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May 2024 Newsbriefs


Fig Tree receives award for series of fall issues

At the April 4 to 6 Religion Communicators Council (RCC) annual convention in Louisville, Ky., The Fig Tree received a DeRose-Hinkhouse Award in the periodicals class newspaper series category for four issues—September to December 2023.

There were nine periodical awards among 90 awards in 60 categories including books, websites, specialty publications, news magazines, broadcasts, video shorts and features, podcasts, social media, periodical writing, specialized writing, photography, videography, illustration, design and campaigns.

The awards are given annually to RCC members who demonstrate excellence in religious communications. The notice is at, click 2024.

Previously The Fig Tree and its editors received the following awards and recognitions:

• In 2008, the Washington Association of Churches recognized The Fig Tree ecumenical leadership for spreading the news on ecumenical activities.

• In 2010, the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media Award went to The Fig Tree for responsible media practices.

• In 2011, the Eva Lassman "Take Action Against Hate" Award was presented to Mary Stamp for working to overcome hate by modeling peace and justice journalism.

• In 2012, Jo Hendricks, editorial writer, received the NW Alliance for Responsible Media award for media excellence.

• In 2014, Mary Stamp lit the fifth candle for the Righteous Among the Nations during the Spokane Observance of the Holocaust for promotion of human rights in media.

• In 2018, the Faith Action Network of Washington recognized The Fig Tree as an interfaith leader for bringing interfaith voices to the public square.

For information, call 535-4112 or email

Many agencies join in water symposium

The Spokane River Forum is offering an Expo 50 H2O Water Symposium, "Calibrating Water Solutions in the Era of Climate Change," from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Thursday, May 30, at the Spokane Convention Center.

John Matthews, executive director of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, will discuss a framework and common-sense, practical meaning to terms like resilience, sustainability and adaptation. He will share national and international examples of what communities and nations are doing to meet water demands.

The region's Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie sole source aquifer has provided area communities with water. Over time, wells were drilled and fortified with land use, education and protection measures. Water rights administered by Idaho and Washington give guides on allocation, and in Washington, an in-stream flow rule assures that aquifer use does not impede water flows in the Spokane River.

John Porcello, groundwater hydrologist for GSI Water Solutions, will report on what's occurring and who's doing what regionally as climate change, population growth and land-use patterns affect groundwater levels at wells.

His presentation will be followed by updates from the City of Spokane, the Idaho Washington Aquifer Collaborative, the Spokane Aquifer Joint Board and Spokane County. Other presenters are the Kootenai County Aquifer Protection District, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Eastern Washington University, the Washington Department of Ecology, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Upper Columbia United Tribes and Spokane Riverkeeper.

They will discuss how communities are adapting water solutions for climate change, affecting the aquifer, water supply, stormwater, toxics, comprehensive planning and protecting lakes and streams.

For information, visit

Holocaust observance will hear essays

The Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust is Monday, May 6, at Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave.

The theme for the 2024 writing and art contests is "Young Heroes of the Holocaust," with Holocaust educator Carla Peperzak as the role model.

The Art Contest artwork will be displayed and winners will be honored.

Because the Writing Contest deadline is after the observance, the 2024 keynote speakers are the 2023 high school and middle school winners, speaking on "The Dangers of Indifference."

They are Lorelai Taylor of East Valley High School and Bella Buckner, who is now at Gonzaga Prep.

The 2024 prompt for the art and writing contests said, "the Holocaust was a manifestation of the worst of humankind, but the best of humanity was also evident. There were people who dared to try to help Jews."

One hero was Carla, who was 16 when Nazis invaded the Netherlands. She worked with the Dutch Underground to save more than 40 people. Now, a Spokane middle school bears her name.

For information, email

Unity in Community celebrates 30th year

Unity in the Community, the region's largest multicultural event, will celebrate its 30th year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, in Riverfront Park.

The organizers with NW Unity invite vendors and sponsors to join in celebrating diversity.

"It's a special day for our children and their families to honor and enjoy the rich heritages that make our community great," said co-organizer April Anderson. "This is a day where our children can hear dozens of languages and meet others who have come to our region from communities all over the world. Playing games and sharing different cultures is a great learning and growing experience for all."

This day-long festival will feature diverse entertainment, cultural village displays, games, arts, food and other activities for children and adults, including a job/career fair and health screening, added co-organizer Mareesa Henderson.

Proceeds after costs help provide school supplies and children's activities. The event is run and operated by an all- volunteer committee. 

For information, call 599-6669 or visit

Four spiritual directors team up for a retreat May 11

Spiritual director Kathy Villemure, is teaming up with three other spiritual directors to offer a retreat from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 11, at Harmony Woods Retreat Center, 11507 S Keeney Rd. in Spokane.

