by Kirby Lindsay, posted 8 August 2012
After 17 years, FamilyWorks still experiences occasional identity problems. The non-profit family resource center rents space in the same building where Solid Ground has its headquarters, although FamilyWorks exists as a separate non-profit. Also, while located in Wallingford – at 1501 N 45th St – FamilyWorks is the food bank for Fremont – serving the homeless and those who live in the 98103, 98107, 98115 & 98133 zip codes.
The Fremont Food Bank
Some may confuse FamilyWorks, but the incredible work done there in providing for the basic needs of our community’s poor cannot be ignored. Last year, 1,429 households accessed the food bank, which distributed 450 tons of food – almost entirely due to generous volunteers who organize and distribute the donated food. Also in 2011, volunteers gave 5,025 hours to FamilyWorks – to feed the hungry.
Volunteers don’t usually hand out food – most clients can move down ‘the line’ filling their own bags with what they know they can use – but volunteers do sort through literally tons of non-perishable food. One area of the food bank has shelves of pre-assembled ‘no cook bags’ to give to those who can’t cook – usually because they lack access to a cook source. On a tour of the FamilyWorks facility Director Jake Weber (a staff member since 1997) pointed out the area carefully maintained by a volunteer with the baby food and formula, all categorized to make it easy to track expiration dates – and dispose of any foods that fall past the date stamp.
The ultimate goal by volunteers and staff at FamilyWorks is to help clients on “the path to resiliency,” Weber explained. In addition to food, FamilyWorks can help clients connect to other resources including providing referrals to other programs (such as those upstairs at Solid Ground,) and/or meeting with the FamilyWorks Family Advocate, Virginia Gonzalez.
Weber takes pride in a survey of food bank clients that showed 90% rated FamilyWorks as ‘very welcoming,’ and they felt ‘very respected,’ by volunteers and the few staff there. “We try very hard to make it welcoming here,” she admitted, “people can feel part of a community.”
That sense of community has often led clients to give back. Active food bank clients occasionally bring in excess produce grown in their home gardens. Another example is David Tate, a regular food bank volunteer, who originally found FamilyWorks when he walked in off the street and the organization, he says, saved his life.
The Fremont Family Resource Center
FamilyWorks also provides services as one of the seven family resource centers in Seattle. After families with children select the food they need, they can visit the office to pick out a free children’s book, toys, diapers, and clothes for the kids (donated in large part by Kids On 45th, a local consignment store.) They can also get registration information on W.I.C. – a Federal nutritional program for pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.
The FamilyWorks offices aren’t large. After all, of the staff of 11, only three are full-time. Yet, in the office they have a public-access computer, and offer a weekly class – led by a volunteer – on computer usage. Volunteers also help with instruction on job searches, and other life skills. For other clients, FamilyWorks provides teen parent programs, and a single parent support group.
In the back of the office, the largest room has been well-outfitted for family use. Here play groups take place for children 5 and under, some facilitated and others not. On Tuesdays, a ‘Grupo de Juego en Español’ take place from 11a – 12:30a, and from 1:30p – 3p they have a Japanese playgroup. Recently, a community member contacted FamilyWorks about starting a playgroup for Iraqi families – run by an Iraqi parent. “I love when people initiate stuff,” Weber remarked.
To Get Help & Give Help
She also appreciates people who initiate fundraisers, and food drives, for FamilyWorks – like Tara Shuttleworth has done with The Goddess Festival on August 25th from Noon to 9p. Held in Lower Woodland Park, this ‘party with a purpose’ has arts & crafts, music, food, a beer garden and children’s activities, all organized to raise money for our family center, as well as the Wallingford Community Senior Center and Savor The Sound.
Also, each year FamilyWorks holds its own fundraiser – coming up this year on October 21st at Tom Douglas’ Palace Ballroom. The intimate dinner and silent auction serves as the primary fundraiser that supports the FamilyWorks programs. This year the keynote speaker will be Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large.
Still, small donations – of food or money – make it possible to keep the food bank open to distribute food to the hungry. While holiday-time food drives can be popular, the poor need food year-round. The newly-redesigned FamilyWorks website does give visitors an excellent checklist on how to hold a successful food drive – at a party, a community event or in your business.
Giving money, rather than canned food, may actually do more as FamilyWorks uses those funds to buy specific items in short supply, using bulk purchasing methods and discounts from supportive stores. Donations can be made on-line, or by mailing a check to FamilyWorks.
One more essential need is time. Every week, the FamilyWorks food bank distributes food – and services – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, for a few hours. “It takes 25 hours of volunteer/staff time for every hour [the food bank] is open,” Weber explained.
Thanks to volunteers, they’ve been able to expand the Thursday hours to 7p, “for people who work during daytime hours,” she said. They also open on 3rd Saturdays, “toward the end of the month, when people run out of money,” Weber explained.
Finally, for those looking for another way to help, FamilyWorks clients need bus tickets, “because people need to get around,” and socks.
To learn more about FamilyWorks, visit the website. The Fremont food bank and family resource center may be located up the hill in Wallingford, but it stands ready to help those in need, and waiting for those who want to help!
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.