In 1987, the Associated Ministries Day of Awareness sponsored a forum called Housing the Homeless: Community Action Day. Local activists, housing providers, and government officials discussed the problem of limited housing opportunities for residents experiencing homelessness. Many of them continued to brainstorm solutions long after the forum, most of which fell outside realm of the current social safety nets. Then, in 1990, a group of these participants banded together and founded Homes First! as a legal entity that could actively create housing opportunities for people with low incomes.
Homes First! acquires and remodels homes, apartments, and duplexes, collaborates with local organizations, and works with individuals to find them affordable places to live. It currently rents 42 units to individuals and families, whose rent payments go to fund maintenance, staff oversight, and future housing projects. A three-person team conducts operations at Homes First!, ensuring that it maintains an active link to the county. Homes First! also works with other nonprofits to find homes for people with disabilities or addiction issues, and to advocate for homes for people experiencing homelessness.
Emergency Food Network (EFN) strives to provide a reliable food supply to 67 food banks and hot-meal sites to ensure that no one in Pierce County goes hungry. Each year, EFN supplies more than 13 million pounds of nutritious food—including fresh produce from its 8-acre organic Mother Earth Farm—for distribution to families and individuals from low-income households.
For students to be successful in school, they need to know that they’re safe and secure and that people care about them. Working with this in mind, Communities In Schools of Peninsula rallies local support for children and provides programs and services to assist students in ways not always available through the school system. The organization takes a focused approach to helping kids: mentors and volunteers take time to get to know the children, and one mentor usually stays paired with the same students throughout the school year. With this approach, they can coordinate services that meet their students’ specific needs, from helping them get eyeglasses to providing one-on-one afterschool tutoring.
Communities In Schools of Peninsula’s programs include mentoring elementary- and middle-school students in reading and math, raising funds for school supplies for students in need, and supporting school strategies to eliminate bullying and harassment. The organization also connects students with summer-camp scholarships, empowering at-risk youth to stay out of trouble.
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Rebuilding Together South Sound works to improve the lives of low-income homeowners—particularly those who are elderly, disabled, or have children—by repairing and rebuilding their homes at no cost. Along with year-round home modification and emergency repairs, the organization also hosts an annual event, Rebuilding Day, where a skilled volunteer crew helps transform a home with repairs that might include plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry, along with fixing roofs, windows, and flooring.
Before opening up shop in 2011, self-taught baker Maricel spent 10 years honing her skills and taste testing her creations with her husband and three daughters. These days, she continues using natural and organic ingredients to whip up cupcakes, mini cupcakes, and tartlets entirely from scratch. The core of her tartlet arsenal remains sweet potato, peach cobbler, and pecan, but her cupcakes and mini cupcakes constantly evolve with innovative flavors such as a maple cupcake topped with bacon pieces and a coconut cupcake slathered with cream cheese frosting. Along with individual and by the dozen purchases, Maricel dispenses her mini cupcakes in bouquets and atop rental towers, which fit 50–60 treats. Every Tuesday through Saturday, she and her dedicated staffers are available to take orders and walk customers through the process of shrinking cakes with repeated dryer sessions.
As part of its mission to empower students to stay in school and achieve in life, Communities In Schools works with schools, social-service providers, and businesses in more than 200 communities across 27 states, including Federal Way, Washington. Its volunteers and outreach coordinators work to equip each young person they serve with the specific tools they require to learn, grow, and succeed, whether they need a pair of eyeglasses or afterschool tutoring. Programs such as Communities In Schools' mentoring program have experienced proven success and resulted in higher graduation rates, according to recent third-party findings.