Author: Wendy Morris

Remember 1969?

That was the year that Associated Ministries (AM) was officially started as a nonprofit.  1969 was also the year of the first landing on the moon, we were watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on television, and we were listening to the Beatles “Abbey Road”.   At Associated Ministries, Reverend Bruce Foreman was called to be the founding “Metropolitan Minister”. Under the leadership of Rev. Foreman, the agency developed a solid organizational base and broadened its constituency to include over 100 churches. 

There have been many activities here at AM over the years including developing programs that have spun off into their own nonprofit, moving into our current building in 1988 (30 years this year!) and becoming an inclusive, interfaith agency.  We are grateful to the many individuals, faith communities and groups we have had with us over the years, and are hoping that they might have some stories to share. 

Whether you received services as a client, were a staff member, volunteered, or connected in a different way, we would like to hear from you!  Please send any stories, anecdotes and/or pictures you would like to share with other to And keep watching for more news to come about our 50th celebration events!

Free Tax Preparation

Each year, Associated Ministries partners with the IRS and other agencies to recruit, train and schedule volunteers to complete taxes for people making under, for 2017 income, $56,000 a year or less.

These volunteers donated their hours for training through the IRS, and then providing tax preparation for free to people throughout Pierce County.  With our partners at Goodwill, Sound Outreach, and AARP, we are able to offer 23 sites where trained volunteers are ready to assist you in preparing your taxes and helping ensure you get the most refund you are owed.

Please check out the available Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and make arrangements to have your taxes done with no cost to you.  And you will be helping a person gain valuable experience as well! 


Volunteering is Rewarding For Everyone

Eleesha, a taxpayer living in Tacoma, was being swallowed by the stress and frustration of dealing with her taxes. Calling one of the bigger tax preparation service providers, Vaughan explained her situation and income level. She was told because her income was lower than the requirement to file that she did not have to file and they will not be preparing her taxes. Disheartened with the proclamation, Vaughan was having discussions regarding what she was told with her family. Then she heard about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

She was urged by her mother to call and make an appointment to get a second opinion on her tax standing. Upon arriving for her appointment, she was still hesitant to have her taxes processed believing that may be a waste of her time. After the interview process and after waiting for a volunteer, Eleesha had her taxes processed and reviewed. To her amazement, not only did she benefit from having her taxes filed, she received a refund that much more than she thought; her total refund was $4,985! She was very grateful for the services the VITA volunteer provided. She mentioned that she now had money that she could use towards her household needs and repair to the family vehicle.

This is just one of the many stories volunteers hear when they are helping people complete their tax forms. However, more people are needed to volunteer to ensure those stories and successes continue. 

Why should you volunteer?  Some of the benefits of being a VITA volunteer include:

  • Gaining new skills
  • Looks great on a resume
  • Meet new people
  • Make a difference
  • Serve the community

Did you know that the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has a huge impact on the community?  Over 2,800 people served, saving about $800,000 in tax prep fees and bringing back more than $3 million to the community. 

Helping people do their taxes that cannot afford to pay someone and more importantly cannot afford to make a mistake and not maximize their refund. The VITA program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

View this YouTube video for more details.

You will receive training to provide free tax help for low-to-moderate income families who need assistance preparing their tax returns. How does this program work? As a committed tax volunteer you’ll be assigned to work with a sponsoring organization, first to receive training and then to begin volunteering at a location in your community. Training is offered both online and in the classroom. Tax sites are generally open nights and weekends and the hours are flexible. You will surely find a volunteer site close to you.

To learn more, visit our website at

Holiday Open House

Come join us on Friday, December 8th for our annual Holiday Open House!  Associated Ministries will be decorated to help show our creativity, inclusivity and festive side.  There will be refreshments, tours of the building (did you know it used to be a mortuary?), and smiling faces.

This is an opportunity to chat with staff members, and learn more about our programs and how we help the most vulnerable in our community. RSVP would be appreciated but not  required, just stop by our building at 901 South 13th Street between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Friday, December 8th to join in the fun!

We appreciate all the support we get each year from our volunteers, community partners, faith communities, sponsors, and individuals.  Our hope is that you can come celebrate the holiday season with us, and that 2018 begins another wonderful year working together shared commitment to our community and those in need!



Why I Was A VITA Site Coordinator

By Than Tran – VITA Site Coordinator 2017

As a finance major at the University of Washington Tacoma, I realized that in order to be successful in my career, I had to continuously enhance my knowledge and skills. In addition, hands-on experiences are very important for me to get my first job after I graduate from college. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) was a great program, which not only helped me to build my resume, but also gave me a chance to do a meaningful thing to the community which I belong to.

I first started at VITA with a thought of being a tax preparer. However, when Amy, the program director of Pierce County, needed help to manage some tax sites, I thought “why don’t I challenge myself in this role?”. I believed that I could do more, and be more helpful if I took more responsibilities. So I chose to be a site coordinator.

