Michigan Community Takes Another Cohesive Step

This spring, one of our partners in West Michigan decided to merge with another community nonprofit.  Sacred Suds, and Bethany Housing Ministries, both operating within the McLaughlin neighborhood of Muskegon, Michigan, had been working together for many years.  The likely community benefit beyond those efficiencies associated with combined operations seems substantial: a stronger McLaughlin neighborhood resulting from a highly intentional strategy of engaging neighborhood partners in both the process of forming the new entity, and inviting their participation as board members in the new body.

Part of the process of engaging the McLaughlin neighborhood in the process of forming the new body, was a Saturday morning gathering of some 40 neighborhood stakeholders to discuss neighborhood issues and give input on the organizational merger.  Alongside residents from the neighborhood, there were representatives from the neighborhood association, the local elementary school, the police department, the county health department, several local churches, and the two merging nonprofits.  The gathered group was quite varied, reflecting both the racial and religious diversity of the neighborhood.  Volunteers In Service (CRWRC / NAMT West Michigan partner) had the opportunity and pleasure of facilitating the community input meeting.

Following the community input meeting, the new organization adopted the new name, mission statement, and board reflecting its continuing commitment to strengthening the fabric of the McLaughlin neighborhood.

As a result of their inviting the community into their formation process, the new organization has broadened its neighborhood mission, and board representation.  As such, the new organization (Community enCompass) is now poised to seek the good of the neighborhood on a much higher level of connectedness, and involvement of community organizational partners and residents.

Organizing the Community

For a community to come together and effectively address problems in their neighborhood a community has to be organized.  This seems like pretty obvious logic, right?  But how exactly do you organize people in the community and how do you decide what the agenda for change will be?

In September of 2006 Rick Droog met with a RCA pastor who had been hired by his church to be involved 10 hours a week in community development work.  Rick talked to the pastor about the Communities First model of community development and they decided that it would be neat to get a group of people together over lunch to talk about their community.

So they got a group of community and church leaders together.  Rick asked the group, “What needs do you see in our community?”  The group framed the discussion around what they saw happening in their neighborhoods.  After talking with each other they came up with a list of things that they felt needed to be addressed.

However, Rick challenged the group to bring more people to the table to get a better picture of what more people in the community wanted the agenda for change to be.  “Some of the things on the list were the things we saw as church leaders and community leaders, and we didn’t necessarily have the voices or the focus [that we needed] at the table,” said Rick.

Taking the advice to heart, the leaders started trying to expand the group asking, “Who isn’t at the table that should be at the table?”  The best way to create an agenda for change is with diverse voices and so the group started inviting more people to talk with.  Over a period of time as more people came to the table the group prioritized the list of needs and narrowed it down to two or three possibilities.

“One of the things that kept coming up was transitional housing.  Particularly transitional housing for women and children,” said Rick.  To examine the need for transitional housing they invited people to the group with knowledge in that area.  They invited the director and some board members from the local crisis center, people from different social organizations within the community, as well as members from Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Getting representatives of these organizations together to compare their experiences was invaluable.  What they found out from the crisis center people was that if a woman came to them she could stay in their facility for thirty days, but then had to release her due to the grants and stipulations on the crisis center.  The HUD people discussed that their main function was to help people by providing housing and funding for lower income housing, but many times their grants and funding would not come through until about ninety days after their application.  “So the gap we saw was from about day thirty to day ninety,” said Rick.

With this information the group started to explore how they could address this need.  The group asked, “If we had some type of facility would it be full?”  The response was, “If you had a facility open today we could have six or eight folks [in it immediately].”

The group decided to pursue the idea of a facility to provide transitional housing and began looking for and organizing assets within their community.  First, they began looking for a building that was both accessible to the community and met the needs of the people who would be living in it.  It just so happened that the community hospital had just built a brand new 35 million dollar hospital on the outskirts of the town.  The old hospital building happened to be right in the middle of the community.

Rick and the others started meeting with the hospital and challenged them with the vision they had for a transitional housing facility and the women who would stay there.  They asked the hospital if would be possible to have part of the old hospital for their facility.  “We got the hospitals to agree to give us a wing, which is ten rooms and a community room,” Rick excitedly said.  The hospital was going to lease it to the group, but then they went back and asked the hospital if they would be willing to give them the wing.  After some consideration the hospital decided to give them the wing free of charge for the year!

