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Caritas relocates to Friends Church


Aware that their building sits empty much of the week—except when they host Family Promise families—Spokane Friends Church has welcomed Caritas Outreach Ministry to share its building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Caritas Friends, north Spokane

Pam Emery, Kaye DeLong and Dwaine Williams in the church foyer at Caritas’ desk.

For 20 years, Caritas has been a cooperative ministry of 14 churches in Northwest Spokane, demonstrating Christ’s love by assisting people in need with its food bank, necessities bank, and with energy and utility bills.

Caritas was first located at Assumption Catholic Parish, at Emmanuel Baptist Church and then at a commercial building at 2929 N. Monroe, near the south side of its service area.  Now that it is at the Spokane Friends Church, 1612 N. Dalke, it is in the center of its service area.

In Northwest Spokane, people once owned their homes, but now there are more renters.

Pam Emery, the church secretary, Dwaine Williams, a trustee, Bob Walker, a volunteer from Assumption, and the Rev. Nick Block, pastor of the church and chair of the Caritas board, shared insights on the move.

Pam is in the building often as secretary and was key to the church’s decision to share its space.  For years, she has helped coordinate use of the building by Family Promise, to shelter homeless families every 12 weeks.

“We’re on the same page with Caritas in wanting to help people,” Pam said, noting adjustments needed in “little things” as Caritas moved into three rooms on the main floor and has its two large desks to welcome clients in the church’s foyer.

In talking with Caritas’ director Kaye DeLong, Pam realized there’s a process underway to welcome Caritas.

“It makes sense to reach out, even for small churches,” said Pam, who grew up in Spokane and began attending Spokane Friends Church with her husband 40 years ago when their children were young. 

“It’s not our building.  It’s God’s building.  We can so easily become possessive,” she said.

Pam worked for a phone company for 30 years and retired 15 years ago.  Since then, she has worked as secretary on and off.

When she began attending the church, two blocks from her home, she knew little about Quakers.  She values the peace testimony, the quietness and the small size of the church.

“I like that we are to be in sacred communion with God constantly, not just on Sundays,” she said.  “Quakers have always been about peace and justice.  Caritas feeds the hungry, and that’s part of what’s needed for there to be peace and justice.

Dwaine, a church member since 1969, said the decision to welcome Caritas followed a Quaker process of discerning consensus.

The proposal came before the October monthly meeting.  There was a positive response, but people also asked questions and raised concerns, he said. 

“In November, we sensed the meeting was in favor of it and talked about it using 600 square feet in four rooms for storage in refrigerators and on shelving,” he said. 

“Distribution is in the front lobby.  It’s the area we use for fellowship after worship,” Dwaine said.  “We see it as a ministry of the church.  It’s an opportunity for us to volunteer, to talk with and be of assistance to people spiritually.  We hope to have more volunteers from our church help with Caritas.”

Caritas was struggling to pay the rent in the commercial space.  At Spokane Friends Church, rather than rent, Caritas makes a monthly contribution toward defraying additional utilities and maintenance costs incurred by their presence in the church.

Dwaine and other trustees met with the Caritas staff and board to discuss logistics.

“Caritas is not just a grab and go service, but people go through an interview process, and assistance is based on family size, need and utility bills,” he said.

Dwaine, a physical therapist, moved to Spokane in 1969 with his wife, Becky, a nurse.  He grew up in Friends churches and served in foreign mission several times.

“We’re committed to show Christ’s love through serving,” he said.

In 1974, they went to Vietnam.  Becky taught nursing. He was one of four therapists assigned to different hospitals in Saigon through Vietnam Christian Service.

They also served three years each in Bolivia and Peru, teaching Bible school, planting churches, training musicians and helping the church reach people. They served from 1980 to 1988, and were home from then to 1998.   From 1999 to 2002, they helped administer boys and girls homes in Jamaica.

“Don’t be surprised if God tells you to do something you never thought you would do,” Dwaine said. 
“We did not go on our own strength, but we depended on God for wisdom and strength.”

So when the church was considering having Caritas share their building, he said, “we sought God’s lead.  Coming to consensus is something Friends know by God’s lead.  If we disagree, we take it home and pray, then come back to talk about it.

Bob did not know about Caritas until he read about it in the Assumption bulletin seven years ago and decided to volunteer after he retired from a wholesale company.

Then his pastor asked him to represent the church on the board of directors because, he said, “Caritas can do more than Assumption could do by itself to have impact on the community.”

Bob also appreciates that Caritas is addressing needs year round.

Nick, who has been pastor of the Spokane Friends Church for nine years, has served nearly three years on the Caritas board and is chair of its board. 

“Caritas looks at the whole family and provides food for several weeks to help them get over a hump without creating dependency,” he said. 

“Clients are interviewed to identify their needs, because empty pantry shelves are symptomatic of more needs than food,” Nick added.

Caritas receives food from local congregations and Second Harvest, funds to help with heating from city utilities, individual donations and grants. 

Churches donate food out of which meals can be made, because they want the people in need to feel good about themselves and gain confidence, Nick said. 

“Our board does not want to do anything that would create dependency,” he said.

For information, call 326-2249 or visit

Copyright © February 2014 - The Fig Tree