News

Families First Coalition planning service directory

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

The White River Families First Coalition wants to connect individuals and families living in the White River School District with local healthcare, human services, educational and recreational resources. One way to build that bond, members have decided, is to create and distribute a human services directory for this area.

The area will include Buckley, Wilkeson, Carbonado, South Prairie and other surrounding areas in the White River School District.

According to Marcy Boulet, Families First facilitator, the guide will be a listing of helpful resources for people who have emergency needs like food, clothing and shelter, but it will also list fun community events and activities for people and families.

United Way, for example, is good source for basic, first-line human needs, Boulet explained, but local civic organizations and events are important opportunities for families to connect.

"There are so many new people in the community," Boulet said, who may not know where to start or who to contact when they need help.

City leaders suggested the resource guide. Families First is spearheading it.

About nine volunteers are making calls and gathering data for the resource guide, which the organization plans to start piecing together the end of May. White River High School teacher Kerstin Feist is donating her time and talent to design the cover, and the White River School District and city of Buckley are on board as sponsors.

Boulet is hoping they can find a donor to cover printing and distribution costs. Families First would like to distribute 12,500 copies so each household in the Buckley area could have one this fall.

Guides with list of human services exist, but their focus is on Tacoma-based organizations. And while important, Boulet said, "We want to draw out more of the local services that provide assistance, but are not always listed in larger directories."

Producing a human services directory is one of the more tangible, or highly visible, things the Families First Coalition has done.

Formed in 1997 through the White River School District as a way to get community members from a wide spectrum of areas talking about its health and human service needs. The group's mission is to strengthen the White River area communities by creating partnerships between citizens, community organizations, schools, social services, faith groups and businesses to support individuals and families.

"Now that we all come around the same table, more can get accomplished," Boulet said.

The White River School District provides administrative support, meeting space and more.

"The district is the glue that holds together the community," Boulet said.

"It's just a good mix."

The White River Families First Coalition serves as a community-wide filter or umbrella for grants, activities and programs.

For example, Boulet said, this past year the White River Family Support Center, housed at Wickersham Elementary School, was in danger of closing its doors because Pierce County's Prevention Partnership for Children was thinking about pulling its portion of funding.

Families First and supporters rallied and saved the program and funding.

Boulet said churches have been donating food, clothing and meeting space to the youth and family center.

The school district's truancy and safe and civil schools projects also fall under Families First's domain.

The group meets monthly. Its next meeting is 4 p.m. Monday in the White River High School library. It's open to anyone.

"The beauty of a coalition is you can come and contribute when you can," Boulet said.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the resource guide can call the White River School District at 360-829-3957 or the White River Family Center at 360-829-5883.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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