Next, they started organizing people’s assets within the community to get the new facility up and running.  Electricians and other skilled labor volunteered their time to convert the hospital wing into a transitional housing facility.  The local college and other organizations pledged to help out and supply volunteers to run the facility.  A young woman volunteered to be the night resident for free as well.  More and more people were invited to join in to make the project happen.  “As we did this also a kind of buzz came out, what was going on?  What was happening?  Soon other people who also had passions and were like-minded began to come to the table and it really built a lot of neat community,” said Rick.

Groundwork for developing a 501c3 non-profit was starting and Rick knew a lawyer and asked him if he would be willing to use his gifts and abilities to help out.  The lawyer volunteered his time free of charge.

More and more people contributed their gifts and abilities until finally the transitional housing was ready to open.  “Many volunteers did not necessarily have the time to be involved at the same level that some of us were, but they were more than willing to give of their gifts and abilities,” observed Rick.

The transitional housing facility, officially called The Bridge, opened in September of 2007.  The Bridge provides a non-profit, faith-based, transitional housing for women and children.  “I think what has been neat is we’ve seen churches get involved, community folks getting involved, business people, social agencies, [all] getting together in the process.  So we’re excited about it,” smiled Rick.

So what’s next for this community?  “I hope we are not done listening,” said Rick.  “We need to convene some new folks from the community and do some more listening.  We need to do some more thinking, discussing, and dialoging about what is the next thing to make the community more like heaven.”

MORE STORIES ON THE BRIDGE:

Back On Her Feet

Every Gift is a Blessing

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering at The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Leaders Form Partnerships to Rebuild Gaston Point

Down through the red clay and muddy rivers of Mississippi, the trodden community of Gaston Point is in the process of transforming what was once known as an ‘underprivileged residential area’ into a smart growth community.

Leaders, residents and citizen volunteers of Gaston Point and surrounding areas collaborated with corporations like, Partners World Wide and Back Bay Mission and other 501C3 corporations to form the newly, non-profit organization, Gaston Point Community Development Corporation or Gaston Point CDC.

Since May 2007, the selected eight board members of the Gaston Point CDC have focused its primary mission on improving the quality of life for the residents of Gaston Point community, through the development of partnerships; to provide affordable housing, to improve the quality of existing housing and to encourage development of neighborhood businesses.

Sidney Rushing, president and CEO of Gaston Point CDC said, “I get fulfillment when the opportunity comes to serve people and give something back to the community. Rushing, along with the other board members have created a strategic planning technique to help organize and foresee the vision of Gaston Point CDC.

Other board members and Gaston Point CDC affiliates are: Everett Lewis, Housing Specialist for Back Bay Mission, Roland Buteyn, consultant for Partner’s World Wide, Michael Holleman, Pastor Felix Williams of Grace on the Coast Church, Justin Holton, director of the West End Disaster Relief Association (WEDRA), Gary Hollimon, City Councilman for the Gulfport, Reverend Lee Adams of Little Rock Baptist Church in Gulfport, MS. and Jimmie Jenkins, president of the Civic Association.

The idea of the Gaston Point CDC manifested through Buteyn of Colorado. Over a year ago, Buteyn saw the need for reconstruction in the Gaston Point community due to hurricanes Rita and Katrina, drug abuse and many other inner-city social factors. Therefore, he ventured out and collaborated with Rushing to bring this organization into fruition. Buteyn and other employees of Partners World Wide, travel to third world countries to work along with ministers and leaders to strengthen families in role modeling and mentoring in the community. “Our second main focus is affordable housing for citizens, but first we work to improve the family structure and social relationships,” Buteyn said.

One factor of focus for the board members of the Gaston Point CDC was to improve the unemployment rate in the area. So, Buteyn came up with the idea to form a construction-training school to give residents experience in this field that is high in demand. Buteyn and Rushing searched high and low at many abandoned and ransacked buildings in the area in search for the perfect building to jumpstart this school. They finally found the perfect building. However, the school did not open until months later. Gaston Point CDC is now, the founding organization of “Operation Reconstruct,” which is linked to the Home Builder’s Institute (HBI). The school is a construction institute that is currently training residents for Gaston Point’s reconstruction sites. Buteyn describes it as a way for families to have a source of income.

The very first 12 students recently graduated from “Operation Reconstruct” and currently hold fulfilling careers in this field. The second class had their commencement ceremony in November 2007.

