Editor’s note: The print edition of this article incorrectly reported the date of the Merry of Main decorating party and Buckley’s Tree Lighting was on Nov. 24. This year’s Tree Lighting and decorating party is Nov. 30.
Special things happen at White River Families First Coalition meetings, Monica Gaub said.
It’s not that coalition participants are able to fully solve systemic problems like hunger and homelessness, or that the coalition itself has a lot of resources it can provide to Buckley families.
But something magical happens when people interested in helping others connect with people who need help, even if the need being met is small, Gaub continued, like providing a used-but-working dryer or knowing a good babysitter.
“That’s how it works. It’s all about connecting,” she said. “I think the community as a whole, and the people who attend the coalition, are big-hearted people who are always looking for opportunities to help somewhere else.”
The WRFFC began in 1997 as a push by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to set up these coalitions in resource-poor areas like Buckley and Bonney Lake; Gaub was only just recently the WRFFC facilitator since 2012, having just left her position last June.
The facilitator position is the only “paid” position, though it’s really more of a stipend, Gaub said, provided by the White River School District. At the moment, the district has just hired the next facilitator last Friday, and plans to have them installed by the next meeting, which is always the fourth Monday of every month from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Buckley Fire Station.
Gaub was recently honored by the school district at their last meeting for her years of service to the community, though she tends to be uncomfortable in the spotlight.
“I’m not there for just myself, I’m there to help you, so you or your organization can be successful,” she said, referring to both the coalition’s overall mission and, likely, her own personal goals.
For those not in the know, Families First Coalition meetings have three components.
The first is what Gaub referred to as the “Let’s Make a Deal for Families” portion of the meeting, named after the television show, and might be her favorite part of the meeting.
“If someone has a family in need, because all of us are working with individuals, youth, families, whatever — they can bring it forward, the need, and maybe there’s a connection,” she said, adding that more often than not, the need is met. There have been so many connections that it was hard for her to remember a specific one that was extra successful. “Someone once said, ‘I have this family that has teenagers, and they need clothes.’ And somebody said, ‘I’ve got two bags in the back of my car right now.’ Funny thing, that kind of connection.”
Next comes the “Knowing our Communities” portion of the meeting, where there is a discussion on a topic, like homelessness or food insecurity, presented by an individual, groups, or organizations that have knowledge on that topic; Gaub said this was the “educational” part of their get-together.
“So when the Buckley Public Market opened, we invited the Buckley Public Market to talk about what they’re doing and what their intentions were,” she continued. “Even though they’re not an organization, they still serve the community and they fill food need in our little food desert here.”
Finally comes networking and announcements, when people spread the word about different meetings, activities, and events that are happening in the community for people to attend.
“It’s that time you can say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this food drive, if anybody wants to participate,” Gaub said. “Or, ‘we’re Rainier School, and we’re doing a hiring event.’ And all that goes in the minutes, and the minutes reflect whatever everybody does.”
The minutes are vitally important to the coalition — while they have between 20 to 30 people who attend meetings, there are more than 200 people who receive meeting minutes so they can keep up with what’s happening in their community.
“It just makes this communication gap a little bit smaller,” Gaub continued.
Over her tenure at the WRFFC, Gaub was instrumental in some of its biggest successes, possibly the biggest being the start of the “Community Champion Award” program in 2011, where three individuals, groups, or organizations are selected by the community every year to be recognized for the work they do in the community. She made sure to give credit to the Summer/Bonney Lake Communities for Families Coalition, who she borrowed the idea from.
“It’s really great to recognize those people,” she said. “We do it as a surprise — they don’t know they’re getting it… it’s really hard to be recognized. It’s not why we do it. So it’s inspiring to see their story, and it encourages other people to get involved and realize there are really people in this community who care.”
Another big success was when the WRFFC received a grant that allowed volunteers to push into White River middle and high schools to ask what they’d like to see happen in their community, and come up with ideas on how to do it.
Out of that youth forum came the idea for Merry on Main, which debuted last year with the help of local realtor Sandra Smith.
“Main Street is dead,” one youth forum group commented, which Gaub paraphrased. “There’s nothing to do for kids on Main Street.”
One solution was to do a holiday event — not just one, but several, as Merry on Main lights up a decorate Main Street for people to enjoy on crisp winter evenings.
If you want to volunteer for Merry on Main, Nov. 30th is the volunteer decorating party to install lights and yard art from nine a.m. to noon. Everyone is starting at 811 E Main St, Buckley.
Buckley’s tree lighting in the evening of the 30th starts off Merry on Main. Then, every Saturday from 6 to 7 p.m., there will be a free cocoa bar with carolers at the Anchor House Coffee Shop.
Merry on Main then ends with a Mid-Day Men’s Chorus Performance on Main Street at Anchor House at 6 p.m. on Dec. 22, followed by a live music jam session on Main Street from 7 to 8 p.m.
For more information about Merry on Main, head to the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BuckleyMerryOnMain/.
Although Gaub is no longer the WRFFC coordinator, she plans to continue her effort at putting together the bi-annual print and digital Northeast Pierce Resource Guide (an independent project of hers), which both provides information of organizations and services all over the Plateau for those in need, as well as volunteering information for those who want to give back to their community.
The digital version of the Fall 2019/Winter 2020 Resource Guide can be found on the White River School District’s website.