Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

A Diverse Community Comes Together

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Sammamish_LandingSm2This weekend I attended the opening of Sammamish Landing, a park developed along Lake Sammamish by the City of Sammamish with the participation of Redmond, King County and a private donor.  As I have at previous events, I was struck by the diversity of our population.

This should no longer surprise us, of course. Microsoft alone brings people to the area from Denmark, India, Brazil, China and Mexico, just to name a few countries.

The data we use day-to-day at Together Center also reflects what we see.

  • East King County has a greater percentage of immigrants and refugees than the city of Seattle.
  • Almost a third of Bellevue residents speak a language other than English at home.
  • Half of those tapping services at HealthPoint medical clinic on our campus have a language barrier.

In response we work to ensure that everyone can get to the services they need. For example, the cultural navigator program we worked to launch (coordinated by Chinese Information & Service Center) helped 1,900 people in 2012 with information and assistance.

An e-mail arrived today that resonated along these lines:  Fiesta de voluntarios en Idylwood park! the notice promoted in Spanish. Come be part of a work party to upgrade the park.

It’s a reminder that the Eastside is made up of people, and people have similarities in key ways.  No matter their ethnicity, people want to pitch in and build the community. (Indeed, on Together Center’s Board of Directors are immigrants from Great Britain and Bangladesh.)  People speaking other languages, no surprise, need to tap the same health and human services as everyone else.  And hurray!  People from around the globe want to gather, celebrate community, and party together!

Shared Spaces: A Continuing Education

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Shared Space and Shared Services. Those are the current terms.

I had only recently learned to use “multi-tenant nonprofit center,” as in Together Center is one of the first multi-tenant nonprofit centers in the country.

That is now old news, apparently. That the term for our model is still changing reflects the fact that despite our Center being over 20 years old, a “one-stop nonprofit hub”  (our other descriptor) is still a vibrant, innovative concept.  The professional dictionary is catching up to the work done many years ago by Together Center founders who were one of the first in the nation to  gather multiple human service agencies under one roof (or three, as the case may be).

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Nonprofit Shared Space and Services Conference in Denver on our rebranding process a couple years ago. One of the pleasures of this invitation was hearing cascades of approval of our name, logo and other features.  It was great to get a national view. As I posted on Facebook:  “You like us. You really like us!”

Among the many presentations I attended, one included academic research on the benefits and results of “shared spaces.”   Diane Kaplan Vinokur of the University of Michigan confirmed that small agencies pay significantly less by leasing shared space than they do leasing elsewhere.   Janet Boguslaw of Brandeis University noted, “Nonprofit centers offer a structural framework that moves organizations beyond their traditional silos to enable systems-level impact.”

Systems-level impact was the theme for many speakers.  Shared spaces are not simply a benefit to nonprofits. They are a means for communities to transform themselves.  Last year Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock signed Executive Order 138 to give strong endorsement for all city agencies to consider shared spaces as a tool to support nonprofits and further economic development.

I visited several high-impact hubs that benefit the environment, the arts and nonprofit capacities. I came home full of ideas to steal and reenergized to work toward the replication of an effective model for bettering our communities in multiple ways.

Leaders share their own stories of the services they needed

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Last Fall when we chatted with Sammamish Chamber’s Deb Sogge, we were struck by her personal story of a time when her family really struggled. We were humbled by her willingness to share how Together Center had personally impacted her life.

We should not have been surprised.

We heard similar stories of troubled times at a gathering today of community leaders offering their assistance.  They included spokespeople for major Eastside companies. Elected officials.  Civic club leaders.  Our own Board of Directors.  Gathered for lunch based on their ability to draw other leaders, we heard:

“I lived in my car with a child.”

“After my divorce, I learned that just a little help can make a huge difference.”

“I was raised by a disabled single parent. We survived with welfare and free lunch programs.”

“I’ve used the youth counseling programs at YES, and HealthPoint’s medical services. I am a Together Center client.”

We were humbled once again by the willingness of people to share their stories.  Their empathy toward those in need of human services was made all the clearer.  They know well:  all people need a little help now and then. With supports in place when they are needed, future leaders survive and thrive.

