EASTSIDE INTERFAITH SOCIAL CONCERNS COUNCIL MINUTES
P.O. BOX 662, Bellevue, WA 98009-0662
March 8, 2016
The meeting was held in Bristol Hall of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church beginning at 12:00 noon.
WELCOME: The meeting was called to order and conducted by EISCC President Tony Copes.
OPENING REFLECTION: Sandy Lewis provided the opening prayer.
SELF-INTRODUCTIONS were made by 27 representatives and guests.
MINUTES of the February 8, 2016, meeting were approved as submitted.
PRESIDENT’S REPORT: This is a new item that our president, Tony Copes, has decided to add to our agenda in instances where there is information from the EISCC Board meeting that the Board feels should be shared with the membership. Tony reported that we are exploring options with the Eastside Human Services Forum to see if we might be able to assist them by sponsoring an Access Opportunity workshop. We have determined that we would like to see a greater variety of presenters at our monthly meetings, so we will be placing less emphasis on repeating organizations that we have heard from regularly in the past and searching out new organizations to present. The Church Council of Greater Seattle and MAPS are co-sponsoring a series of programs under the banner of Standing Together. More information about these programs can be found at their website: http://standingtogther2016.com/ .
TREASURER’S REPORT: Our treasurer, Rev. J. C. Mitchell, presented his financial reports. There was not a great deal of financial activity in the last month, but we are starting to get dues payments for the current year. Our current balance is $82,845.75, with most of that dedicated funds for our two sub-agencies: Backpack Meals and Congregations for Kids. Our unrestricted funds are $12,252.32. He is always open to your questions about our finances.
REFRESHMENT COORDINATOR: Many thanks to Sandy Lewis, Warren Marquardson, J. C. Mitchell, and Gordon Wilson for providing the day’s refreshments. There are still open refreshment slots for our May and June meetings.
Backpack Meals: Jan Starr was not present and had not sent a written report.
Congregations for Kids: Nancy Jacobs reported they have provided 1608 backpacks and/or school supplies so far this year. This is well on their way to this year’s estimate of 1651. They expect that they will be providing as many as 1700 next year. The costs for the backpacks with supplies vary by the ages of the students receiving them – backpacks with supplies for students in grades 1 – 3 run about $33 each, those for kindergarteners about $44 each (because a picture dictionary is included), and those for older students about $50 – $60 each. Nancy also noted that although they have gone to providing new backpacks only every other year now, that students needing new backpacks will get them. All served students receive new school supplies each year. They are currently trying to recruit new supporting organizations and new members for their board.
Legislative Coordinator: Jean Harris was not able to attend in person but provided Dick Jacke with a written report to share with the group. Dick reported that the legislative session was scheduled to end on March 10, so things are rapidly coming to conclusions. There is a last minute effort being made to pass HB 1682, which would establish vouchers for homeless youth to provide their families with stable housing in their current school district. HB 1745 is the Washington Voting Rights Act is still pending. Breakfast After the Bell has passed both houses and appears on its way to enactment.
Emergency Services Fund: Ellen Greene provided an update on Hopelink, as the new case manager, Brittany Holmes, was not able to attend our meeting that day. Brittany hopes to provide regular reports at our future meetings. Ellen began with a story about a recent client and how they had been helped by Hopelink and thanked us for our support of their work. For more information on Hopelink and the Emergency Services Fund visit their website at www.hope-link.org.
Special Update on Camp Unity Move: Father Frank Schuster from the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta thanked EISCC and its members for any help that they might be able to provide in facilitating the upcoming move from Cold Creek Natural Area to their church in Woodinville on Saturday, March 12. There are approximately 28 campers currently in the camp. They are in good shape at present for meals, but really need assistance that day for the physical move. Mark Straley from Blessed Teresa believes that they will need about 30+ volunteers to complete the move. The park from which they are moving is right across the street from the church, but the move will still be labor intensive. They expect that the move will take a good part of the day, but volunteers are welcome to stagger their shifts by coming for whatever part of the day that they can. At least some of the work will be physically demanding, as some heavy lifting will be required.
