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December 2016 News Reports

Conference calls for taking responsibility to act

The 2017 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference speakers and workshops will address “Taking Responsibility: Acting Together in Faith.”  It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 316 E. 24th Ave.

The event will feature a panel discussion on poverty, based on the Spokane Regional Health District report about life spans in different zip codes and the 2016 Washington State Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Poverty.

There will be workshops on environmental issues, education, criminal and racial justice, housing, youth concerns and recognizing propaganda.

A representative of the Washington State Catholic Conference, and the Rev. Paul Benz, co-director of the Faith Action Network, will give briefings on issues before the 2017 State Legislature.

The Rev. Gregg Sealey, the new Inland District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church, and other area faith leaders will present reflections and prayers.

Nonprofit agencies and ministries will bring displays to share resources about their programs.

“This educational event invites people of faith to consider how their faith teachings call them to be involved shaping policies on hunger, housing, creation, jobs, education, justice, equality, taxes and more,” said Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp.

Organizers include The Fig Tree, Catholic Charities Spokane, the Faith Action Network and the Inland United Methodist District.

For information, call 535-1813 or email  Fliers are available at

Organists guild plans carol singing, organ music

For the third year, the American Guild of Organists (AGO) in Spokane is sponsoring the annual Christmas Church Walk and Carol Sing from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 26, on the South Hill and downtown.

The event begins at Manito Presbyterian Church, 401 E. 30th Ave.

Two downtown churches will share in hosting the event, which features listening to organ music, singing Christmas carols and enjoying Christmas decorations with family and friends, said Carolyn Payne of the AGO.

After singing carols at Manito Presbyterian, participants will drive to Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ, 411 S. Washington St.

Then they will walk two blocks to Central Lutheran Church, 512 S. Bernard, for more singing, organ music and refreshments.

Helen Byrne, organist at Manito Presbyterian will play there. Janet Ahrends, an AGO member, will play at Westminster. Alice Hosteler, organist at Central Lutheran, will play there.

For information, call 535-7145.

VOA’s Crosswalk uses Go-Fund-Me appeal

The Volunteers of America’s Crosswalk Youth Shelter is facing a financial crisis.

It serves vulnerable youth and homeless teens ages 13 to 17, offering meals, emergency shelter, a school to complete a high school diploma or GED, substance abuse counseling and access to on-site nurse care.

Crosswalk’s main federal funding source was not renewed. Funds went elsewhere, said Fawn Schott, the new executive director. 

“This was 36 percent of our annual budget for operations at Spokane’s only youth shelter,” she said.  “This greatly impacts our ability to help these young people become stable young adults.”

Crosswalk cannot apply for the funds again until next October.

The program provides housing for youth.

When they turn 18 and must leave the Crosswalk Shelter, they can transition to an apartment with support from a case manager to help them be successful.

The Crosswalk Youth Shelter was a safe haven for more than 100 homeless youth last year, Fawn said. Volunteers of America and SafetyNet have joined together to ensure that the homeless youth shelter does not have to close because of a lack of funding.  SafetyNet has started a Go-Fund-Me page to fill the financial gap. 

“We are asking organizations and individuals to donate to this fund to keep these vital services here for our city’s homeless youth,” said Fawn.

The Go-Fund-Me link is:

For information, call 624-2378.

New computer program speeds Christmas Bureau

A new computer program is streamlining the process to check in recipients at the 71st annual Christmas Bureau from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Dec. 8 to 17, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, 404 N. Havana.

Catholic Charities Spokane, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review coordinate the event.  In 2015, they served 8,142 households, and 14,683 children received books and toys. The Spokesman-Review’s Christmas Fund received more than $526,000 in donations for grocery vouchers and gifts, said Judy Lee, Christmas Bureau coordinator with Catholic Charities.

She said the new software eliminates hand-written intake cards. Recipients will go to computer stations where volunteers will verify and enter their household information—number of adults and children at their address.

Recipients will receive a printed gift certificate, good at any of five participating grocery stores.  They will also receive a “gift ticket” to pick out a book and toy for each child in the household, Judy said.