Holton, former student of Rushing’s, came on board to review proposals, plans and operate decisions and input. Holton thinks of his job as, Supreme Court Justice. “We’re on the mission to supply decent, affordable housing for residents,” Holton said. Pastor Williams was one of the first community leaders to see the hard work and labor of the Gaston Point CDC. The very first home that was renovated by the board members is located on the same street as his church. “I’m like the new-kid on the block,” Holton explained. “The people of the CDC welcomed me with open-arms and everyday it’s an experience and honor to work along with the other board members.”

Williams described the Gaston Point area as an inner-city area where drug gangs and prostitution is a way of life for many. Williams believed that to repair this community in every aspect, it’s going to take the leaders, citizens, neighboring cities and states. “To get this job done, we are going to have to take it one step at a time. It takes everybody,” Williams said. The Gaston Point CDC has adopted a road in the area, in which the board members clean monthly. “We’re very hands-on,” Williams explained.

Everett Lewis, treasurer of the Gaston Point CDC said, “Our motive is to go back to the times where it was all self- contained.” Lewis’s experience with Back Bay Mission has enhanced his passion for advocacy and service. “It’s not just about housing, but total communication of revitalization. It’s about ministers being active in the community. We’re hoping as time goes on, we produce tangible evidence of success,” Lewis said.

The Gaston Point CDC is on its way to a future of success. At 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct.18, the Gaston Point CDC, opened its doors to their new headquarters in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Gaston Point. Over 150 citizens rallied around in support and admiration. This headquarters is the very first site for Gaston Point CDC’s place of business. Also, the Gaston Point CDC is currently renovating three homes that were demolished by hurricane Katrina. Holton calls the ground-up labor, ‘Grass-root Construction.’ They are also in the process of composing a neighborhood survey for the Gaston Point residents to check on their progress and the needs of each citizen.

The board members of the Gaston Point CDC plans to continue to thrive in the areas of, affordable housing and humanitarianism. “The most important and intriguing thing about this group is, it’s an organization that has a very specific, geographical, defined area of focus,” Lewis said.

Every Gift is a Blessing

In the “Back On Her Feet” article we shared the inspiring story of one woman who left a painful circumstance and is seeking new life at The Bridge.  Every woman we’ve encountered has her own story to tell, but I want to take this moment to share another story: the story of this community.

Since The Bridge opened its doors on September 5, I have been blessed to see God at work through his people.  People have given to The Bridge without being asked or even prompted.  A group of young children set up a lemonade stand with all proceeds going to The Bridge.  When the kids presented their proceeds to me, tears came to my eyes.  They did what they knew to help.  Another young child presented a local pastor with four dollar bills and two dimes—a sacrificial gift of a child.  Every penny makes a difference.  Every gift received a blessing.  Thank you for giving.

Every week, I see this community in action.  One day I opened the newspaper to see that a hair salon was advertising “buy one product, donate one to The Bridge.”  Another time a church called to say their youth had collected canned food items at a nightly meeting, and they filled the hallway with their donations.

The Bridge has been so blessed by all of the small groups willing to clean on a Saturday morning, Heemstra Hall guys moving furniture, people handing out pledge cards on a Saturday afternoon, Vogel donating numerous gallons of paint, a local grocer’s pledge that no one who seeks refuge at The Bridge will go hungry, and the countless hours of volunteering by electricians, plumbers, designers.   Community Ownership means everything.  As Christians, we are called to help those in need.  My heart warms with each of these examples; I love when people are moved to help and they do it!  I want to thank each and every person for helping in whatever capacity they have to keep open the doors of The Bridge.

It is through our love of God that we serve in this broken, suffering world.  The women who come to The Bridge have experienced sadness, frustration and deep disappointment.  We hope to provide more than just a roof over their head—we desire to provide a supportive, encouraging and safe place to feel God’s grace amidst their pain.  The women who call The Bridge home are amazing.  They have the courage to start their life over with a new beginning.

Valerie Stokes

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE:

Back On Her Feet

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Volunteering at The Bridge

Marla Groeneweg spends five hours a week volunteering at The Bridge because she believes in its mission.  “I’ve been so blessed that I want to be a blessing to others,” she adds.

Marla is a full-time mom of four kids.  Although many of the volunteers come to The Bridge in the evenings, Marla wanted to reserve that time for her family but she still wanted to be involved.  She contacted The Bridge to see if she could help out in the afternoons, and it ended up being a great fit.

