year isn’t enough. I am hopeful that people in our community will come together collaboratively to hold events like these on a more regular basis. It would make a world of difference for so many people.

Community Report 2012: ‘Breaking the cycle of generational poverty’

Solid Ground's Community Report 2012

Solid Ground’s Community Report 2012

Hot off the press! Solid Ground’s report to our community on our 2012 work and accomplishments is now available. “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” reports on recent impacts we’ve made in our community. But it also highlights the long-term positive change our programs can have in the lives of the people who access our services, and the ripple effect this has on their children’s lives.

As Solid Ground approaches our 40th anniversary, we remain focused and committed to our mission to end poverty in our community, and to help our society become one without racism and other oppressions.

Our engagement in this work is only possible through the support of passionate and committed employees, donors, volunteers, and government and nonprofit partners. With this continued support, we look forward to working ever more purposefully to help families and individuals overcome the challenges of living in poverty and progress to a place of thriving.

Feel free to share “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” with others who may be interested in our work. If you’re not already on our mailing list and would like a hard copy of the report mailed to you, please email your mailing address to publications@solid-ground.org.

Christmas in July at Safeco supports Broadview

The Seattle Mariners and Rick’s Toys for Kids are presenting the first ever Christmas in July on Thursday, July 25 at Safeco Field. The Mariners will take on the Minnesota Twins with a 7:10pm first pitch.

ChristmasinJuly-1_mooseA portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Toys for Kids, the charity started many years ago by M’s broadcaster Rick Rizzs and former M’s centerfielder Dave Henderson. Toys for Kids supports children and families who are homeless and surviving domestic violence, including the residents of Solid Ground’s Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing and Brettler Family Place programs.

Toys for Kids has provided loving, generous, magical year-end holiday celebrations for hundreds of Broadview residents. Rizzs and Henderson are truly revered for this work by everyone connected to Broadview and the other programs involved.

So, come on out to Safeco Field and enjoy a night of baseball while supporting a great cause. Tickets are $20 with $8 going directly to Toys for Kids!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to www.mariners.com/christmas
  2. Select “Buy Tickets” then enter “Christmas” as your Special Offer Code.
  3. Purchase and print your tickets instantly!

The deadline to purchase is July 24!

Thanks!

Changing lives & systems through advocacy

Advocacy has always been a central watchword for Solid Ground. Throughout our 39 years of providing for people’s basic needs, we have also addressed the political realities that create barriers for people to thrive.

Advocates in Olympia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2013

Advocates in Olympia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2013

The more than 50,000 people who come to us each year are the true experts on poverty in our community. Their lives revolve around the challenges of living on less in an increasingly class-divided world. Twenty five years ago, low-income communities organized across Washington State through our Fair Budget Action Campaign and the Welfare Reform Coalition. Both were instrumental in passing the Seattle Housing Levy, creating the Molar Majority to fund adult dental care, and other groundbreaking efforts that get more people to solid ground in our community.Fair Budget eventually became the Statewide Poverty Action Network, bringing together leadership from low-income communities around the state to articulate a community-based agenda and run impactful organizing campaigns. Poverty Action and allied coalitions and agencies have been instrumental in protecting lifeline benefits, passing the Foreclosure Fairness Act, grading legislators on the racial justice impact of their work, and giving previously incarcerated people, teens and other marginalized populations training and support to reclaim their political power.

This approach creates tremendous synergy. The personal becomes political as our advocacy in Olympia is strengthened by decades of direct service and the individual voices of people most impacted by policies. Case managers help identify trends and stories among program participants that seed efforts to make laws more responsive to the needs of people living on low incomes.

At Solid Ground, we believe education is foundational to a better future. In addition to our partnerships to support literacy, skill building and leadership development in Seattle/King County schools, we actively work to close the opportunity gap between wealthier white students and those with lower incomes and students of color.

Disenfranchised people – those experiencing homelessness, immigrants with limited English proficiency, and those who lack education or job experience – can all achieve their dreams if they have access to equal opportunity and resources. By bringing their testimony into the political process, Poverty Action and allies influence laws, policies and practices and set the stage for transformative, generational success.

At Solid Ground, we believe our community can move beyond poverty and oppression to a place where all people have access to quality housing, nutritious food, equal justice and opportunities to thrive. We believe strong advocacy is a vital component of interrupting generational cycles of poverty. We believe effective advocacy starts in the personal narratives of our community.

And we believe that successful advocacy secures long-term, positive changes in our society.

Innovation Center proposal co-locates community college, services at Pacific Tower

The future of the historic Pacific Tower building is at an important juncture as the Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority is considering a proposal to create The Beacon Community Health College & Innovation Center at Pacific Tower.

The PDA will accept written comments on the Innovation Center and another proposal that is believed to be from a private developer to convert the historic medical campus into high-end residential units.