Those without children receive candy and winter gloves.

Persons seeking assistance can come during Christmas Bureau hours. There are no geographic boundaries or income requirements, said Judy, adding that adults just need a photo ID and proof of their address.  They verify the children with a letter from a school, day care, DSHS or other agency.

Donations are mailed to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Bureau, P.O. Box 516, Spokane, WA 99210. For information, call 358-4254 or email

Spokane County Human Rights Task Force unites efforts to challenge acts of hate

The Spokane County Human Rights Task Force (SCHRTF) called a press conference on Nov. 22 and asked community leaders to “Stand United Against Hate.”

The task force formed last spring to fill gaps as it works with long-standing organizations addressing human rights, said Dean Lynch, SCHRTF president.

He recognizes people are scared, “worried they are not sheltered from hateful acts of a few.” Law enforcement consider two incidents in Spokane and one in Pullman hate crimes.  Students at EWU, GU and WSU also have been targeted for race or ethnicity.

Dean praised how Spokane comes together for Tom’s Turkey Drive, the Christmas Bureau and other events. He also praised elected leaders who came to show solidarity and commitment to challenge acts of hate, bigotry and intolerance.

Summaries of some comments are in the article called "Community Leaders against hate".

 Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said “it’s time for us—local, state and national elected leaders—to say no more hate.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon was proud of the community coming together to support the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center after a racial slur was painted on a building.  “We came together to clean up the graffiti, now we go forward.”

City Council member Amber Waldref said the campaign stirred up divisions. “Hate will not take root in soil that is not ready for hate,” she said. “We need to prepare our soil to grow compassion, acceptance and respect.”

Assistant chief of the Spokane Police Department Justin Lundgren said “we will not tolerate hate and bias crimes.  We will enforce the law with fairness and transparency, investigating hate crimes and holding people accountable.”  He asked people to report incidents to Crime Check.

Representative Timm Ormsby expressed resolve to counter the incidences of hate.  He and other area legislators call for tolerance, respect and understanding: “We are one community and have to take care of each other.  Hate leads to fear which drives victims into their homes.  That’s the worst thing to do.  We need to have community conversations.”

The SCHRTF is partnering with other groups on six initiatives.

• The Victim Support Committee is exploring ways to model inclusiveness and increase understanding.

• GU’s Institute for Hate Studies and area universities will research needs of groups addressing hate.

• In January, PJALS and the Center for Justice will offer safe bystander intervention training.

• The police department, sheriff and universities are developing mechanisms to track hate activity and the effectiveness of community efforts.

• The Good Neighbor Conference (page 1) offers tools for people to be advocates.

For information, visit spokanecountyhumanrightstask          

Kairos Prison Ministry recruits volunteers to lead retreats for women affected by incarceration

Kate Nowlin, communications director for Kairos Outside Eastern Washington Prison Ministry, is recruiting volunteers to help facilitate a Kairos Outside Weekend retreat April 21 to 23 at Clarkston United Methodist Church (UMC).

The weekend retreat began in 1989 for women affected by incarceration of a loved one or themselves.  Women volunteers 20 years old or older are to be open-minded, active listeners offering encouragement.

Kate, who is from Clarkston, participates in Kairos Prison Ministry, which began in 1976.  About 20 women from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, Northern Idaho, the Tri-Cities and Spokane are involved.

Internationally, the ministry has 30,000 volunteers who minister to men and women in prison with Kairos Inside, to women affected by incarceration with Kairos Outside and to incarcerated youth with Kairos Torch.

To qualify, volunteers take 36 hours of training from January through April.  Sessions are from noon to 5 p.m., Jan. 14, at Colfax UMC, Feb. 10 to 11 at Audubon Park UMC in Spokane, from March 10 to 11 at First Church of God in Clarkston, and Saturday, April 8, at Clarkston UMC.

During the weekend retreat, volunteers pamper the women by serving meals, giving gifts, facilitating discussions and letting participants know they are loved, Kate said.