“This is a wonderful place,” Marla says.  “I love moms and children and The Bridge provides new hope and a new beginning.  It’s so exciting to see what God will do here.”

Marla spends her time at The Bridge assisting with office duties, talking with residents, providing transportation and cleaning.

As far as encouraging others in the community to volunteer at The Bridge, Marla says, “Just do it!  Don’t let fear hold you back—take a step of faith.  If God is prompting you, be obedient.”

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE

Back On Her Feet

Every Gift Is A Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Pascale-Sykes Foundation Grant Approved

New Hope is thrilled to announce the award of a $45,000 grant from the Pascale-Sykes Foundation to fund program expansion. The grant will enable New Hope to expand its existing holistic, relationship-based food pantry ministry into a family resource center.  Families assisted by the food pantry will be supported and empowered to self-sufficiency through the addition and expansion of financial counseling, life skills workshops, parenting classes, “Jobs for Life” training, domestic violence services, and a mothers’ support network.

The Pascale Sykes Foundation supports a select number of innovative, flexible, holistic, long-range “umbrella” programs targeting low-income families that promote the independence, well being, and the integrity of the entire family unit, with emphasis on projects using integrated services and interagency linkages.  New Hope is honored to be one of the recipients of a grant from the Pascale Sykes Foundation.

The grant money is already hard at work enabling New Hope to hire several new staff members and begin program development.  New Hope has been formally and informally surveying the community for the past year to determine what services the Haledon community needs and desires.  New Hope’s program expansion is directly reflective of the Haledon community’s expressed need.  Furthermore, as a result of relationships built with food pantry clients, along with community surveys, and hours of strategic planning as a board and staff, New Hope’s vision is to provide wrap-around services resulting in a continuum of care.  New Hope believes that the resulting family resource center will more fully support and strengthen, long-term, the families of Haledon.

With the grant money and expansion, New Hope will be committing to a larger role in the surrounding community.  New Hope hopes to have your continued prayer and financial support as we work even harder to serve the needs of those in our community!

For more information on New Hope Community Ministries visit their blog site at:
http://newhopecommunityministries.blogspot.com/

Back on Her Feet

Jody (not her real name) came to The Bridge to “start her life over again” after experiencing physical abuse by her boyfriend.  She has been living at The Bridge for two months.

“I’m here to make changes and get back on my feet,” Jody says.  “I’ve made mistakes in my life but I’m learning from them and I’m getting back on track with God.”

Jody says she feels safe at The Bridge, and that there’s a lot of support and encouragement there.

“What I want to do while I’m here is to reach out to other people—maybe telling my story will encourage other women.”

After coming to The Bridge, Jody found employment and works about 35 hours a week.  She is also learning to manage and budget her money.

Eventually, Jody would like to go back to school and earn a degree in business management.  Her long-term dream is to open a restaurant or store that caters to the Hispanic community.

“Someday I also want to return to The Bridge as a volunteer,” Jody says.  “I can really relate to these women, and I want to give back however I can.”

So what is life like at The Bridge?  It looks different for each resident, but Jody spends her mornings reading or in appointments and then works in the afternoons and evenings.  She meets with a therapist regularly and is hoping to be paired with a mentor soon.  On the weekends, Jody and the other residents often join together to watch a movie and share meals.

“The Bridge is a wonderful program that offers stability and support,” she says.  “It’s given me a new start.”

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE:

Every Gift is a Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Rocking Crosstown

by George Montoya

Putting creative spin on the maxim “engage with the community,” members of the Alameda CRC have transformed a dark, abandoned Victorian hotel into the vibrant, light-infused Crosstown Community Center. This is a dynamic space for bringing new art, music and friendships to life.

Open mic nights, concerts, mother and toddler groups, knitting groups, book groups and impromptu jam sessions are among the activities that spark creativity and friendship among neighbors who otherwise would remain strangers. Crosstown was launched last August as an independent venture by Dave Nederhood, the pastor of Alameda CRC.

In an era when communities don’t really “commune,” and proliferating on every street corner are franchised coffee businesses built on a financial model that speed customers in and out, Crosstown was designed to encourage customers to sip their coffee at a leisurely pace and linger for as long as they like; even play the piano or sing if there’s an available mic. “Conversation and creativity are two powerful chemicals in any community,” says Dave. “In our case, coffee is just the catalyst that causes a great reaction between the two.”