The camp will be able to stay at this site until July 9, when they will need to move again. The county has agreed to waive the permit fees for the camp due to the declared state of emergency. Representatives received details of the move and the specific needs with the agenda of this meeting. For questions, please contact Mark Straley at Blessed Teresa, email@example.com, 425-233-9137.
Temple B’nai Torah: Rabbi Lipper was not available, but Linda Hillesheim was able to get this report from Donna Blankinship, a member of the congregation.
Temple B’nai Torah of Bellevue has a strong tradition of social action and social justice work. The work is overseen by their Tikun Olam Task Force (Social Action Committee). They are currently focused on a number of initiatives:
Homelessness and Hunger: They continue to advocate for homeless people, legally and practically. Ten years after Temple B’nai Torah went to court to force the city of Bellevue to adopt a more humane approach to homeless encampments, they returned to the negotiating table again in 2015 to encourage their partners to sign a one-year extension on that consent decree so we can negotiate another, better homeless encampment ordinance in Bellevue. That extension was signed in January. During the past decade, they have hosted Tent City 4 about once every 18 months, as is allowed by the city ordinance. In addition to their work with Tent City, volunteers from Temple B’nai Torah regularly participate in several programs that provide meals for those in need. They collect food for local food banks and run a yearly fundraising drive for MAZON: The Jewish Response to Hunger.
Gun Law Awareness and Advocacy: On Saturday, March 26, from 4 to 6 p.m., they will be holding a Havdalah, Happy Hour and Conversation about Jewish Views on Gun Safety. Rabbi Lipper and Maxima Patashnik from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle will speak and they hope to hold a thoughtful discussion and learn about the current advocacy work underway in our state and nation by Jewish organizations. They plan to continue their advocacy work in this area.
Syrian Refugees: They have also begun some advocacy work and education around the Syrian refugee crises. They’re working with partners at Jewish Family Service and friends in the Muslim community to figure out what their long-term goals should be. In the mean time, they are doing some education, including an informational havdalah on May 21, from 4 to 6 p.m., and collecting grocery store gift cards to distribute to refugees.
Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry Drive: They will be running a Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation donor drive during the temple Purim carnival on March 20 at the “Save a Life at the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation Booth.” Adults ages 18-45 will be able to enroll for the bone marrow donor registry by doing a quick cheek swab. All carnival participants can spin the “Wheel of Life” for a chance to win prizes.
Hearts and Hammers Day of Caring: (May 14) They will be asking temple volunteers to sign up to participate with our covenant partners in a day to help Bellevue neighbors who are poor, elderly or disabled with home repairs and yard work. They have helped with this project in the past. Their responsibilities are to sign up volunteers, ask around if anyone is aware of people who need this kind of help and then to show up for a day of work. No special abilities are required for the volunteers, but if there are volunteers with special skills, such as carpentry, they would be very welcome.
Greening Committee: The Greening Committee is revising our temple garbage and event policies, including adding compost removal. Their long-term goal is to reduce temple waste and costs and decrease our impact on the earth.
Feeding the Hungry with the Temple Garden: They are looking into ways to make their temple garden more productive and a better provider of produce for local food banks.
Bridge Ministries: Natalie Higashiyama, a board member, discussed the three areas of focus for their disability ministry: they are a bridge to physical access (including medical supplies and equipment), they are a bridge to protection (providing legal guardianship services), and they are a bridge to spiritual connection and belonging. They are hoping to expand their mission and vision in the near future. They have developed an assessment tool to help communities determine how accessible and inclusive they are. For more information, contact Natalie at Natalie@higashiyama.us.
PROGRAM: Imagine Housing.
Chris Jowell, Executive Director of Imagine Housing, provided a brief history of their organization. Founded in 1987 by St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, their first project was Andrew’s Arms in 1992. They now have projects in Bellevue, Mercer Island, Kirkland, Redmond, and Issaquah. Their 2- bedroom affordable apartments are available for rents ranging from $450 to $900 per month, depending upon the circumstances of the renters. Similar units at market rates would require an annual income of $78K or more annually to afford. In 2011, they became Imagine Housing.