Retreats seek to involve women in support groups for ongoing relationships to help them deal with living outside of prison or having family members in prison. 

“When one person goes to prison the whole family goes to prison,” said Kate, whose son went to prison on drug charges.

“We are a Christian group, but we involve women of all denominations and nonbelievers,” said Bobbie Van De Veer, a volunteer who lives in Newport.

She volunteers because of her commitment to peace and justice as a member of the Spring Valley Mennonite Church.  Bobbie moved to Newport in 1975, living there nine years, then living in Spokane nine years until her husband was appointed District Court Judge in Newport 16 years ago.

“My denomination sees crime as a peace issue,” she said.  “We have Victim Offender Reconciliation teams in urban areas working through law enforcement and courts.”

She also volunteers because 40 years ago, when her first husband was in prison, it affected everyone in the family. They couldn’t plan for the future and lost income.

For information, call 208-816-9565 or email

Tree of Sharing has 7,500 gift requests to fill by Dec. 11 at three area malls and by partners

The 2016 Tree of Sharing tables will be open through Sunday, Dec. 11, at the JCPenney court on the second floor of Northtown Mall, near Santa on the first floor of River Park Square and at the Macy’s entrance to the Spokane Valley Mall.

The program serves forgotten people in the community, said Carl McConnell, co-coordinator with his wife Joan.

Volunteers staff tables the hours the malls are open and help shoppers choose tags for gifts they purchase and return to the table.

Sponsors include KREM-TV, the Washington Air National Guard 242nd Combat Communication Squadron and Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters.  Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ helps recruit volunteers.

Twice a week, the National Guard moves gifts from the malls and business partners to the Tree of Sharing warehouse. 

“We lost two sponsors this year and did not receive a financial grant that in previous years provided support to fill gift requests not taken at the malls or filled by our business/community partners,” said Joan. “So the need for donations is greater this year.”

Twenty-five businesses and community groups agreed to fill 2,500 of the gift requests not given out at the malls. 

The 2016 Tree of Sharing added five new agencies for a total of 57 agencies that have requested 7,500 gifts—1,000 more than last year.  They include public schools in low-income neighborhoods, The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations, the YWCA Women’s Opportunity Center, the Collins Apartments and more.

For information, call 808-4919 or email

Statue unveiled at YWCA symbolizes a survivor’s new beginning

During Spokane’s First Friday Art Walk, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Dec. 2, the YWCA at 930 N. Monroe will unveil a sculpture dedicated to survivors of domestic violence. Other local artists’ work on display will honor various  aspects of women’s journeys.

Spokane philanthropist and YWCA supporter Debra Garrett commissioned the sculpture by local artist Ildikó Kalapács to  symbolize a survivor’s dedication to a new beginning by partnering with the YWCA.

“I want to honor family members and others who survive domestic violence,” said Debra. “It takes courage to walk through the YWCA’s doors.”

Ildikó titled the bronze cast sculpture “Refuge.” It depicts a woman and her two children on a foundation that reads “Enter Here for Peace.” She guides her children through a doorway.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I have been keenly aware of the uncertain and painful domestic situations of some women and their children, including my mother’s and many other women’s sufferings in my larger family and neighborhood back in Hungary,” said Ildikó. “This sculpture is about solidarity with those who leave unbearable family situations, lifting them up, making them feel safe and loved.”

For information, call 326-1190 or email

Benefit speakers will look ‘Beyond the News’

“Beyond the News: Revealing Community” is the theme for the 2017 Fig Tree Benefit events.

The Benefit Lunch is at 11:30 a.m., Friday, March 10, and the Benefit Breakfast is at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 15, at Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University.

The Fig Tree invites people interested in hosting tables to reserve tables from now through February. Hosts invite eight guests.

Speakers for the benefit events will be selected from among people featured in articles sharing their stories of making a difference.

Planning meetings are at noon on first Thursdays.  The next meeting is on Thursday, Jan 5, at Emmanuel Family Life Center, 631 S. Richard Allen Ct.

For information, call 525-4112 or email