Grants help bridge money gaps for 20 groups in Federal Way

The city of Federal Way revealed the recipients of $20,000 worth of Community Enhancement grants, which will benefit 20 different local organizations.

A variety of groups got the awards, which range from $250 to $1,500, from athletic and cultural organizations to schools and social service groups. This is the city’s first year giving out the grants. Recipients were selected by the Human Services Commission and announced April 1.

Some of the recipients — who as of Monday had not yet been informed of the award — include Enterprise Elementary School, which will get money to start a community garden; Centerstage Theatre, the Federal Way Symphony, Kinship Care and Kikaha, a traditional Hawaiian canoe club. A total of 26 organizations applied for the grants. The grants were available to a wide range of groups, from non-profits to PTA groups and larger groups like AmeriCorps.

The Human Services Commission wanted to reach groups that could use financial assistance to work toward a goal. The grants are for a one-time expenditure or planned event, though some of the grants will continue to give. Maryanne Barnes, executive director of Birth to Three, will use the grant to buy a tablet computer for language translation. Birth to Three provides early-intervention and development services for young children and their parents; a lot of Birth to Three’s clients are non-English speaking, Barnes said, and a translation web application on a tablet computer can aid in bridging the language barrier.

“We were trying to find a cost-effective way to support our Spanish-speaking families,” she said, “knowing we can’t have all the (translation staff) we’d like.”

Barnes said that around 44 percent of Birth to Three’s clients are Hispanic, and around 27 percent do not use English as their first language. If a non-English-speaking family comes in, the tablet can stand in for a full-time translator. Last year, Barnes said, Birth to Three served around 550 children from the Federal Way School District, Auburn, Sumner, Fife, Bonney Lake, Tacoma, Milton and Edgewood.

John Richardson is the president of Kikaha and said his group will use the grant to set up a special camp this summer to attract more teenage participants. The camp will focus on Hawaiian culture, he said, and is something the group has wanted to do for years.

“A lot of the time we hear from parents and kids who want to learn more about Hawaiian culture,” he said. “We’re not as good as passing on the culture. Hopefully this will help do that.”

Founded in Federal Way in 1996, Kikaha serves adults and children ages 7 and up, and has about 130 members. Club members experience using a traditional Hawaiian canoe (wai-oli), which has a pontoon, or a ‘ama. The club practices at Steel Lake, and members participate in competitions from Puget Sound to Kona.

The grant-funded camp, Richardson said, could get more teens interested in becoming full fledged club members.

“We want to do a bonding, leadership activity,” he said. “We want to develop (the teen) program to be bigger.”

According to a city press release, the Community Enhancement grants reached a population of community and non-profit groups that usually do not receive city funding. The city dubbed the grants a success in reaching such groups.