"We're offering it both to introduce people to spiritual direction and to bring attention to the Harmony Woods Retreat Center. Now that other local retreat centers—the Ministry Institute, Kairos and St. Joseph Family Center—have closed, Harmony Woods is a much-needed resource in our area," she said.

Helping her lead the retreat on "Creating Space Within: A Journey of Inward Transformation," are spiritual directors Kathy McFaul, Christi Ortiz and Andrea Nelson-LeRoy.

Kathy Villemure, who is also a certified healthcare chaplain, will discuss spiritual journaling and pilgrimage—not "to a sacred site in Spain but to the temple within," said Kathy who walked on the Camino de Santiago in May 2019.

Kathy McFaul, who works at Transitions, a nonprofit that works to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane, provides spiritual direction and assists with spiritual direction training programs. She has also worked as an attorney specializing in poverty law. Her walk will be on discerning one's path.

Christi, who owns the retreat house with her husband Fernando, is a counselor and does spiritual direction through Gonzaga.

She will share about starting the retreat center.

Andrea, who has background in social work and spiritual direction through the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., will take people on a Terra Divina walk—prayer while walking on and interacting with the earth.

There will be a time of Taizé with Ben Brody, professor of music at Whitworth University.

The four facilitators will be available for half-hour spiritual direction sessions during and after the retreat.

For information, call 993-2968 or visit

Resource Directory deadline approaches

The Fig Tree is contacting advertisers and community partners to secure the support of the 51st annual Resource Directory: Guide to Congregations and Community Resources by May 31.

The directory will go to the printer in late June.

Agencies with changes in their names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, websites and services should send the information now to

"We have received many updates already, but seek to keep current," said Malcolm Haworth, directory editor. "Advertisers should confirm their ad sizes and copy as soon as possible."

For information, call 535-4112.

Opening ceremonies for Expo 50th is May 4

Opening Ceremonies for the Expo '74 50th Anniversary from 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday, May 4, in the Central Plaza of Riverfront Park begin nine weeks of events.

From May 4 to July 4 the City of Spokane will recreate the spirit of Expo '74 with events in five categories mirroring the original key pillars: Expo Legacy, Environmental Stewardship, Tribal Culture, Recreation and Sport, and Arts and Culture.

The Native Pillar from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. at the Spokane Pavilion will open with songs of resilience by the Native American Youth Drum Colville Peak. Traditionally used for Native American gatherings and ceremonies, the Powwow Drum is known as the heartbeat of the people.

Warren Seyler, a Spokane Tribal Member, historian and presenter, will share his people's history. In a live interview, he will discuss the impact of the 1974 World Expo on the area's indigenous people, the City of Spokane and the land itself.

Aspects of tribal culture are woven into the other pillars.

The ceremony kicks off at 6 p.m. with the Pillar Procession and will continue with the Kalimba Band, celebrating the spirit of Earth, Wind and Fire, and culminating with a Drone Show displaying images celebrating the region and the legacy of Expo.

For information, see

Riverkeeper announces River Watch

The Spokane Riverkeeper begins a citizen river monitoring effort, River Watch, to be eyes, ears and noses in the Spokane River basin to report and document pollution events.

Riverkeeper will hold three trainings to introduce the effort and ways to help. The workshops will teach people to identify and report different kinds of pollution.

The first was April 30. The next workshops with the same information are 4 to 5 p.m., Thursday, May 9, at the Shadle Park Library and 4 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 15, online.

After training, volunteers will join the River Watch program to share observations.

Volunteers will watch for pollution related to storm water drainage, agriculture and shoreline destruction, land spills or illicit discharges.

For information, call 464-7614, email or visit

Nonprofit Association plans conference

Nonprofit Association of Washington's 30th anniversary Statewide Nonprofit Conference will be online from Tuesday to Thursday, May 14 to 16, with keynote speakers, block sessions, partner showcases, an interactive community board, exhibitors, on-demand learning and ask-me-anything sessions. Regional celebrations are from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Tri Cities on Friday, May 17, and in Spokane, from 2 to 5 p.m., Monday, May 20, at Gonzaga University's Cataldo Hall.

For information, visit

Valley Connect offers practical services

Spokane Valley Connect offers free community services from 12 to 4 p.m., Thursday, May 30, at Opportunity Presbyterian Church, 202 N. Pines in Spokane Valley.

Vendors offering practical help to Spokane Valley families include Sandy Williams Justice Center, CHAS Medical Services, DSHS Mobile Services, a clothing bank, a warrant fest, a food bank, haircuts and a free meal.

For information, visit

Veterans for Peace host interfaith dialogue

Veterans for Peace Spokane and Shalom Mennonite/United Church of Christ host a talk on Peace and Truth Heals (PATH) and an interfaith dialogue on Gaza and Iran from 5 to 8:30 p.m., Sunday, May 5, at the Community Building, 35 W. Main.

The speaker is Brother Moji Agha, a Muslim Sufi "monk" with a vow of service and poverty, who left an academic and clinical career 20 years ago to focus on "intersectional" healing of "Grandmother Earth."

