FAMILY MATTERS: Local group puts families first

Family is a priority in the Buckley area and the Families First Coalition is making sure it stays that way for everyone.

The Families First Coalition was formed 15 years ago with the goal to promote activities and partnerships that support the health and human service needs of individuals, youth and families in order to strengthen White River area communities.

The coalition partners with many health and human service organizations, along with the city and school district.

"I have been a facilitator for the coalition for three years and love being a part of this community group," Amy Molen said. "There are alot of unrecognized people out there working hard to make our community better."

The FFC was founded in 1997 with the support of Good Samaritan Hospital. The purpose was to find a way to bring organizations together and provide resources to the community of Buckley. In the early 2000s, it shifted to being supported by the White River School District.

The coalition brings together organizations that support families and students in the WRSD and the surrounding areas of Enumclaw and Bonney Lake to network and come together to pool resources.

"With budgets being cut everywhere, now is a crucial time to bring together the community to support the families and students that are struggling," Molen said.

The Coalition organized a number of projects like the 2003 Youth Forums hosted in the WRSD schools to talk to the kids about what is their view of the needs of their community. Following that there was a Community Summit inviting students to come together with leaders of the community to discuss the the concerns that came from the forums.

The majority of the students were asking for something to do. In response, in 2004 the city of Buckley was able to fund a Youth Activities Coordinator who had after school activities for youth. That evolved into a grant to build a community center facility, which with support from the Pierce County Council, the city of Buckley and other community members built the Buckley Youth Activity Center in May 2008.

In 2008, the FFC created and published the Plateau Community Resource Guide, a comprehensive list of services and organizations available in the area.

When a few years ago the White River Family Support Services coordinator position was going to be removed from Buckley, the FFC was successful in lobbying to keep that position here.

The group is now planning a town hall meeting to discuss Youth Drug and Alcohol prevention with the community and is joining the fight to keep Rainier School from closure.

The group meets the fourth Monday of the month at 4 p.m. at the Glacier Middle School library in Buckley. It is open to all.

Each meeting provides a glimpse into services and programs available that help strengthen families. The group's April 25 agenda included topics like reduced Pierce Transit services, how to get help with energy bills and how to build safe communities.

Things for families that don't cost a dime like a free medical clinic in Tacoma, egg hunts, mobile pet spay or neuter clinic, haircuts, tutoring, parenting classes and an Easter dinner celebration.

Youth Center

Families First works closely with the Buckley Youth Center and White River Community Outreach along with several other organizations.

"The youth center is such a great resource for the community," Molen said.

The Buckley Youth Center is offering a broad summer program including a free lunch program and some fun, free, family activities with clowns, crafts and reptiles. Space is limited and the programs do need preregistration. They are scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursdays, beginning June 23 and running through Aug. 25. The youth center will also offer Science Days, Basketball Camp and Skate Camp. The lunch program is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning June 20 and running through Aug. 31. It is available for anyone under the age of 18.

Contact the youth center for information on any program at 360-829-6534.

Village Tutors is also at the youth center providing free tutoring for grades K-8 from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; and grades 6-12 Tuesdays and Thursdays. The group will also offer Math Camp in August, where students can get additional help with algebra 1, geometry and calculus before the school year begins. This program does cost $50 and is limited to 10 qualifying students. Call the youth center for information.

White River Family Support Center

Throughout the past three months about 250 people have crossed the threshold of the White River Family Support Center on the former Wickersham Elementary campus, 250 W. Main St., Buckley.

"We see a lot of folks coming in there for ECEAP, DSHS and parenting class," said coordinator Leah Haugen, adding the center also meets the needs of many families who don't want to drive to Tacoma or Puyallup for services. "We link resources for people who come in."

The center also provides access to donations. Two popular programs the center oversees each year is Cocoa and Coats in the winter and school supply event in the fall.

Other programs the center offers are Readiness to Learn, access to a public nurse, energy assistance and its popular parent classes.

The White River Family Support Center is offering several parenting classes throughout May.

• Strengthening Families, Tuesdays beginning at Liberty Ridge Elementary School, Bonney Lake, for families with children ages 9 to 14.

• Guiding Good Choices, through May 18 at Mountain Meadow Elementary, Buckley, for families with children ages 9 to 14

• Understanding ADHD, May 9 and May 16, Maplewood Elementary Puyallup, for families with children of all ages.

• Happiest Baby on the Block, May 18, Foothills Elementary, Buckley, for parents to be or with a newborn baby.

Classes begins at 6 p.m., a free dinner begins at 5:30 and free childcare is available. To register, or for information about any of the programs offered at the family center, call 360-829-5883 or 253-845-9177.

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