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Benefit speakers say Fig Tree helps them make connections

The Fig Tree is more than words on a page.  It is flesh and blood in our community, said the Rev. Kevin Dow, pastor of Highland Park United Methodist Church and Fig Tree board member, as he introduced speakers during The Fig Tree’s 2013 Benefit Breakfast March 13.  Their presentations follow.  Lunch talks will be in May. Watch the four videos of our speakers below.

Denise Attwood found help starting in fair trade
with Ganesh Himal Trading Co. and new Power of 5 project

Denise Attwood
Denise Attwood

When my husband and I started our career in fair trade in 1984, we looked into many quizzical faces as we described how we wanted to create a fair-trade business that would partner with marginalized people in Nepal, provide them with fair wages and long-term trading relationships that would allow them what we all want:  the ability to have stability in their lives, to educate their children, to be able to make choices and to care for their communities.

Sometimes it’s hard to connect with the interested and concerned people.  How do you make the connections?  How do you find your people, support base and volunteers.  If you’re lucky, you find The Fig Tree, and that’s what happened to us and the fair trade movement in Spokane. 

If you heard about fair trade in Spokane, it’s likely you either heard it from my mom, Joy Attwood, or you read about it in The Fig Tree, which has been reporting about the importance of fair trade since the early 1990s. The Fig Tree has written numerous informative, in depth articles about fair trade, not only on our business but on the many fair trade events and businesses that have grown in the Spokane area. 

The Fig Tree has given area readers the tools to educate themselves on why and how they can become involved in this movement.  They have not only connected us to each other, but also connected us to the Spokane community and the greater world. 

Those at The Fig Tree know the community so intimately that they can find stories that aren’t even formed yet and help bring them into bloom and to fruition.

Last October, Mary Stamp called, asking what Ganesh Himal was up to.   It happened that I had an idea a few days before that I had not yet put together.

I told Mary that earlier in the year when I was in Nepal I had had my heart broken.  For years our business has provided three-year scholarships so artisans could keep their children in school.  When we asked two of the girls who had received scholarships how they liked school their faces lit up telling about school. When we asked what they wanted to do after school, their faces dropped and they said, “We don’t know.  Our scholarships are finished and we don’t know if we will be able to go back to school.”

I had to hold back tears, because I could see the potential of these girls.

So I pondered what to do and I came up with this idea.  It takes only $5 a month to come up with scholarships for 160 girls who receive them. 

Anyone could give $5.  So I called it the Power of Five.  I explained this to Mary.  Two weeks later The Fig Tree published a story: “Ganesh Himal launches scholarship project to support education for girls in Nepal.”  Mary described the plan of how $5 bookmarks would raise funds for scholarships. Not only did The Fig Tree spur us into action, but before we could print bookmarks, a reader from Cheney came to Kizuri to pick up a packet before they were available.

Two weeks ago, I was in Nepal and delivered $7,300 for the scholarship fund.  Now the Power of 5 is well on its way to providing girls with scholarships for all 10 years of their schooling.

Because of The Fig Tree, there are far fewer quizzical faces when I describe fair trade with Nepal.  There are many more supporters of this movement in the Inland Northwest and there are 160 girls in Nepal whose futures are brighter.  That to me is connection.

View the full size video of Denise Attwood at the Benefit Breakfast

Jan Martinez says The Fig Tree starting on a shoestring inspired her as she started Christ Kitchen

Jan Martinez
Jan Martinez

Mary Stamp started The Fig Tree working out of her home on a shoestring budget.  As I was beginning Christ Kitchen, she was my hero.  If she could do it, I might be able to do it, too. 

Before Christ Kitchen started, The Fig Tree covered Christ Clinic, a medical clinic for the working poor in Spokane, and people began learning about services for uninsured people.  In 1993, I began as a therapist at the clinic and saw women who were from tough and hurting backgrounds, and also extremely isolated. 

Connections were not a part of their lives.  We started a Bible study and a small job training project to bring women into connection.  In 1988, we started with one product, pinto beans—still one of our products—and two women from Christ Clinic. 

