Spokane Valley Partners is developing a five-year strategy to serve
by Mark Kinney
As a young man, Cal Coblentz knew he wanted to serve others somehow. Growing up in a Mennonite family in Columbus, Ohio, grandson of an Amish bishop, he foresaw a career in some type of ministry.
Now, in a life that has included a 20-year military career, years in lay and vocational ministry, and five years as a senior center director, Cal serves others as CEO of Spokane Valley Partners (SVP).
"At 18, I felt there was a call on my life but I had no idea how to follow it," said Cal, who entered the Mennonite Voluntary Service that "takes young people who aren't locked into a path but want to serve others."
In Hutchison, Kans., he and seven other young people worked with underprivileged children.
It was an opportunity to experience ministry for one or two years and be in community with others. After a year, even though the Mennonite Church discouraged military service, Cal felt compelled to join the military.
He entered Air Force basic training on his 22nd birthday and was selected for the Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion (SERE) program, which teaches survival skills including escape and evasion tactics.
"I chose a non-combative field that would support and help others," he said. "I prepared people to survive. I could serve and add a solution."
Cal served at Fairchild and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. He and his wife, Teri, who have been married 31 years, served in lay ministry while in the military.
"God put us in ministry throughout our lives, so full-time ministry was always in the back of our minds," he said.
His last five years in the military, Cal was a lay minister, counseling, teaching and leading ministry at the North Pole Worship Center. After retiring, he became an associate pastor there.
While serving the church for five years, it grew six-fold. Cal and Teri then moved to Houston, where he studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After that, they decided to do charitable work and return to Teri's hometown, Spokane, on faith and without jobs.
Cal was hired as CEO at Sinto Senior Activity Center. In July 2017, he became CEO at SVP.
In 1951, 10 Protestant churches founded Spokane Valley Partners to serve the poor. The churches divided responsibilities. One housed the food bank. Another housed the clothing bank. In the late 1980s, the churches formed a nonprofit to bring services under one roof. They bought the current facility at 10814 E. Broadway Ave. and were chartered in July 1990.
"We are not a typical nonprofit with a founder who created a nonprofit to address a need. We were founded by the community and evolved into a stand-alone nonprofit. Over 28 years, it has grown to become the social services hub for the Spokane Valley," Cal said.
SVP's services include a food bank, clothing bank, payee services and an emergency assistance program. They recently took on responsibility for the regional diaper bank after Inland NW Baby closed last fall.
"Their board asked us to do the program. We knew there was a need, and the community would support it," he said.
They inherited enough diapers for two months of supplying enrolled agencies, so they began to raise funds. They received two grants in the first month for $8,000, and $10,000 the next month from the National Diaper Bank Network, so they bought 30,000 diapers. They now have about 70,000 diapers but continually seek donations to maintain stock. A recent "Stuff the Bus" diaper drive netted 15,000 diapers and about $3,000.
As a regional diaper bank, Spokane Valley Partners also has bulk purchasing power to buy at affordable prices.
SVPs' clothing bank serves about 600 families monthly. It also maintains a store with professional clothing for job seekers. It's sponsored by the staffing agency, Humanix. They share clothing with other agencies when they have an abundance of donations.
The food bank serves about 1,500 families monthly with an average of 70 pounds of food. In 15-minute appointments, volunteers help clients make choices as they go through the food bank.
Spokane Valley Partners receives about 500,000 pounds of food annually from Second Harvest and 150,000 pounds from Northwest Harvest, Cal said. Another 850,000 pounds of food comes from food rescue at grocery stores and restaurants, and from local food drives at schools, churches and businesses. The food bank warehouse, remodeled about 10 years ago, operates at capacity.
The food bank also supports Spokane Valley Schools through its Food4Thought program, which provides weekend meals to children who might otherwise go without food. Cal said they provide 50 tons of food annually to Valley students for six weekend meals.
"School counselors tell us that if children don't eat enough nutritious food on weekends, it can take a couple of days before they eat enough to focus to learn," he said. "Education helps break the curse of poverty, so we partner with schools to feed children."
SVP has 13 paid staff and 250 volunteers. It houses several tenant agencies—Valley Fest, SNAP and the Ignite! Theater group.
Cal, who is beginning a doctoral program with George Fox University, and his wife have three married daughters and a son living in the area.
He replaced long-time SVP director, Ken Briggs, who had a vision for Spokane Valley Partners and "established the effective programming we have today," said Cal, who spent several months learning the operation and the community.
By fall, he started "casting his own vision." He consulted with community members, leaders and the city council to assess community needs, identify growth opportunities and develop a five-year strategy.
"We've been around long enough that we have a community leadership role," Cal said. "I hope our philosophy of working together as a team of agencies serves the Spokane Valley well in the future."
For information, call 928-1153 or visit svpart.org
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2018