He expresses his peace, justice and ecological activism through Historians for Peace and Democracy and as an Iranian-American Sufi Muslim member of the Jewish Voice for Peace. He is an associate member of Veterans for Peace and a former member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

For information, email or visit

Center teaches 'Wake Up World' class

Unity Spiritual Center Spokane has been holding Anita Dygert-Gearheart 's six-week "Wake Up World" at 6 p.m., Mondays, at Unity Center, 2900 S. Bernard. It began in April and continues with sessions on May 6 and 13.

The interactive class increases understanding of climate change issues and supports attitude shifts and actions that can make a difference and overcome hopelessness in the context of one's beliefs.

The class is co-facilitated by members of Unity's Earthcare team, including Jim McCurdy, retired environmental attorney, Susanne Croft, former city employee working on sustainability issues, and Cheryl Miller-Arndt, group facilitator and former school psychologist.

For information, email

LCSNW coordinates foster care program

Foster Care Day—sponsored by Lutheran Community Services Northwest along with Alliance Cares, Coordinated Care, Spokane Angels, Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane Public Schools and Treehouse—will hold a panel discussion with Spokane's foster care organizations from 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, at Shadle Park Library.

This is an opportunity to learn about the foster care organizations and programs in Spokane aiding foster families and youth.

For information, visit

Refugee and Immigrant Connections hosts benefit

Refugee and Immigrant Connections Spokane (RICS) will hold its Mother's Across Cultures Fundraiser from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, May 10, at The Philanthropy Center, 1020 W. Riverside.

The event includes a photography exhibit, silent auction, raffle prizes and an international dinner from Emran Restaurant to support RICS' work within Spokane refugees and immigrants.

For information, email

NE Family Youth System holds Self-Care Fair

Northeast Family Youth System Partner Roundtable will host a Resource and Self-Care Fair, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at Passages Family Support, 1700 S. Assembly. Resources include Second Harvest mobile market, beauty products, healthcare information, raffles and prizes, outdoor games and refreshments.

For information, call 892-9241.

Human Rights Spokane seeks nominees for award

Human Rights Spokane, along with the City of Spokane Human Rights Commission and Gonzaga University, is accepting nominations for the 2024 Spokane Human Rights Champions Awards through May 31.

The awards are an opportunity to recognize and honor individuals and groups who are protecting and advancing human rights.

The Spokane Human Rights Champions will be honored by Human Rights Spokane and the City of Spokane Human Rights Commission at its annual banquet on Nov. 14, along with the Gonzaga Center for Hate Studies Eva Lassman "Take Action Against Hate" awards recipients.

For information, visit

NAMI holds fundraising Walkathon

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Spokane will hold a fundraising Walkathon, NAMI Walks, from 7:30 to 10 a.m., Saturday, June 1, starting at the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park, 507 N. Howard.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. The walk kickoff is at 7:45 a.m. There will be a warmup with Eclipse Power Yoga at 7:50 a.m., and the one-mile walk starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 10 a.m.

NAMI Walks is "about people who think nothing of giving everything—their time, their stories, their heartfelt dedication to the cause of Mental Health for All," said Chauntelle Lieske, NAMI Spokane executive director.

For information, call 838-5515 or

Fresh Start receiving applications for summer

The new cohort that started job training program at Fresh Soul in April includes teens from Nigeria, Congo, Egypt and Afghanistan. They shadowed peer mentors, who graduated from the Fresh Start job training program, two days to learn what to do.

They work eight to 15 hours a week at Fresh Soul, do 15 hours of community service for a nonprofit and learn life skills like budgeting, credit scores, interest rates, online and social media safety. After graduating, they are eligible for scholarships or jobs with Fresh Start business partners.

Fresh Start offers three 12-week cohorts a year. Fresh Start is receiving applications for the summer crew now.

For information, visit

Community holds tool drive

By Bon Wakabayashi

The Oregon Rd. fire devastated the lives of 126 families, their friends and neighbors.

With official help slow and sporadic, and in some cases nonexistent, community members have stepped up and donated items for those who have lost everything.

To compound the tragedy, many lost not only their homes but also the tools they need for a livelihood, so people are donating tools to fire victims.

The tools will be available at North Riverside Storage, 4225 E. Bailey Rd., one mile north of Riverside High School on Hwy. 2 and Bailey Rd. on Saturdays starting May 4.

Donations will be accepted from 9 to 10 a.m. and tool distribution will be from 10 a.m. to noon for those with an ID. Those wishing to donate at other times may call or text 469-5455.

Along with tools for people to earn a living, tools for daily tasks—hammers and screwdrivers—and tools for gardening—shovels and hoes—are also needed or money to buy them.

Congregations and organizations can help by having a Tool Drive to collect tools to bring.

For information, email



Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April 2024