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Help Our Neighbors Thrive, With FamilyWorks

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 25 January 2017

 

FamilyWorks provides food, along with other basic services and resources to those struggling in our community.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov '16

FamilyWorks provides food, along with other basic services and resources to those struggling in our community. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov ’16

Through the winter, we may not see as clearly the struggle for survival that some of our neighbors deal with daily.  Yet, one place is always open and available, year ‘round, to help those in our community get their basic needs met – our food bank, FamilyWorks.

FamilyWorks serves the homeless, and those who live in vehicles or other non-housing.  FamilyWorks also serves people who feel ‘home-insecure’, and people struggling with limited finances in other ways.  The food bank provides nutrition staples, so clients can put their scarce funds towards paying for other necessities.  FamilyWorks also provides information and resources so that clients can find solutions for their struggles, and even success!

‘Help People Thrive’

“We have seen a definite increase in the need for our food bank” observed Jake Weber, FamilyWorks Director.  They’ve seen a 30% increase of people using FamilyWorks’ nutrition services in 2016, and a 50% increase over the last two years.  Also, “we opened the Greenwood Food Bank in April of 2016,” she explained, “that contributed to the increase.”

FamilyWorks food bank receives delivery of staples to round out generous donations from the general public.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov '16

FamilyWorks food bank receives delivery of staples to round out generous donations from the general public. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov ’16

“People are struggling to pay their bills,” Weber observed about FamilyWorks’ clients.  Rising prices make it harder and harder for those with already limited disposable incomes to manage.  “I believe the Seattle Food Banks help to prevent homelessness,” Weber observed, “The food saves them money for rent or other essentials.”

“Having the food is such a stress reliever,” Weber observed.  Getting such a basic need met takes away a huge worry and source of anxiety about how parents will feed themselves or their family.  In addition, FamilyWorks’ staff also provides personal support to clients, when requested, and create a positive, inclusive community for everyone who comes in.  “We want to do what we can to help people thrive,” Weber explained.

Knocking Down Barriers

FamilyWorks has Family Advocates that work at the Wallingford office on Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays.  The Advocates, “sit with people and think through all the potential connections,” available to assist with solutions, Weber explained.  Struggles faced by FamilyWorks’ clients face vary according to each individual, yet the Advocates know of programs and resources – and how to best access them – that can lead clients to individual answers.

FamilyWorks also has Teen Parent Coordinator Gladys Martinez, who aids young parents (ages 23 or less) with finding their way with housing, education, employment and, of course, parenting.  Martinez offers case management, advocacy and referrals.  “I listen to what their needs are,” she explained, “this demographic falls through the cracks,” and she wants to help them, and their children, succeed.  Martinez has worked with clients as young as 15, and has seen the benefits they can reap after they knock down barriers, such as affordable day care, accessible schooling or finding work.

Teen Parent Advocate Gladys Martinez with one of her craft projects she will teach clients during a parenting session.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov '16

Teen Parent Advocate Gladys Martinez with one of her craft projects she will teach clients during a parenting session. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov ’16

More often than not Martinez has to help the young parent(s) find permanent housing.  Most bunk with family or float about through transitional housing, and she has helped them find a permanent place, where they and their kids can feel safe and settled.  With clients Martinez works on goal setting and establishing direction, but she does so without hounding them or doing the work for them.  “I’m there to support them,” she said, “regardless.”  Some clients don’t want to do the work, or take her advice, and “I give them their space,” she acknowledged, while always remaining available, for when they might ask again.

With Our Help

In addition to operating the food bank on N 45th Street, FamilyWorks opened a Food Bank in Greenwood in partnership with The Salvation Army.  (The Volunteers of America Greenwood food bank had shut down in March 2016 due to a lack of funding.)  FamilyWorks distributes food at 95th Street & Greenwood Ave N to zip codes 98103, 98107, 98115, 98117, 98133 and 98177 on Wednesdays from 11a – 2p.  Meanwhile, annual funding is being sought (about $20,000 – $25,000 a year,) to keep these services available in the Greenwood community.

The support for FamilyWorks comes from grants (they received a Tableau Community Grant in 2016,) the City of Seattle, and the essential financial and in-kind donations of private citizens.

Of course, donations of food, like those collected during Holiday food drives and the Fremont Fun Run, are absolutely vital.  Mike Cox, FamilyWorks Food Bank Manager, can offer organizers signs and barrels, to make hosting a collection easier.  FamilyWorks also invites groups of people to assist at the Food Bank with sorting and packaging for selection and distribution to clients.  FamilyWorks’ Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Ralston can assist those interested in helping, including those who want to assist with cooking classes, to find the best way to lend their skills.

Volunteers and staff members sort and package the food donations in preparation for the arrival of clients.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov '16

Volunteers and staff members sort and package the food donations in preparation for the arrival of clients. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov ’16

With food donations, Weber acknowledged that the needed items are:

  • juices
  • granola bars
  • proteins (such as nuts)
  • peanut butter
  • non-cook products (chili, stews and pop-top, single-serve items are especially appreciated)
  • hygiene supplies
  • adult socks
  • gently used toys and children’s clothing

FamilyWorks has other nutrition programs, such as the Power Pack Program, at local elementary schools including B.F. Day Elementary, providing food for children who need something to get them through the weekend (when school lunches aren’t provided,) and delivering food to approximately 100 elders in their homes.

Not Always Who You Think

The FamilyWorks food bank provides basic services to those most marginalized and fighting for survival in our community, but the people using the food bank services aren’t always who you think.  Weber gave age breakdowns for the clients:  42% are Seniors (55+,) 36% Adults, 22% Children & Infants.  Weber acknowledged that substance abuse and mental health are issues for many FamilyWorks clients, “but it’s not the bulk of who we serve.”

In addition to nutritional programs, FamilyWorks provides other resources such as a public computer and a free book area.  (Decorated with colorful peace flags made by clients.)  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov '16

In addition to nutritional programs, FamilyWorks provides other resources such as a public computer and a free book area. (Decorated with colorful peace flags made by clients.) Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Nov ’16

Instead, Weber finds that among clients at the food bank, the staff predominantly serve “people who are on fixed incomes.”  They meet working families, many of whom got behind or overwhelmed, temporarily, due to unexpected illness or other major life change that increased their expenses, and decreased their income.

FamilyWorks operates year ‘round, serving those in our community in the most need – and, hopefully, helping them not only survive but thrive.  Find out more about FamilyWorks through its website, or contact them at 206/694-6727 or info@familyworksseattle.org to find out how to get involved!

 

 

 


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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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