“Our competition isn’t Starbucks. It’s television – which is what keeps people in their homes. There’s a huge need for friendships and dialogue. The community presented that need. Neighbors weren’t talking to each other.” Reaching a post-modern world with a pre-modern faith is central for Dave, and operating as an independent non-profit is critical to Crosstown’s success.

Dave wants to be able to say with integrity that it’s not an outreach program but a true collaboration with the community. While he and others are convinced that Christianity needs re-presenting, relationships formed at Crosstown are based on authentic connections born of real conversations. Pre-packaged messages are as forbidden as pre-packaged coffee. “Shared stories help focus the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in people’s lives. Crosstown’s tagline, ‘It’s about life and then some,’ indicates the process through which spiritual dialogue grows naturally out of life’s discussions.”

Crosstown is a place for community members to find their voice, to create, and to connect. Responsive to the emerging visions of the community, it’s always adding new programs to the mix. “If you’ve got a passion for it, we’ll find a way to do it!” says Dave. An example of a local talent connecting with a ready audience is “Cowboy Jared,” who walked into Crosstown one day for a cup of coffee and found the place was teeming with mothers and toddlers. After a few impromptu performances, he now packs the place on a regular basis. Toddlers depend on it.

Besides recognizing the need to create a sense of community for Alameda residents, Dave has a also longed for years to provide a place for young musical artists to be mentored and build up their reputation as artists. “Conceptually, Crosstown originated as a vision for a teen center and music venue where ministry to and with young people would happen in the context of the arts,” said Dave. He believes young artists and musicians are vital to the life of the church and should be respected and supported in tangible ways rather than marginalized. Dave says that often artists don’t get the nurturing they deserve if their art form doesn’t conform to conventional pursuits, such as playing the pipe organ, singing in the choir, or crafting stained glass windows. “Crosstown is helping to bring about good theology at the street level,” says Dave.

Suazanne Martin-Smith, the community center director, collaborated on the Crosstown vision when she recognized the need to provide mothers and toddlers with a place to connect and flourish in a coffeehouse setting. “A woman came in with two young girls,” Suzanne reported. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh! This is so great! I just met a friend in Starbucks and people were rushing us out the door, giving us dirty looks!’ Here, kids are encouraged to play and not be ‘shushed,’” said Suzanne, who orchestrates a stories and crafts program for kids.

The sweet cheery face and affectionate energy of Faith Rusca, the manager of Crosstown, is another of the many reflections of the “home sweet home” atmosphere of the place. Faith and chief barista Deb Nederhood not only know their customers’ coffee preferences, they also know their struggles.

“Sometimes Deb will come home and say, ‘John looked ten years older today. I think he’s really stressed. I’m going to pray for him,’” says Dave.

Besides prayer, church members and friends have contributed funding, volunteer time and expertise to make Crosstown happen. Bryan Gower, president of the board of directors for Crosstown, reported that community members emerged with experience in nonprofit management, coffeehouse management, bookkeeping, networking, city planning, legal services, construction, music promotion, children’s program development and fundraising. To further focus the skills of their volunteers and the direction of this ministry, Bryan, Suzanna, and Dave attended training in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). This mentality of collaboration, rather than needs-based outreach, was already in operation at Crosstown. “ABCD was a godsend,” said Dave, because it gave a language and a structure for their method of tapping into the community’s dreams, desires and resources. Soon after the leaders of Crosstown attended the training, they were off and running. Though not financially solid yet, Crosstown has already had a powerful influence on the community at large.

Three years ago when we started, there were few if any places in Alameda where kids or teens could just hang out or where families could come and enjoy music,” says Bryan. Now family-friendly and community-building places are germinating throughout the community. “I like to think that we tuned in to what Alameda needed and wanted, and we facilitated people in building community spaces,” Bryan said.

“Once in awhile, I stand back and take it all in,” says Faith who puts in about 60 hours a week at Crosstown. “Everything that we set out to do at Crosstown has flourished. It’s a home away from home, a place where you can meet like-minded individuals and form incredible relationships that create beautiful memories.”

Brave Ones

Five Nooksack Tribal members worked considerable hours and weeks, seeking to form a new non-profit organization that would help members of their tribe in areas of personal and community-wide development.  On October 4th, they were notified by the Secretary of State for the State of Washington, that they had obtained a Certificate of Incorporation.  The organization is called “Nooksacks for Hope”.Within the Nooksack tribal environment, even with a democratically elected tribal government, it is publicly recognized there are many elements of misuse of power.  Rarely are tribal members allowed to see anything remotely considered as financial records, reports or audits.  Planning and decision-making, by the Tribal Council, is often conducted in “executive session”.