Slowly in the last 15 years we have grown to 38 women in poverty preparing 39 products we sell throughout the nation. 

The Fig Tree began covering our little progress as we started this business of selling beans so God could work at the big business of saving lives.  Our advertising budget since 1988 has been zero. 

The Fig Tree has connected our ministry and products with the community.  People have discovered us.  It has covered our functions, our women’s transformation and our ministries’ growth.  Selling products supports our ministry.  Starting as a therapist I had no idea how to sell beans.  The Fig Tree has connected us with the community. 


So Christ Clinic and Christ Kitchen are grateful for The Fig Tree’s ability to see how it could help us, even before we could see it.  We are indebted to you.

Peggie Troutt of Calvary Soup Kitchen finds that new
volunteers still mention the article in The Fig Tree

Peggie Troutt
Peggie Troutt

I am here to share about the connections Calvary Soup Kitchen has made since we have been in operation for three and a half years.  From the first article The Fig Tree wrote, we have been getting volunteers monthly, referencing that they read the article in The Fig Tree and want to support us.  It has been three years, and volunteers still mention the 2010 article and the most recent article written in January.

We’ve made connections with other church groups, auxiliaries, youth groups, young adults, women’s ministries and students from elementary through college. 

Many parents bring their children to teach them early about serving in the community.  Many say they read about Calvary Soup Kitchen in The Fig Tree.  These connections are like leaves that keep growing into beautiful relationships.  Many volunteers have become friends and look forward to returning and scheduling on the same dates as their new friends.  Some have come and recognized friends they have not seen for years.

See what The Fig Tree has done just by sharing with the community what’s out there and needing support. 

I know much of the community reads The Fig Tree because when donations come in or I get emails, reference is made about seeing the article in The Fig Tree. 

We owe much of our success to The Fig Tree.  We thank them for their service to the Spokane community.  Calvary Soup Kitchen has gone from serving five meals the first Saturday to having served a total of more than 13,000 meals in the little house next to Calvary Baptist Church. 

Many thought that could not be done. It takes faith and prayers to keep these ministries going, and I’m sure it takes faith and prayers to keep The Fig Tree going.  We thank you for your work to get the word out about faith-driven ministries. 

View the fullsize video of Peggie Troutt at the Benefit Breakfast

John Osborn of Sierra Club and VA Medical Center
emphasizes the role of empowering and caring

John Osborn
John Osborn

At one time, we published using typewriters, press type and light tables.  Technology has changed over time and opportunities to create that rough draft of history are more powerful now than before.  We often underestimate the amount of the work and labor of love that goes into a periodical that records news.

As a physician and conservationist, I recognize the moral foundation in caring for others and caring for creation.

The Fig Tree helps underscore moral connections in both areas—caring for people at the end of life and dealing with ethical conflicts that arise, or caring to restore the Spokane River and acting to remedy the enormous pollution burden in our river.  In my work, I have carried the Catholic bishop’s Pastoral Letter on Capitol Hill gin Washington, D.C., going office to office, underscoring for policy makers the ethical underpinnings of decisions.   Often decisions about water and pollution are seen through the lenses of short-term economics or sheer political power.  A message of the Pastoral Letter—and indeed The Fig Tree—is that decisions about water are also moral decisions.

Those moral connections at the bedside and streamside are important.  Two words Mary used, one is “empowering” and the second is “caring.”  I would say The Fig Tree, while it makes connections, also empowers with stories giving warning and caring. 


An article in March uplifts Patty Martin.  I know the struggles she faces in a small farming town dealing with data centers of large companies and the diesel particulates from backup generators for the centers. 

To tell that story is empowering to Patty, who is singlehandedly challenging air quality rules issued by the Department of Ecology that allowed for the diesel generators.  Telling her story is an act of caring by The Fig Tree.  As you think about the connections, also think about what The Fig Tree is doing to empower people, and through that empowerment, caring.