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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Local missionary involves people in finding practical solutions     

By Kaye Hult

Gar Mickelson
Gar Mickelson helps people connect at 2nd St. Commons.

Gar Mickelson describes himself as a matchmaker, inviting people to become involved in finding practical solutions to community problems.

After visiting with people in Coeur d’Alene schools, health and welfare agencies, probation and parole offices, and juvenile diversion, he found what needs were and were not being met, and connected people with resources to bring resolution.

From his survey, in August 2013, the local missionary with the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) helped found Kaleidoscope Community Services (KCS), a nonprofit to connect people with needs with community resources.

In January 2014, Kaleidoscope opened 2nd Street Commons, a day center at 405 N. Second St. that functions as a downtown Coeur d’Alene living room.

“It’s a hub, a place where people can come together,” Gar said.  

He believes the homey, family-oriented atmosphere is key to the process of guests inspiring each other to heal on many levels.

“Life is a journey we’re taking together,” Gar said.  “I want everyone to be part of the solution.”

Someone entering the 2nd Street Commons will see people everywhere: Some are among the 20 volunteers.  Some groups come to collaborate.  Some come indoors for a comfortable place off of the street for a while. Some come to look for jobs, attend a recovery meeting or use services of agencies such as Heritage Health or Goodwill Industries there.

Guests can come from 1 to 5 p.m., Sundays through Fridays, to select from clothing, sleeping bags and tents.  They have access to art supplies and a piano for creative expression to respond to what is going on in their lives.  A meal is served from 2 to 4 p.m.

Walls are filled with photographs of present and past guests, and with inspirational wall hangings with such sayings as: “Be what you believe in” and “I am always loved.” 

Monday and Friday nights, they show movies.  Recently, they started a simple worship at 5:30 p.m., Sundays. Worship includes time for quiet, reading, interaction and art.   Leann Williams, another Friends pastor, shares worship leadership with Gar.

A guest, who has come to the Commons from the start, spoke of the welcome she received even in the chaos of opening.

“I find purpose here and a place to go,” she said.  “They love us as God would want them to.  They accept us with all our experiences.  Here we find forgiveness, understanding and hope for the future.” She now takes art classes and volunteers.

Gar said 2nd Street Commons is a discipleship tool, helping people learn self-control and how to act out of non-violence.

“We’re all human,” he said.  “Issues arise, some between staff members, staff and guests, or guests and guests. We work to resolve issues with the Lord’s help,” he said

Several months after his relationship with a guest broke, Gar saw him at another day center, and apologized, assuring him that he missed him and inviting him back.  He rejoiced in restoring that relationship and uses it as an example of non-violent resolution.

Gar also seeks to use the Commons to improve the neighborhood.  Guests helped an elderly man who lives in a house behind the center repair his roof.  In exchange, they can use his back yard for a prayer garden and front yard for a community garden next spring.

“Neighborly acts begin to transform a neighborhood,” said Gar, who seeks to teach the church how to be the universal church in a local community.

Kaleidoscope Community Services has taken on other efforts. 

This fall, a long-time homeless community of 40 to 60 people in a wooded lot in Hayden disbanded when the property owner decided to develop the land.

Kaleidoscope joined other agencies, such as St. Vincent de Paul, to find homes for evicted people.  Some moved into RVs KCS provided and others moved elsewhere in the community.

Gar grew up in a conservative Coeur d’Alene family.  He dropped out of high school and spent some time in jail.  He married and moved to Alaska, where he developed a landscaping business, but he got into drugs.  After eight years, they returned to Coeur d’Alene and decided to put their children in Sunday school.

A year after he and his wife, Vicki, began attending Hayden Lakes Friends Church, they began to volunteer, which led into full time ministry.

Gar was ordained as a Friends minister and joined the staff of the Hayden Lakes church.  He served 11 years as a youth pastor and four in community outreach to create projects for youth and churches.

He was instrumental in forming the Christian Community Coalition (CCC) in 2004.  For four years, he was associate superintendent of local outreach for the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches. 

That opened his eyes to social justice concerns, said Gar, who earned a master’s in ministry leadership at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Ore., in May 2014. Gar found in his studies that there’s a disconnect if pastors focus on pulpit ministry and ignore social action.

“We need to involve churches as change agents, working together to create ideas to nurture.  Seminary taught me to quit talking and just go do,” he said.

Gar helped plant Anthem Friends Church through the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends.  It met in the Hayden Lake Friends Church building.

The long-time Hayden Lake pastor retired, and that congregation had an intentional interim minister for a year.  Subsequently, Gar helped the two congregations merge as Anthem Friends Church. 

Last October, he left his job there to focus on Kaleidoscope, which recently hired Shanna Stewart as director and Brad Philpott as director of donations.

They plan to develop a program called Friends Helping Friends Life Empowerment Program. 

“It will assist our guests to better their situation through helping them find jobs or housing, or with their recovery.  We also see a need for more programs like the 2nd Street Commons throughout the area,” he said.

“We can’t just be a cafeteria to feed people,” he continued.  “We need to help people reach their goals of employment, housing, and physical and spiritual healing in ways that are customized to each individual.  We ask our guests, ‘Where do you want to go?  We’ll help you get there.’

“Our churches need such ministries as much as the community needs them,” he said.

“2nd Street Commons is a catalyst for change,” he said. “We want to be about action.”

For information, call 208-699-2250 or email gar.mickelson@kaleidoscopecs.com.






Copyright © February 2015 - The Fig Tree