A recent plan to build a Class II casino near Lynden, WA. was only revealed to tribal members 1 day prior to a general public announcement printed in the newspaper.  The Tribe and Casino management signed a $30 million financial instrument for this project…giving no time for “public comment” by tribal members.  Many people and tribal members are summarily fired for unjustified or unsubstantiated reasons, often because they “whistle-blow”, critique their tribal government or casino management by asking legitimate questions.

A thick cloud of intractable fear has caused many Nooksacks to disengage from anything political, for good reason they would loose their tribal or casino jobs; tribal housing, or, simply be ostracized.

In the face of all this, 5-brave tribal women have decided it time to organize a non-profit that will help bring about new programs and new approaches that set in motion a more healthy political and programmatic culture.  In the process of doing this, 2 of the women have been fired from their jobs within the tribe.  Yet while facing financial instability, they proceed ahead with the building up of Nooksacks for Hope.

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE NOOKSACKS FOR HOPE:

Nooksacks For Hope

Nooksack Candidates Want Openness

Nooksacks for Hope

For many years, Nooksack Tribal Indians faced great upheaval and uncertainty as Europeans began showing up in the Northwest. What once was an established cultural way of life began to fragment at the seams when tribal non-recognition was not established until the 1970′s. By this time little of the old forms of a simple and sustained earthly life were left. Little remained for glimpses into a positive future or opportunity by the remaining 1,000 tribal members. Then came the wave of “hope” by the gaming industry – casinos. In the 1980′s to present, casinos began to pop up all over the US, and run by Indian tribes. The Nooksack Tribe received their first in the mid 1990′s.

Fast forward to today.  What once was heralded as a “entrepreneurial” way for tribes to reclaim some sense of economic viability and sustainability, casinos were to capture large sums of money for the tribal interest.  Some tribes (the vast minority) have used casino profits in big ways for their people.  Most have not.  Most have kept the financials (records of case flow and profits) from the scrutiny of their own people.  Stories are abundantly replete with Tribal council members, Chairmen, casino management, skimming money from the profit into their own personal interest pockets.  The Nooksack Tribal community is one of these.

Money, and the control of money, unaccounted for, by the powerful few, has lead to a culture of “corruption” and “hopelessness” within the Nooksack Tribal community.  The majority of tribal members feel there is little hope in changing this.  While the minority few, gaining from the graft, work very hard with keeping such as “status quo”.  Tactics used by this powerful minority to resist the actions or voices of those trying to bring positive change are: unjust, without cause, firing of employees within the tribal or casino administration or management; unrestrained poisoned innuendo or gossip passed around to disparage; hidden or public physical threats of bodily harm; threats of loosing tribal housing, etc.

In the face of all this a small number of Nooksack Tribal members are “fighting” back.  They have recently formed a new non-profit organization called “Nooksacks for Hope”. While their missional program is to bring benefit to the youth, elderly and families, through various relief or developmental programs, those in power, are doing all they can via said tactics above, to crush this meager upstart band of brave ones.  This particular effort with forming a new non-profit from a group of tribal members, not associated with Nooksack Tribal government, is very unique, yet challenging.  It is providing a “platform” for conversation, planning and action, from the perspective of people, not government.  Many forces within the tribe and the casino structure are doing all they can to dishearten and dissolve this effort.  “A new day is dawning,” says Julie Jefferson, “we have new hope because we have formed this new group.”

The Nooksacks for Hope in the next 2 years, plan to help their tribal school youth with gaining basic necessities and school supplies that help them participate in the full programs of the local public school; help with geriatric services in the homes for tribal elders to help them healthily stay in their homes for as long as possible; start up an Individual Development Account program for tribal families for post-secondary education, home ownership, small business, or retirement; and, to start up a Small and Simple Grants program for the different housing neighborhoods for Nooksacks.

Presently, the Nooksacks for Hope await the response of the IRS to their recent application for tax-exempt status.

Jeff Littlejohn, Executive Director of Imagine NW!, has been providing consultation to these Nooksack members in their formation of their organization and their program plans.

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE NOOKSACKS FOR HOPE:

Brave Ones

Nooksack Candidates Want Openness

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