Please address comments to:

PDA Executive Director Rosemary Aragon
Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority
1200 12th Avenue S, Quarters 2
Seattle, WA 98144

Jacqueline 1The Innovation Center proposal calls for “bringing new life to an iconic building for vital public purposes, including critically needed training programs in nursing, dental hygiene and other health care professions, cross-cultural health care training programs, community meeting facilities and space for nonprofit organizations that share the goal of building stronger, healthier communities for generations to come.”

The Center would be anchored in Seattle Community College programs that are designed to create the skilled workforce needed to meet Medicaid expansion and supported by an array of community agencies that share the goal of building community through services and innovation.

Among the organizations that have expressed interest in co-locating services:

The co-location is based on the model pioneered at the Opportunity Center for Employment and Education at North Seattle Community College.

Solid Ground, along with many other community groups and agencies, supports the proposal.

Again, to submit written support of the proposal, please address comments to:

PDA Executive Director Rosemary Aragon
Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority
1200 12th Avenue S, Quarters 2
Seattle, WA 98144

Or email your comments to: r.aragon@phpda.org.

A public hearing will be scheduled soon! We’ll update this post as we hear about the date and time!

 

Supportive housing taking shape at Sand Point

The final phase of Solid Ground’s housing development at the former Naval Station Puget Sound is taking place along Sand Point Way and just to the east of our Brettler Family Place.

Building 5, view from the south

Building 5, view from the south

Building 5, now being framed in the area just south of the long brick historic barracks building, contains five family homes as well as housing for 33 single men and women.

Building 4, which is nestled into the southeast side of Brettler Family Place, contains 16 homes for families.

When the facilities are completed in December, Solid Ground will be operating 99 homes for formerly homeless families and 75 for formerly homeless men and women on the campus. All residents receive supportive services to make the Sand Point campus a a model stepping stone from supportive housing to long-term personal stability.

Building 4, view from the north; this meadow will eventually be turned into a playground for the 200 children who will live on site.

Building 4, view from the north; this meadow will eventually be turned into a playground for the 200 children who will live on site.

For more information, go to our website.

Solid Ground is BIG into…

GiveBIG through the Seattle Foundation on May 15!

GiveBIG through the Seattle Foundation on May 15!

GiveBIG is back! On Wednesday May 15, all donations made to Solid Ground via The Seattle Foundation’s website will be partially matched! This means that YOUR GIFT can have an even bigger impact in moving people out of poverty.

At Solid Ground we are BIG into healthy kids. We believe that education and growth extends beyond the school day. We partner with local schools, agencies and community volunteers to engage kids in experiential learning opportunities throughout the day via our community farms, Apple Corps and Washington Reading Corps programs, and our Cooking Matters nutrition and cooking classes.

When you GiveBIG to Solid Ground, you help feed hungry people, keep people in their homes and get families and individuals experiencing homelessness into stable housing.

So please, GiveBig on Wednesday, May 15 to end poverty in our community. And remember to tell your family, friends and coworkers to GiveBIG to Solid Ground!

We are BIG into food and nutrition!

We are BIG into food and nutrition!

At Solid Ground we are BIG into food and nutrition. We believe that all families should have access to healthy, nutritious food, regardless of where they live or how much they earn. Last year, our Lettuce Link program’s Marra Farm Giving Garden, Seattle Community Farm, Community Fruit Tree Harvest and P-Patch Growing and Giving efforts harvested and donated more than 50,000 pounds of organic produce to 21 local food banks.

REMEMBER: All GiveBIG donations must be made with a credit card, within the 24-hour window of May 15, via Solid Ground’s page on The Seattle Foundation website.

We are BIG into ending homelessness!

We are BIG into ending homelessness!

We work to help families and individuals overcome displacement and abuse, address the issues that led to their experiencing homelessness, develop a strong community support system and secure permanent housing. This year we are expanding our homeless prevention efforts and partnering with Lifelong AIDS Alliance to provide housing stability resources for people with chronic illnesses who face foreclosure. We are completing our Sand Point housing campus by building 54 new homes for formerly homeless families and single men and women.

And don’t forget, a portion of all gifts made to GiveBIG will be matched. Thanks for giving BIG to Solid Ground!

Thanks for shining light into the darkness!

Art by Rainer Waldman Adkins

Art by Rainer Waldman Adkins

The winter solstice is one of the most powerful days of the year. In this darkest moment, the cold and gray cast a heavy shadow on the realities our clients face every day. And yet, the solstice promises the return of light to our world. It rekindles hope based on the reality that life-giving energy outshines the darkest days.

It is a time that many of the world’s traditions call out for pause, reflection and re-commitment. And so, all of us at Solid Ground would like to pause to thank members of our community for your dedication to our work to overcome poverty and racism.

Together we face many dark times. But we know they are overcome by the radiant smiles of children learning to read, or digging in the soil while learning how food is grown; by the joyous gasps of parents opening doors to their new homes, and the satisfied sighs of riders reaching their destination.

Through our work and your support, we kindle light, hope and thousands of better futures. Thank you. Have a warm and safe holiday season!

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