New Hope Resource Center helps after windstorm disaster
|Janeen Leachman coordinates ongoing and emergency response.|
When New Hope Resource Center began in a two-room mobile building beside Colbert Presbyterian Church, 4211 E. Colbert Rd., organizers intended that it would serve the poor in North Spokane north of Hawthorne Ave., and rural poor in North Spokane County, except Deer Park, which is served by The Green House.
Now, along with responding to individuals with emergency needs, it is coordinating the long-term disaster response following the July 23 windstorm damage to Riverside Mobile Home Park in Chatteroy.
Since New Hope started, more apartment buildings have been built in its service area, but about 90 percent of the people in its service area live in mobile homes; 75 percent earn 30 percent or less of the median family income, and 99 percent earn 60 percent or less of the median family income, said Janeen Leachman, the part-time as executive director.
New Hope is now housed rent-free in a new 3,500-square-foot building beside the church. The pastor, the Rev. Eric Peterson, said that the center should have that building, because “God wants us to give our best to those in need.”
The building houses a clothing bank, household items and furniture. There are two showers, a washer and dryer, a kitchen and a workroom, now being used to store furniture, including nine stoves from a special donation.
New Hope has space for SNAP to use during the heating season and a Department of Social and Health Services computer people can use to apply for services.
“We bring services closer to people in rural communities in North Spokane County,” she said.
From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursdays, the center is open to help people by providing vouchers for utility bills, gasoline, car repairs, rent and prescriptions. People can also access “the little things” needed every day, such as baby formula, toiletries, school supplies, emergency food or firewood.
The center coordinates the work of volunteers to help the elderly, disabled and people with special needs with chores, home repairs, yard work and transportation.
“It’s a monstrous job to bring in the donations and sort through them to decide what to display, what to give to other organizations like the YWCA’s Our Sisters’ Closet, and what items to resell on consignment at Plato’s Closet and an antique shop,” said Janeen, noting that the consignment sales bring in $300 a month to cover a family’s power bill.
As the only paid staff, she works part-time and coordinates the work of 135 volunteers, “who put in countless hours.”
Sixteen churches and a Spokane County Community Development Block Grant support the work along with numerous individuals and businesses in the area.
Supporting churches are Chatteroy Community, Christian Life, Colbert Chapel, Colbert Presbyterian, Country Church of the Open Bible, Covenant United Methodist, Crossover Church, Crosswind Church of the Assemblies of God, Green Bluff Community United Methodist, New Creation Fellowship, Northview Bible, Peaceful Valley, St. Joseph Catholic, Timberview Christian Fellowship, Turning Point Open Bible and Whitworth Presbyterian churches.
Emergency food is available at the North County Food Pantry in Elk at the Country Church of the Open Bible, 40015A N. Collins Rd., which operates under New Hope Resource Center. The pantry, which is for people in 99003, 99009 and 99156, is open from noon to 3 p.m., Mondays, 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays and from 6 to 8 p.m., second and fourth Wednesdays.
Janeen, who also works in her husband’s ophthalmology office, earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1984 at Western Washington University. She lived in Texas while her husband was in the army. There she earned a master’s in business administration in 1989 and worked for USAA until her second child was born.
In 2001, after 20 years away, the Mead High School graduate and her family moved to Spokane.
“I learned to do social work by osmosis,” Janeen said, “because I wanted to help people directly and have impact on people’s lives.
“It’s sad to hear people’s stories, but it’s rewarding to relieve even just one stressor,” she said. “It can lighten a heavy burden to take off the straw that would break the camel’s back.”
Janeen, who attends Colbert Presbyterian Church, said she is sustained by faith, as she sees God answers prayers for things people did not even know they needed.
For example, a mother came into the office for help. A volunteer offered her a block of cheese and a box of crackers. That simple offer brought the woman to tears, because just the day before her daughter had been asking for those two things at the grocery store, and they did not have the money to buy them.
New Hope also provides spiritual resources, including donated Bibles and Christian books, Daily Bread devotional, fliers from supporting churches, and personal prayer with staff when requested.
That was the infrastructure in place on the Thursday morning after the windstorm. When she came that morning, she did not know what had happened five miles away at the Riverside Mobile Home Park. Power was on at New Hope. When she learned what happened, she knew New Hope had resources to help.
She tried calling the mobile home park manager, but could not reach her, so she and a representative from SNAP homeless services went to put up information cards on the park’s message board and visit with people.
“Power was out because underground power lines were pulled up with the roots of trees that toppled,” Janeen said.
Within a week the Riverside Long Term Recovery Organization formed under New Hope’s nonprofit status.
Janeen has used her social work skills to listen to people and learn about their needs.
“This size of this disaster is new to us,” she said.
“Many Riverside residents were uninsured. For those with insurance, the insurance covered temporary housing, repairs, storage and power.
“There were 20 Red Cross workers the first night, 12 the second night and no one by the third night. There were big holes in many mobile homes,” she said.
Janeen has been amazed at how people and churches have met needs—from food to generators to storage units. For more than two weeks, seven area churches provided evening meals.
When their belongings were finally in storage, the residents were able to focus on where to live and what repairs they need.
Beds soaked by rain had to be replaced. Catholic Charities and the Latter-day Saints have helped with replacing beds and furniture.
Many homes are totaled. Others need repairs. A retired contractor working with the Riverside Long Term Recovery Organization is helping rebuild homes for those with no insurance, she said.
SNAP’s Rapid Rehousing program, the Salvation Army and New Hope have helped house people. Rural Resources and Community Frameworks are helping people find reasonably-priced mobile homes and are helping with down payments.
Janeen expects to be coordinating resources to help people at Riverside for a year or more.
Copyright © October 2014 - The Fig Tree