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Directory connects faith and nonprofit communities

With AmeriCorps member Malcolm Haworth, Fig Tree produces directory

Malcolm Haworth brings skills in research and a commitment to student volunteerism to producing the Directory of Congregations and Community Resources, a new publication of The Fig Tree.

Malcolm Haworth prepares Directory of Congregations and Community Resources as AmeriCorps Outreach Coordinator with The Fig Tree

Malcolm Haworth

Although it’s the 35th edition of the directory, he had to enter many data files to update content in the 2006 edition produced by the Interfaith Council and in The Fig Tree database.

The directory includes information on more than 1,100 congregations and 1,700 agencies—in contrast to 850 congregations and 900 agencies last year—in the zip codes beginning 838-, 990-, 991- and 992 in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.  An online version will be expanded to the Fig Tree circulation area, which also includes Central Washington zips of 988-, 993- and 989- and some of North Idaho’s 835- zips.

 Information on national faith groups and churches is included in print and expanded online with links to their websites.

To gather data, he sent out forms to congregations and agencies requesting information; called regional offices, congregations and agencies; cross-referenced with other directories and online, and made personal connections.

Malcolm, a 2001 history graduate from Washington State University, earned a master’s in history at Eastern Washington University in 2005, and began in February 2007 working with The Fig Tree through AmeriCorps as community outreach coordinator.

Editor Mary Stamp said the directory builds on The Fig Tree’s commitment to foster awareness, interaction and cooperation among the faith and nonprofit communities of the Inland Northwest.  She said it creates a sense of the “infrastructure of caring in the region.”

The directory provides an annual print version of the resources, updated regularly online, expanding The Fig Tree’s online “Connections” pages.

Malcolm said that “after events like Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina, we know we cannot expect government to provide all the services people need.” 

So he believes it is essential to know about local community services responding to needs, such as networking on justice issues and dealing with medical and housing needs.

He knows that awareness of those resources is essential for service-learning opportunities for students.  Having taught some courses in social movements, and in Native American and European history, he considers service learning helpful in history and social science education.

From his involvement in the Practicum in Community Involvement (PICI) class at Lewis and Clark High School, Malcolm saw the value of students helping in community service.

He has also participated in outreach through his involvement in Cooperative Ministries in Higher Education campus ministry programs at both WSU and EWU.  He has helped build cinder-block houses in Mexico and Habitat for Humanity houses in Spokane.  He also organized interfaith dialogues after Sept. 11 in Pullman and went on an Urban Plunge, touring and volunteering at downtown Spokane outreach programs.

In addition to the directory being a resource for teachers seeking community service for their students, it is an information-and-referral tool for the faith, nonprofit and business communities.

Geographically, Malcolm found an overlap in regions, districts, synods, conferences and other sub-regions of the faith community, as well as nonprofits. 

“We added agencies in rural and outlying communities, expanding beyond Spokane, because it helps the congregations be aware of the networks and resources available, and the gaps,” he said.  “What we have produced is a start, an example of programs available.”

While the advertising and sponsor base supporting publication of the directory is primarily in Spokane, he hopes the content will extend into the wider geographic area it covers.

Congregations in smaller communities often collaborate with other churches in food banks, child care, youth programs, senior housing and other ministries, he found. 

“We included a question on the update forms to learn about community outreach of congregations,” he said, believing that providing information available in a common resource will expand awareness and collaboration among congregations.

Malcolm seeks to recruit more volunteers to assist in compiling more information on church outreach programs and making it available online.

Volunteers helped make the 2007-2008 directory possible.  Some helped by calling regional offices and congregations.  Others helped with proof reading and distribution.  Assistance with distribution is still needed.

The Fig Tree printed 5,000 directories—1,000 more than last year.  About 700 of them are still available at the office, religious book stores and at displays. 

While directories are free, donations make the effort possible.

After a “user evaluation” meeting in the spring, several features were added and content was reorganized.  Changes include tabs to denote different sections, a one-page table of contents on the opening page, a calendar, discount pages, a partly blank page for notes and emergency contacts on the last page.

Despite issues in updating the database, verifying information and dealing with computer glitches, Malcolm has received calls and emails regarding only a few dozen corrections, less than one percent.

He said that changes emailed during July were not received because the email overloaded, so he encourages people to re-send the information.

Malcolm hopes congregations and organizations will continue to send updates to include online. 

As he continues in a second term with AmeriCorps through July 2008, Malcolm seeks to expand some sections, such as retirement centers and senior programs, and to add some sections, such as one on arts and culture.

He would also like input from people who use the directory regularly, so he can consider their suggestions in next year’s edition.

For information, call 323-4037 or email directory@thefigtree.org.