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Community outreach position a calling and good fit

Julie Bevaart oversees the recently-established White River Community Outreach program. -  Photo by John Leggett
Julie Bevaart oversees the recently-established White River Community Outreach program.
— image credit: Photo by John Leggett

Julie Bevaart, the endlessly optimistic person in charge of the recently-established White River Community Outreach program, was just polishing off the contents of her brown bag meal when a curious passerby queried, “Not going out to lunch anymore?”

“Hey, I’ve got to walk the walk if I am gonna talk the talk,” Bevaart said. “Expensive food and fancy restaurants just aren’t in the budget anymore...know what I mean?”

Bevaart’s job has her navigating people around the turbulent whirlpools in today’s troubled waters and the slowly diminishing sea of social welfare and assistance programs.

The Community Outreach Program is based out of a modest, yet functional office space in the Buckley Youth Activity Center, courtesy of the city of Buckley. Bevaart’s system is a nonprofit program, with support volunteered by The Summit Church in Enumclaw.

“I am so blessed to be able to help people with these services,” offered Bevaart, whose socially beneficial brainchild is currently being funded with the helpful backing of two generous grants from private parties. One is known, while the other wishes to remain anonymous. The White River Hometowns endowment maintained by Marydale Brooks is the one that Bevaart knows about, while the other remains an unidentified, mysterious source of grant revenue from a family in Seattle.

Bevaart, a familiar face on the Plateau from her days as the coordinator at the government-funded White River Family Center and the Families First Coalition, said her present assignment is a bit less rigid and more relaxed, now that she is out from under the thumb of government funding.

“This is my calling and it’s a good fit for me, because with the private gifts as opposed to the government grants, you have a little more latitude as to what you can do and say,” she said, recalling an incident that transpired while she was with a previous position.

A client had completed her obligations and was walking out the door, when Bevaart bid her a heartfelt “God bless you,” only to hear a government social worker a few desks away, clear her throat, as if to insinuate that religion should play no role in that situation.

“I like people that are being helped, to know that there are others out there who care about them, so that they aren’t continuously experiencing these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness,” Bevaart said. “I want them to know, that while they might feel like it sometimes...they are not alone.”

In addition to being an informative, guiding light who can steer folks in the right direction to acquire the help they need, Bevaart also lends a hand as the resource director at the Prairie Ridge Outreach Center near Bonney Lake.

“The frustrating scenario I am trying to remedy is that most of the clients who muster up the initiative to come into Prairie Ridge Outreach are simply unaware of the entire list of resources that they are eligible to receive,” explained Bevaart. “It isn’t as though these honest folks are looking for a hand out, but just a hand up.

“For example, some of our clients are from situations in which there are two working parents and still, that family is living on the edge of poverty, because a myriad of other expenses that they don’t know they can receive help with.”

She said there are worthy candidates who qualify for assistance with a portion of their rent, daycare, power bills, utility bills, grocery vouchers, reduced physician’s care and much more. If someone is without a reliable vehicle, they can still take a bus ride to Puyallup or Tacoma to fill out the necessary unemployment forms or food stamp applications, she said.

Many people don’t know, for instance, that when you come into a food bank, the people working there don’t ask what your income is, Bevaart said. All you have to show is proof that reside on the Plateau.

“If you are there it is their assumption that you need to be there for one reason or another,” she said.

Bevaart is found in the Prairie Ridge office Wednesday and Friday and at the White River Community Outreach from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

The number to call for an appointment is 360-829-1961 ext. 261. One of the most valuable tools at clients’ disposal is a Plateau Community Resource Guidebook, which focuses on listings and information regarding the area’s human services, healthcare, educational and recreational resources. These can be obtained in Bevaart’s office.

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