Data on paper can transform lives
By Mary Stamp
Malcolm Haworth, who has been editor of the Inland Northwest's annual comprehensive Resource Directory for 15 of its 50 years, grew up knowing the value of ecumenical and interfaith networking, relationships and service.
He also grew up with a love for details and research from personal interest in learning about world leaders and research for history studies.
Malcolm now knows that the data he gathers for the directory is more than words on paper. It transforms lives.
Often he has calls from strangers who thank him for his work and tell him how the directory helped them find connections they needed. Just as often, people call seeking assistance and, because he knows the ins and outs of services, he can guide them to the help they need.
"One day I was dropping off some household goods at Goodwill. The man who was unloading my trunk noticed copies of the directory. He told me that when he was homeless, he had picked up a copy at Catholic Charities and found the job at Goodwill. The next day, he found affordable housing.
"He thanked me graciously and asked to take more copies to share with friends," Malcolm said.
"We are on earth to make a difference, to transform lives of folks when they are down and out, and to offer people opportunities to give back," Malcolm said, adding that many describe the directory as "gold."
"It's a treasure chest full of gems of information," said Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp, who also responds to calls from people seeking assistance.
Recent directory covers feature people whose stories are shared in The Fig Tree.
For service providers, the Resource Directory helps them realize they are not alone, but part of a larger network of faith, nonprofit and government agencies who care about people.
Malcolm attended United Church of Christ (UCC) churches in Tekoa, Veradale, Cheney and Pullman. He was active in campus ministries at Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 2001, and at Eastern Washington University, where he earned a master's degree in history in 2005. From 2004 to 2007, he was an adjunct teacher with EWU's American Indian Studies program.
His love of verifying details, researching history and compiling databases—as he did for political campaigns—fit with gathering data on services for vulnerable people and with fostering new networks for faith and nonprofit communities.
In his early years, he volunteered with The Fig Tree, so he was familiar with the Resource Directory.
In 2007, the Interfaith Council turned over publishing the directory to The Fig Tree. As an AmeriCorps volunteer, Malcolm produced the directory for two years, until The Fig Tree hired him as directory editor and ecumenical liaison.
In November 2008, he began as director of the Interfaith Council of the Inland Northwest and as Eastern Washington liaison with the Washington Association of Churches, now the Faith Action Network.
In those roles, he organized the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, Easter Sunrise Service and Eastern Washington Legislative Conference.
"We do not have details on the first editions of the directory, but John Olson started it after he founded the Spokane Christian Coalition in 1971," said Mary. "The first edition in our archives is 1978. It had 28 pages, listed congregations and was distributed to hotels, motels, the Chamber of Commerce and congregations."
Several years after Mary joined the Coalition staff in 1984 to start The Fig Tree, she became involved with gathering data, doing layouts and taking cover photos. When she worked on it until 2000, it also included ministries, human services and justice groups.
From 2005 to 2010, Mark Westbrook, a member of St. Ann's Parish and ad salesperson at the Spokesman-Review, sold ads for the directory, first for the Council and then for The Fig Tree. Its circulation was 3,000 when he started.
The first edition The Fig Tree published was Volume 35. It had 166 pages and a circulation of 4,500. It listed 869 congregations and 850 agencies.
Malcolm added congregations in the Inland Northwest and more categories.
By 2012, there were 1,100 congregations and 2,300 agencies, with 10,000 copies. In 2018, it had grown to 1,400 congregations and 4,000 agencies listed on 200 pages, and the circulation was 12,000. In 2022, after COVID, there were 1,150 congregations and about 7,000 agencies. The circulation will grow from 18,000 in 2022 to 20,000 in 2023 with an expansion of demand.
"We are unique in the resource and referral industry. We have a reputation for providing trusted information so the Washington 211, Spokane 311 information and referral lines, plus Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (ALTCEW), use our data," Malcolm said.
Over the years, several groups developed print or online directories of resources. Often they were limited in scope or audience, or received limited-term local, state and national grants, so they were unable to maintain funding, he said.
From 2009 to 2016, The Fig Tree partnered with Community Colleges of Spokane (CCS). They transferred data from their Spokane Resource Directory, provided funds to print 2,500 copies and offered services of a staff person.
"With our comprehensive directory, families gained access to information for grandparents in the senior section, and for their many other needs in the other sections," Malcolm said.
"After their funding declined and ended, we invited others to be community partners, placing their logos on the cover as we had done with CCS," said Mary. "We maintained circulation, continuing to deliver copies to Head Start and Early Learning programs."
As part of its community partnership, Second Harvest provides volunteers and a truck to deliver bulk orders to about 50 agencies. Catholic Charities' partnership includes distributing 1,500 copies.
Other 2022 community partners were Rotary 221, Banner Bank, Providence Health Services, Sisters of the Holy Names, Paul Viren & Associates, Innovia Foundation, Empire Health Foundation, Community Building Foundation, Washington Trust Bank, ALTCEW, Northwest Mediation Center, Goodwill Industries, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Eastern Washington University, St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels.
They provided $20,000 in support. With $46,000 from 128 advertisers and donors, production costs are covered. The 2023 budget has been increased.
Each year, Malcolm builds on the previous edition, adding corrections, updates and new materials, and reassessing the categories.
"Faith and nonprofit communities constantly change—staff, phone numbers, emails, websites and even locations. They change their services as grants come and go," he explained.
During the year, Malcolm contacts congregations and agencies by mail, email, phone and online, adding updates in online files at thefigtree.org.
In the spring, he adds new data for the print edition, which goes to press in late June or early July. In the summer, copies are mailed and delivered.
Malcolm has provided some other services:
• Partnering in 2012 and 2013 with World Relief, he did editions with selected resources translated into Arabic, Chin, Karen, Nepali and Russian.
• During COVID, Malcolm kept up with frequent changes to prepare online COVID editions, updated weekly and then monthly. It included the most current information on food banks and meal sites, locations for testing and vaccinations, and other resources.
• In 2020, he located agencies on a Google map on the website.
Part of Malcolm's information comes from relationships he builds by attending meetings of networks such as the Homeless Coalition and Food Security Task Force.
Through those connections, Malcolm—who is completing a doctoral dissertation on the relationship of power and leadership in social movements with Gonzaga University's Leadership Studies program—has discerned a need for a new form of networking. The goal is to help congregations communicate in new ways, such as through an email listserv to share about outreach ministries in order to find ways to collaborate.
"We envision a communication tool to strengthen ties among faiths and nonprofits to collaborate on ongoing and emerging ministries," he said.
"I do much of the work alone in my home office, but I do not do the work alone. I rely on networks, volunteers, co-workers, donors and events," Malcolm commented.
"While much is online today, there is still demand for print copies," Malcolm said. "Being in print and online, we are the 'go-to' guide for resources."
For information, call 509-216-6090, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thefigtree.org.