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Shalom Ministries serves more than 4,000 meals a month

By Deidre Jacobson

Shalom Ministries serves more than 4,000 meals each month to downtown dwellers and homeless people.

This component of Spokane’s safety net was founded in 1994 at Central United Methodist Church in Spokane.

Last year, the ministry found itself in a critical situation following unexpected personnel changes.

Tim Swartout
Tim Swartout, with wife Joni, is the Volunteer Director of Shalom Ministries.

Shalom Ministries Board of Directors called on Tim Swartout, the treasurer and a founding member of the board from 1994 to 2002, to provide temporary leadership for the struggling ministry.

Tim agreed to become the volunteer director, hoping to serve for three or four months. This December, he completes his first full year.

He began by stabilizing the operation.

To do that, he organized a core team of persons from the community of people who dine there.  They perform all tasks required to provide four weekly breakfasts and two weekly dinners.

From 100 to 250 people arrive for each meal.  The numbers are smaller at the beginning of every month and larger at the end.

One core-team member volunteers full time and receives a small stipend.  Eight others serve 15 to 40 hours weekly. Other transitional helpers come and go. Five volunteer chefs and about 25 members from Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite and other churches round out the crew.

Tim grew up Methodist and attended Fowler United Methodist Church for many years.  When Pastor Rich Lang at Central United Methodist Church created Shalom, Tim transferred membership to be involved in this “Dining with Dignity” ministry.

“I am aware of so many things I take for granted that the homeless don’t enjoy,” he said, “a bed, shower, food, iPhone, mailbox and my car. The list could go on and on. I see the homeless needing someone who will listen to them. I think about these things and how we all take so much for granted.”

Married 50 years to his wife, Joni, they have two children and five grandchildren.  In contrast, families of homeless people are often broken.

As a young man, Tim served on the police force, developing much of his compassion for those who suffer, which grew into his passion to help the homeless.  He later opened Pacwest Services, Inc., a residential mortgage firm serving four Northwest states.

Tim retired from the mortgage business after 26 years, but continues to spend his time serving on two other nonprofit boards and helps his son operate a chimney contracting business.

Besides providing meals, Tim has stabilized other Shalom services during the past year.

He reorganized the clothing bank, which provides free items for guests, all cleaned and sized. 

In addition, he developed a day-room space for his core-team for a lounge, computer, television and meals.

Shalom now partners with the YMCA and Molina HealthCare to donate sleeping bags and blankets for those who sleep outside. 

Other partners include CHAS (Community Health Association of Spokane) outreach volunteers and Washington State University student nurses, who provide health checkup and referral services, to continue their long-standing service at Shalom.

Tim has also focused on building the financial stability of the ministry with quarterly appeals, grants and the resumption of its annual benefit, St. Lucy’s Breakfast.

The event, hosted by Rockwood Retirement Communities this year, will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Rockwood Community Center, 2903 E. 25th Ave.  Reservations can be made by emailing

Tim sees the results of his work and is delighted with the progress of his core team.

“They work hard for little compensation,” he said.  “My goal is to increase their stipends as the ministry’s budget increases.”

Tim is committed to continue “for as long as it takes” with Shalom Ministries.

He encourages people who are interested in helping the homeless to visit the lower level of Central UMC at 518 W. Third Ave. to see what happens there.

For information, call 455-9019.

Copyright © January 2015 - The Fig Tree