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

Sheriff challenges faith community to work together
on youth, neighborhoods, homelessness and health

Four months ago, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich challenged the faith community to work together for the common good related to four areas: 1) quality of life for at-risk youth, 2) neighborhood safety and emergency preparedness, 3) homelessness, housing and economic development and 4) health and wellness inequalities.

He and others called together the Christian Service Summit, which was held at Whitworth University.  Since then participants have done research on what people of faith are already doing to build a better community.

Twenty representatives met in April to share what they learned during the research phase and plan for setting goals. They also concluded that there are 1,400 agencies in the county dealing with service and systemic change.

“We need to support existing organizations, working with them to help people access resources,” said Ian Robertson, who is helping coordinate the executive team of the Christian Service Team (CST) of Spokane County.

“We believe some changes in methods and communications might make the efforts more effective,” he said.

Eighty congregations and 53 agencies in six regions of Spokane County have been involved in creating four projects, which will be developed over five to 10 years.  Each project has a coach and team ready to share “best practices” with congregations to “bring about real community transformation.”

The CST has six geographic area teams meeting monthly, accomplishing short-term projects and planning to launch four major projects later in 2014.

Three of those teams describe their efforts:

• West County is enrolling schools in PACE (Partners Advancing Character Education) and building community gardens.

• Spokane Valley is figuring out how to help 795 homeless children registered in the West, East and Central Valley school districts.

• The downtown group is asking why life expectancy is 18 years less in the Riverside District than the Southgate neighborhood, southeast of Spokane.

So far 80 congregations are involved.  Organizers seek 80 more churches in 2014 to strengthen their impact.

“The first development will be introduced on Pentecost Sunday, June 8,” said Ian Robertson, who is helping coordinate the CST executive team.  “When two or three percent of the population work together, the impossible becomes possible.”

Along with Ian and Ozzie, others on the executive team include Rodney McAuley, Dave Ross, Patty Marsh, and Carl Tompkins.

The team has made a commitment to seek opportunities for churches to minister in the community based on goals set by the health district, schools, police and others who know the issues.

For information, call 389-3211 or email


Copyright © May 2014 - The Fig Tree