One of their most recent projects at the South Kirkland Park and Ride was a joint project with Kirkland Cross. Kirkland Cross has 3 affordable units and 182 market rate units. This made it possible to construct the Velocity building with 58 units of housing that are affordable to renters with $18K to $58K annual incomes. The building has a rooftop garden on its green roof. There are community spaces with free wi-fi. There is bus tracing in the lobby. They have space for bike storage. They offer a variety of community programs and have an exercise space. They have supportive services with an on-site staff, case management, and resource referral. They accept Section 8.
Other projects include Francis Village in Kirkland, Andrew’s Glen in Bellevue (just across the parking lot from St. Margaret’s), Andrew’s Heights, Chalet Apartments, Highland Gardens, Johnson Hill Apartments, Mine Hill Apartments, Rose Crest, Terrace Hill, and two senior developments: Kirkland Plaza and Ellsworth House. A project currently in development would provide 91 units of senior housing in Kirkland, with some coming directly from homelessness. 100+ additional units are being developed near St. Luke’s in Bellevue and near Snoqualmie.
They currently have over 2000 people on their waiting list – a 19% increase. At the present rate of turnover, it would take them over 100 years to accommodate that many tenants. Different buildings have different qualifications for their tenants. Some are based on income, others on special needs.
Their work has been impacted by reductions in Federal funds available for such projects. They are working hard to see that the units that they develop become closer to self-supporting over time. The most difficult obstacle to their work in the present market is finding properties to develop that can be purchased at favorable prices that would allow them to make units available at affordable rates. Because of the dwindling funding, there are fewer non-profits competing currently in the field. Chris believes that more groups will need to work collectively to advocate for and develop such projects in the years ahead. There are great opportunities for these groups to partner with developers on favorable terms that allow construction of affordable housing units while providing tax advantages for the developers.
To find out more about their work, visit ImagineHousing.org.
Dick Jacke reported that there will be an initiative drive this year in support of raising the state minimum wage. I-1433 would phase in an increased minimum wage over 4 years to $13.50 per hour by the year 2020. This would not interfere with cities that have already established higher minimum wages. Dick made petitions and supporting materials available. For more information, visit Raise Up Washington at their website www.raiseupwa.com. Michael Ramos from the Church Council of Greater Seattle indicated that he would be available to do programs at churches that are interested in getting involved in this issue.
Elizabeth Maupin reported that the Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition will meet Wednesday, March 9, at noon, at the Community Church of Issaquah. They are working on a survey of faith communities on the Eastside related to indoor shelters, encampments, vehicle camps, meals and anything else that groups might be considering in support of the poor and the homeless. The purpose is to identify what the faith communities are currently doing and the ways in which municipal and county regulations present obstacles to these ministries. They hope to complete the survey by March 17. Let Elizabeth know if your congregation has not received a copy of the survey – they would like to include all of the voices! For more information, contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda Hillesheim alerted us to the Bellevue Neighborhoods Forum: A Dialogue with Our Muslim Neighbors that will be held in the Bellevue City Hall Council Chambers, 450 110th Ave NE, Bellevue, on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 pm. The war on ISIS and homegrown terrorism have placed the issue of public safety at the center of national and local headlines, and this has generated questions about Muslims in the United States. A panel from the local Muslim community in Bellevue will share their experiences about living on the Eastside and answer questions in an environment that fosters respect and better understanding among all residents. RSVP is appreciated at email@example.com. For more information, contact Mark Manuel at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 425-452-7886.
CLOSING REFLECTION: J. C. Mitchell provided the closing prayer.
THE NEXT EISCC MEETING will take place on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
PROGRAM: Open Gathering
LOCATION: BRISTOL HALL, ST. MARGARET’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 4228 FACTORIA BOULEVARD SE, BELLEVUE (ACROSS FROM NEWPORT HIGH SCHOOL)
Dick Jacke, EISCC Secretary