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.

40 years of healthy food & food justice

Food Bank waiting 1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

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

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

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

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

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

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

Cooking matters vol 2013

 

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

 

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1975 recycling our roots

1975 Armen at Fremont Recycling Station

1975

If it’s difficult to define a career in a few paragraphs, it is impossible to capture the essence of Armen Napoleon Stepanian, a man who has always been larger than life, a myth in his own time, the 5th Honorary Mayor of Fremont, Christopher Columbus of Curb Collection, and one of the founders and early luminaries of the Fremont Public Association (FPA).

In 1975, Armen led the FPA in the creation of Fremont Recycling Station #1, the first source-separated, curb-collection recycling program in the nation. The Recycling Center showcased the political savvy that always informed the agency. While the FPA (renamed Solid Ground in 2007) primarily served the north end, recycling routes included the Mayor of Seattle and nine out of eleven Seattle City Council members, regardless of where they lived, to demonstrate the importance of the program and generate political support.

Of course, recycling is just one chapter of Armen’s amazing story.

A carpenter and display designer from Hells Kitchen, New York City, by way of San Francisco, Armen won the title Honorary Mayor of Fremont against 37 opponents (including a Black Labrador) in an election held on February 27, 1973 and began his reign as Seattle’s only unofficial public official.

While some took the mayoral race as a lark, Armen took the position seriously.

Armen plays a "pool duel" against then Woodland Park Zoo Director Jan van Oosten to benefit the Fremont Food Bank

Armen plays a “pool duel” against then Woodland Park Zoo Director Jan van Oosten to benefit the Fremont Food Bank

In the process of accepting the role of Mayor, he became a raucous force for positive change, a creative and tireless promoter, and one of the guiding lights that led downtown Fremont’s transition from a poverty- and drug-saturated neighborhood into the tie dye-tinged, environmentally-conscious “District that Recycles Itself” and, eventually, into the arty “Center of the Universe.”

He focused local media on Fremont by campaigning to keep the Fremont Bridge painted orange. At the first Fremont Fair (which he helped found), he started the Fremont Food Bank and engaged local leaders in public pool challenges to benefit the Food Bank. Through these and other efforts, Armen earned his national reputation for his role as an environmental evangelist preaching the benefits of source-separation, curb-collection recycling.

Fremont Recycling Station #1 ran for 14 years before leading to the development of the City of Seattle’s and many other municipal curb collection programs.

Armen views recycling as much more than a reduction in waste, or lessening of material extraction from the earth:

Recycling is … theology through technology,” he says. “People don’t understand the spiritual side of it … what people are putting in front of their homes is how they feel about themselves. It is how they feel about their neighbors … about the earth … about The Creator….

“Of the many benefits of recycling, energy is the most critical of all – the energy saved from producing virgin products, the foreign policy implications of consuming less energy, and our own personal relationship to the material – the positive energy we get from recycling.”

When the City of Seattle designed a citywide program, the Fremont Recycling Station #1 did not have the capacity to bid competitively for a collection contract. And the City imagined no role for Armen as an ambassador for curb collection. After signing a five-year agreement not to compete with the City, Armen left the area to continue his recycling career in Indianapolis, IN. Armen is a founding member of the Washington State Recycling Association and  an inaugural member of  its Hall of Fame. While retired and living in Ocean Shores, WA, Armen continues to advocate for a just and caring community.

In this age when Fremont has become one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Seattle – and Solid Ground one of the largest, most stable human service providers in King County – it is hard to imagine that one man, once called by a reporter “a combination of Archbishop Makarios and Phineas T. Barnum,” could do so much to change the face of our community and help set in motion the work that helps so many people today.

 

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1979

 Home Care 1979

1979

While the UN dubbed 1979 the “International Year of the Child,” for Solid Ground’s predecessor the Fremont Public Association (FPA), it was the “Year of the Senior.” That’s because in 1979 we launched Home Care services to help low-income seniors and adults living with disabilities to remain safely in their homes. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Home Care expanded to serve the earliest victims of the AIDS epidemic. While our Home Care program transitioned to another agency in 2008, advocacy through the Senior Care Coalition – which the FPA started – has resulted in the State providing more than $150 million a year in Home Care services.  

Housing Counseling 19791979 was also the year we began Housing Counseling to provide technical assistance and support to help tenants and homeowners avoid eviction or foreclosure and maintain stable housing. Housing Counselor Bess Ervin (left) later initiated one of the region’s first holiday “Adopt-a-Family” programs to give people in transition happier holidays.

 

Hunger Action Center 1979

 

And while McDonald’s was busy launching the “Happy Meal,” we were lauching the Food Resources program to work with food distributors and other service providers to coordinate and maximize the efficiency of Seattle’s emergency food system.

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1974

1974-fpa-door-circle

1974

In the wake of President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 declaration of the War on Poverty, the North Seattle Community Service Center (NSCSC) opened in Fremont, then one of Seattle’s most economically devastated neighborhoods. A decade later, the Nixon administration slashed funding for many Great Society programs and the NSCSC was at risk.

Pat Proulx headshot

Pat Proulx, FPA founder, still actively working for a better world in Belfair, WA.

In response, local Fremont activists, including Pat Proulx and Fremont Baptist Church’s Rev. Bob Walker, re-formed the NSCSC as the nonprofit Fremont Public Association (FPA, renamed Solid Ground in 2007). In a community known for rabble-rousing artists, Vietnam war casualties and rampant poverty, the agency grew out of a strong community spirit: “to hell with the feds, in Fremont we can take care of our own.” That pioneering spirit of innovation, working together and taking action to build a better community, led to such innovations as curbside recycling, Community Voice Mail, Broadview Shelter and many others. And it still informs the work of Solid Ground today.

On Friday, April 4, 2014 from noon–1:30pm we’ll celebrate Solid Ground’s 40th Anniversary Building Community Luncheon.

We’ll highlight Solid Ground’s 40-year culture of innovation, partnership and action – which has created and supported some of our community’s most effective anti-poverty programs. We will lift up individual stories of leadership and courage, and discuss our plans for the future.

We’re honored to have Spike Lee as keynote speaker. With a body of work that spans four decades, he has written, produced, directed and acted in countless films that illuminate the impacts of racism in our country. Spike talks candidly, and with authority, about issues of race in mainstream media and Hollywood, using as a backdrop a rare behind-the-scenes look at his celebrated body of work. Solid Ground is pleased to bring such an influential person in the conversations about race and social justice to our event.

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