Faith-based organizations network in the name of community service

Federal Way's faith-based organizations are full of aspiring ideas and much-desired resources.

However, long-term partnerships and a central communication system among groups are needed.

More than 60 individuals, mostly representing the city's churches, gathered at the second Coffee and Conversation event, hosted by the human services department on July 15. The event was designed both as a networking opportunity among church groups and as a way to brainstorm how to better serve the community's needs.

"Very few cities have gotten around to trying to bring faith communities together intentionally," resident Bill Lagerquist said.

Federal Way's low-income, homeless, youth and elderly populations need help from the city's many churches. Individually, faith-based organizations offer several beneficial programs. They operate food banks, provide life and job training, mentor youths, help residents pay electric bills, staff a winter shelter for men and more.

Working together, they could expand those efforts.

"It doesn't matter which organization or who you are, we're all a neighbor," human services manager Lynnette Hynden said.

Communication is the key

One of the largest problems facing the area's non-profit and faith-based organizations is a lack of a central communication system. Pastors and church leaders do not all know one another, nor are they aware of the services other area churches offer residents, several in attendance said.

A comprehensive list of churches, their contact information and the services they offer to the needy would be helpful, said Jesus Nacanaynay from Valley Cities Consulting.

Currently, when a church is unable to meet a need or provide a service, it is not known what other local organizations are equipped to address the problem, said Joe Roni from St. Theresa's and St. Vincent de Paul Society.

"We don't seem to have a very big resource list," he said.

Having that information is not enough. Volunteers in the city's faith-based organizations must be willing to work together, despite differences in ethnicity and religious sects, to properly serve the city and its residents.

"We have all these barriers that need to be broken because of all these cultures," resident Louis Guiden Jr. said.

Coming up

The city will continue to offer Coffee and Conversation meetings, Hynden said. Attendance at the event was three mores more than Hynden expected. She hopes to gather a core activist group representing the faith-based organizations to continue uniting the churches and begin linking those organizations with local businesses and the school district, she said.

She encouraged those in attendance to sign up for the city's e-subscribe services to stay updated on human services announcements. The next meetings will bring representatives from the school district together in October.

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