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FAN organizer seeks to align actions with faith

Brianna Dilts builds relationships and awareness of advocacy.


By Mary Stamp

As the Eastern Washington organizer with Faith Action Network (FAN) of Washington since May 2023, Brianna Dilts is attending worship services and meetings at many of the region's faith communities to build relationships based on shared values and inform people how they can be involved in influencing policy.

She started with FAN quarter-time in 2023 while completing full-time work with Transitions through AmeriCorps Vista.

Brianna remembers being concerned at a young age when the church she attended closed its food pantry, its only outlet for helping neighbors.

"What does it say about our faith if what we are committed to do as a faith community does not line up with our beliefs?" she asked. "I wanted my actions to line up with my faith."

Growing up in the Spokane Valley, where voices of Christian nationalists have received much attention, she now knows from working with FAN that "there are many Christians and people of other faiths who are inclusive, welcoming and loving, and who strive for peace and justice," Brianna said.

"It gives me hope to see churches involved in social justice," she said. "In coordinating congregations with FAN, I'm doing multifaith organizing among Christian, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish and Muslim communities and individuals."

Brianna earned a bachelor's degree in social work in 2022 at Eastern Washington University (EWU), with a goal of working in public policy.

"During school, I developed a passion for housing justice and affordable housing through connecting with the Spokane Alliance at my practicum site. With them, I learned the basics of organizing," Brianna said. "It gave me a new lens for seeing policy change and advocacy."

While doing anti-poverty work with Transitions for a year through AmeriCorps Vista, she experienced social work with women and families that had experienced homelessness and learned more about the many barriers that people face when trying to find housing, including multi-year-long wait lists..

"With Transitions, we wanted our participants to be meaningfully included in decisions at the organization and also about housing policy, because they have lived experience and need a voice in those decisions," she said.

While continuing to work with FAN, Brianna plans to go back to EWU in the fall to complete a master's degree in social work and public administration.

Before joining FAN, she had little experience with the state legislature or advocacy. COVID and geography previously had cut people off from sharing their opinions on bills with legislators.

"It was discouraging," she said. "With technology since COVID, the legislature has become more accessible to people across the state. Now people in Eastern Washington can give remote testimony, rather than traveling to Olympia to give it in person.

"They can go online and express if they are 'pro' or 'con' on a bill from their homes," she said. "Previously, only those in Olympia, usually lobbyists, could say if they were for or against a bill."

Given the divisiveness of national politics, Brianna has been pleasantly surprised to discover that many bills in the state legislature pass with bipartisan support. Of the 369 bills that were sent to the Governor's desk in the 2024 session, 234 passed unanimously. Others were passed by a majority, mostly on party lines.

Brianna has attended most of the telephone or virtual town halls hosted by the state legislators of this area.

"Meeting with legislators virtually is a good way to learn about the issues," she said.

On behalf of FAN, she also participates on the planning committee for the annual Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, which was held this year on Jan. 27, and which is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 25, in 2025.

"To build more and deeper relations with faith communities in the region, I go to faith and community events to inform people how they can be involved in legislative advocacy and develop their leadership skills. I also go to listen to what they care about," said Brianna, who also helped plan the Spokane FAN dinner with FAN board member Jim CastroLang.

On Feb. 9, Brianna helped organize and participated in FAN's Interfaith Advocacy Day (IFAD) in Olympia. She had the opportunity to advocate for 15 minutes for two bills on housing with her 3rd District legislators' offices.

The Governor's budget proposal held a $10 million space for the projected $70 million budget shortfall from document recording fees that fund homeless services, shelters and transitional housing, she said. The final budget that passed included $60 million.

"Knowing of the lack of housing and shelter space and, from working with Transitions, some of the limits of transitional housing funding, I knew that budget shortfall would have been detrimental," Brianna said.

At IFAD, Brianna also appreciated learning from Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, who represents the 27th legislative district and who is the first Muslim American elected to the Washington State Legislature. She said, "Faith is one of few opportunities to connect above party lines. When people advocate because of their faith, it reminds others what it means to represent their faiths."

FAN will hold its Spring Summits from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Sundays, May 5 and June 9. Both are on Zoom to connect people statewide. Registration is at

During this year's summits, participants will celebrate legislative wins, learn about stalled legislation and hear what is needed to move it forward next session. FAN will also give an overview on how three initiatives on the upcoming ballot will have an impact on advocacy.

There will also be a chance to connect with other advocates of faith and conscience in issue breakout groups.

FAN decided to host these summits online to allow more people to join and to enable advocates from across the state to hear from each other.

In addition, the spring summits are an opportunity for FAN to hear what issues are of concern to those who attend. That helps them focus their advocacy.

Brianna summarized some 2024 legislative wins for FAN:

• $500,000 was allocated in 2024 for physical security for nonprofits and faith communities, with an additional $1.5 million in 2025 in response to increased reports of hate and vandalism.

• Families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can keep 100 percent of child support payments by 2026 with $16.3 million allocated in the budget to make this possible.

• HB 1541 "Nothing about Us without Us" ensures the meaningful participation of people with direct lived experience on statutorily created or mandated state committees.

Brianna works with other FAN organizers, Jess Ingman in North Central Washington and Elizabeth Dickinson the FAN partnership coordinator in Seattle.

Brianna listed Spokane, Spokane Valley and Pullman faith communities in FAN's Eastern Washington Network: All Saints Gather Lutheran Church, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Inland NW Unitarian Universalist Community, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, Salem Lutheran Church, Spokane Friends Meeting, St. John's Cathedral, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ in Spokane; Veradale United Church of Christ and Community Congregational United Church of Christ.

Brianna told of other budget wins.

• $127.5 million was approved for the Housing Trust Fund, adding to $400 million in the 2023 biennial budget to build affordable homes.

• $25.25 million passed for the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance for services to new immigrants who do not qualify for federal programs. 

• $400,000 was allotted for a Police Pursuits Study and report on policy suggestions for the legislature by June 2025.

• $12.23 million will go for additional Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) food benefits to eligible children when school meals are not available.

• $40 million from the transportation budget to replace more than 10,000 diesel school buses with zero-emission alternatives.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May 2024