The Eastside Myth

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

When I moved from Seattle to the Eastside in the late eighties, my friends rolled their eyes with urban sophistication. They mocked my move to what they considered to be the monotonously wealthy Eastside.

I quickly learned the falsity of this view. Sure, there was lots of evidence of money but working and volunteering in health and human services made crystal clear the diversity of people, even in the 80s.

More than 20 years later, with even greater density and variety of people, that myth of a uniformly well-off Eastside is even less true, yet the myth still sticks.  And, moreover, it hurts.

Nearly 5% of families live in poverty in East King County. That’s more than 20,000 people. It hurts when our community assumes its needs are met.  It hurts when funding moves elsewhere. Hunger feels as badly here as anywhere, as does homelessness or domestic violence.

This misconception has long been called The Eastside Myth by agency staffs. It is just one of a number of myths that keep us from creating the community we all want: healthy and thriving.

The Eastside Human Services Forum (, one of our partners, has chosen to take on the important work of combating such never-true myths, as well as growing the understanding of available services and those who use them. We look forward to sharing the results.

Hard to Believe: Higher Incomes Are Not a Refuge

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Hard to believe.  Higher incomes are not a refuge from one of our most serious problems:  domestic violence.

“Domestic violence occurs in all communities, cultures and income levels.  Our community is not immune to this problem,” Together Center’s newest Board Member and Redmond Assistant Police Chief Kristi Wilson said recently.

One of Together Center’s key messages is that human services are not just for the poor.  People of all income levels utilize community supports such as those on the Together Center campus.  Domestic violence, among other areas of need, impacts people of all cultures, all ethnicities and all income levels.

We recall one Eastside woman with two young kids who visited our door week after week in tears, unable to find a safe place to live despite abuse by a husband.

On another day, the ostensibly wealthy wife of a software professional sought help, terrified at any moment that her husband was stalking her.  Days later: the same scenario with a different mother.  For these women, refuge was found with a great deal of perseverance, but the odds are poor.

LIFEWIRE, which offers safe housing, tells us they must now turn away 34 of every 35 women who seek emergency refuge in shelter with them.

A well-known Group Health Cooperative study showed that domestic violence rate for women in King County is nearly twice that found in national studies (44% had experienced at least one incident).  And interestingly, their study pool included primarily white, higher educated and employed women.

People like many of you and me.  People who belong to Chambers of Commerce.  People who operate businesses nearby.

It’s true. People of all income levels utilize health and human services, including help with domestic violence.  With your support of community services, assistance may be available for everyone when they really need the help.

 (For information and referral to community services, call 211. The LIFEWIRE hotline is 425-746-1940.)

Warm for Winter Drive Impresses

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Barrett & Tom from Congregations for the Homeless pick up hats, scarves.The donation of large boxes of hats, gloves and scarves to our Warm for Winter drive continued into the new year, which is fine by us. The need continues.  Over 1,000 pieces were donated by on-campus agency staff members and friends in the community, in particular staff of Alexander, Morford & Woo.

Today,  Barrett and Tom from Congregations for the Homeless picked up the last of several large boxes of hats, scarves and gloves.  They were especially surprised to learn that most of the pieces are brand new and still in packaging. This made quite an impression.

Thank you, again, to those helping to make this drive a success.

Campus meeting brings good news

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Monthly the 18 agencies gather in a regular meeting with a variety of purposes, including sharing the latest news.  This week’s Together Center Association meeting had an unusual amount of good news. Just a sampling:

Transition Academy informed us that 9 of 10 graduating this year from their program for developmentally disabled students have paid employment lined up.

Child Care Resources reported that they planned to be much busier on the campus in the coming year.  They plan to double the child care providers they impact with training and other tools.

Friends of Youth’s Homeless Youth Service Center has increased the number of youth they shelter at night from 15 to 20 at least until April, thanks to a grant.  That’s a big help to vulnerable young people in these cold months.

We are excited by all that our agencies can achieve in these economically difficult times.

Pam Mauk