Agencies that focus on families merge

"Three Federal Way family centers that aim to build family and community relationships will stay open thanks to a recent merger.That's good news for 12-year-old Fazeema Bano, who belongs to the homework club at the Appian Way center.It helps me out a lot, said the Totem Junior High School student. I get the help I need and I also have fun instead of staying home and watching TV. That's boring.The twining of Federal Way Family Centers and Federal Way Youth and Family Services also makes the services of the latter more accessible to residents here, said Brian Wilson, board president for Federal Way Youth and Family Services.The Federal Way family centers, located in the Appian Way, Laurelwood Gardens and Waterstone Place apartment complexes, serve 500 to 700 people each month, said former family center board president Linda Hill.Services run the gamut from homework clubs for kids to teen movie nights to English as a Second Language classes to family support through classes and programs, she said. Some centers have even held computer classes for seniors.A lot of people just think of the kids, but it was never designed that way, Hill said. It's supposed to be for everybody.Federal Way Youth and Family Services is a multi-service mental health agency that also provides support services for domestic violence victims, help for people with chemical dependency and other family support services.Wilson said the merger is a good fit that brings resources that used to be separate together, which will translate to better overall service.In addition, Federal Way Youth and Family Services can now be accessed at the family centers, he said.Bringing the agency closer to home eliminates barriers to gaining service, such as lack of transportation or no warm clothing or coats, he said.The biggest benefit is our programs are close to people's homes, agreed Christi Hnat, program coordinator for the Appian Way family center.Hill said the family centers would have closed without the merger. Funding is really hard to get right now for non-profits, so we asked that ...they absorb us, she said.Hnat said the merger, which occurred in July, did more than keep the centers open - it strengthened them. It's a whole new world of support for my program, she said, adding it's a relief not to worry about funding all the time and to have more staff support and resources.The merger will, in fact, allow the combined agency to open a fourth family center at Kings Court apartments, Hill said.Not all family centers offer the same programs, Hnat said. Though programs are open to anyone in Federal Way or Kent, the services at each center are determined by the need in each center's immediate service area.It's very grass roots, she said. Because of that, it increases our responsiveness.For example, the Laurelwood family center has a large Russian and Ukraine population, so the center coordinator recruited a volunteer ESL teacher from the Ukranian Christian Center.Center coordinators also serve as a resource by working with other local agencies, such as the King County Housing Authority and the Federal Way Multi-Service Center, to make sure families gain access to the services they need, she said.Though services are now more comprehensive at the centers, Bano and 8-year-old Palvi Soni, a Sunnycrest Elementary School student, say they're just glad the programs they're used to will stay at Appian Way.Aside from the homework club that Bano attends with friends, she says she enjoys weekend art clubs and using the learning center, which features a computer with Internet access.Soni's favorite is a monthly reading raffle that kids can enter. Kids who read for 20 minutes can enter their name and a description of what they've read in the drawing. Soni, this month's winner, will get taken to lunch and will receive a new book. "

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