Doug Baxter has always had a desire to help youth, which is why much of the work he does in the community revolves around them.
Baxter, who has worked as CHI Franciscan Health violence prevention coordinator for the past five years, went to college with the intention of becoming a teacher, but decided it wasn’t for him.
“I knew I always wanted a job that supported youth, just not 30 at a time, so I got a job at Big Brothers Big Sisters,” he said. “Youth mentoring is kind of how I got my calling working with youth.”
After working for Big Brothers Big Sisters for a few years, Baxter got a job with Communities In Schools Federal Way running the organization’s mentoring program. Then he took a position with CHI Franciscan.
“When you work in a mentoring program, you see kids that just need people to believe in them,” he said. “Most of our families here do, but you need more than just your parents to support you. You need people who don’t even know you. Kids need to know their community has their back – not just their family. That’s why this work is so rewarding.”
Baxter is a native of the Portland, Oregon, area and attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
“I went to school here, liked the area and ended up getting a job here after graduation,” he said.
In his role at CHI Franciscan, Baxter works with community organizations and efforts aimed at supporting youth.
“Our goal has always been to reduce youth violence, whether juvenile suspensions or expulsions in school or juvenile arrests,” he said.
Baxter served as chair of Federal Way’s Violence Prevention Coalition Steering Committee, which was formed after a string of homicides in 2016.
While the committee is no longer meeting actively, Baxter is involved in several initiatives and events came out of the Violence Prevention Coalition Steering Committee’s recommendations.
One of those events was a firearm storage giveaway on May 12 at Sportsman’s Warehouse that Baxter helped coordinate through Seattle Children’s Hospital, in partnership with CHI Franciscan and the city of Federal Way.
“I didn’t know who did that, but through the grapevine, I got connected to Seattle Children’s Hospital, and we asked them to bring that program here,” he said.
The event was a success, distributing 325 firearm storage devices, Baxter said.
“We actually have a few extras that we are giving to community partners,” he said.
Getting youth connected to employment opportunities was another goal that came out of the committee’s recommendations.
Baxter helped lead the Youth Employment Support (YES) Network, which is made up local organizations committed to expanding a viable, dependable workforce of entry-level employees in Federal Way. In February, the YES Network launched a five-session job training program for nearly 30 students at Todd Beamer High School. It culminated with a job fair in April.
Baxter is also active in the Federal Way Youth Action Team, another product of the violence prevention task force aimed at reducing the number of youth in the juvenile justice system.
“We keep waiting for these programs to come down from Seattle,” Baxter said. “All the money is concentrated up (in Seattle) and we kept saying ‘if we only had that program up there or if we had their funding.’ We were waiting for these programs to come in and save us. The Youth Action Team was a great way for us to say ‘you know what? We need to create our own solution, so how do we home-grow this?’”
It is important for everyone in the community to come together, Baxter said.
“How can we as a community fill a void? How can our community wrap our hands around neighborhoods and kids? It is hard. It takes years to see progress in some of this stuff, but once you do, you want to see,” he said. “How can this grow? How can this progress? How can we help more kids? How can this move to another neighborhood? What new place has a need that our community can fill a gap with?”
For the past three years, Baxter has served as emcee for the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking’s annual Break the Chains Against Human Trafficking 5K. This year’s event took place on May 19. Baxter also emcees FWCAT’s forum each January.
Jennifer Cox, who worked with Baxter on CHI Franciscan’s youth violence prevention initiative, said Baxter has a genuine interest in humanity.
“He goes about his day with the intention of positively impacting anyone he comes in contact with and the programs he represents,” Cox said.
Baxter is often asked to take the lead on projects, something he willingly does, Cox said.
“If he becomes part of a committee, the natural next step is to invite Doug to become the chairperson,” she said. “He has a natural leadership ability that you can’t necessarily learn. It is just a part of who he is.”
Baxter is transitioning to a new position at CHI Franciscan as a community integration program manager, where he will oversee implementation of needs assessments at eight area hospitals.
While his role is changing, Baxter says he still plans to be active in the community.
“I will always be involved,” he said. “It just might be a little different,” he said.