I learned a lot from the experience with VITA. I was able to prepare personal tax returns for most of the people. Whenever I was not sure about anything in a tax return, I could simply just ask my supervisors, they were more than willing to help me out. A site coordinator was a bit busier than a regular tax preparer. I learned how to manage supplies and equipment, to communicate and manage other volunteers, improve my problem-solving skill, and to talk with a client with confidence.  

The working environment at VITA was very friendly and fun.  There was recognition for volunteers who were hard-working or had been with the program for many years. There were some special events where we work with some other organizations such as KeyBank or Sound Outreach, to help hundreds of clients a day. The thing that I enjoyed at VITA was not only what I learned, but also what I felt when I was helping other people. Their thanks and their smiles motivated me to work harder, and to be proud of myself because I was creating values for the community.

VITA gave me a chance to apply the knowledge about personal finance which I had learned at school, and learn some other things that school did not teach me such as using a particular software to prepare tax returns, dealing with problems that arose at the tax site, and creating relationships with great people who could be my references. Every small step helps me to reach my goal in my career in finance. I think that VITA is one of the relevant steps; my thanks for the VITA program. 

To learn more about volunteering for this program, click here.

And the Quest Continues!

We are thankful to all the participants, sponsors, vendors, and volunteers who made our first AMAZING QUEST to Understand Homelessness a success! With their help, we were able to launch what we hope will grow into one of the most anticipated annual events in our community.

Team MAAThere was no doubt that this is a community who have a heart for struggling families, and want to learn and make a real difference in their lives. Seeing the passion everyone had for working together, and learning how to best help people experiencing homelessness, was uplifting.  We are grateful to our sponsors, Chase, Amerigroup, United Healthcare, City of Tacoma, Alterius College, KBTC, CHI Franciscan, Holiday Inn Express, Peace Community Center and Catherine Place for their support.

Planning is already underway for our next AMAZING QUEST! If you participated, please share about your experience and the things you learned with your congregation, neighbors, classmates, work colleagues, and others. Please feel free to add your pictures and comments to our Facebook page.

We’ve been blessed to receive feedback like this note from our friends at First United Methodist Church, Tacoma:

“Thank you for working so hard to make the Amazing Quest a success. It was a valuable learning experience for our team. Even those of us who thought we had all the answers had something to learn. It’s opened our eyes to the challenges facing the homeless and those trying to provide services.”

If you were unable to attend, but would still like to support the programs of Associated Ministries that help the most vulnerable in our community, please visit our websiteBy uniting together, we are building a stronger community!

Family Fun and Education in One

Can you build a shelter out of a pallet, a tarp, some rope and other things you might find by the side of the road within 5 minutes? How many hygiene kits can your team put together before time runs out?  These are just two of the fun activities that teams and individuals will take part in at the AMAZING QUEST to Understand Homelessness.

This first time event, on Saturday, October 7th, will bring together people from throughout the community to compete with one another and work together to learn about homelessness, and some of the issues that people experiencing homelessness go through on a daily basis.  Teams with the most points will receive prizes and there will be a special prize for the team with the most spirit!  Points can be earned by completing the activities, locating individuals along the route who are handing out surprise points, and identifying special points of interest along the route. 

You can also earn points by donating needed items and obtaining donations through friends, family and coworkers by having them sponsor you or your team.

  • New or gently used: Outside sleeping bag, tarp, wool blanket
  • New: Emergency blanket, socks

If you are looking for an easy team-bonding activity for your group, whether business, faith communities, service group, school, etc., this is a wonderful opportunity to spend a few hours together, working as a team and benefiting those that are the most vulnerable among us.

Registration is easy: just to to sign up.  For more information about the event, feel free to contact Wendy Morris at or 253-426-1501.


Inviting Faith Communities Who Want to Join the Call to Action

  • Create a team to fill some homeless kits with useful items for families experiencing homelessness.  Kits will be given to Catholic Community Services’ Family Housing Network.
  • Give bus passes and socks to Shared Housing Services, a program that serves youth and young adults, ages 16 – 24, who are experiencing homelessness.  These bus passes are essential, so youth can make it to and from important appointments.

These are just two of the many ways that people attending our Community Quarterly Meetings (CQ) have pledged to help support local agencies working with those experiencing homelessness. And we need your help as we take action on the crisis of homelessness in our community. 

We hope you will join us at our next CQ Meeting on Thursday, September 21st, from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 7410 South 12th Street, Tacoma, WA 98465. The goal of these meetings are to gather people of faith and goodwill to create an energizing space in Pierce County to share knowledge, and act on strategies to end homelessness.

Attendees will be informed and educated about homelessness in Pierce County, gain understanding of effective interventions, and discuss potential projects and solutions through presentations and discussions. 

The lineup of speakers for our next CQ meeting includes:

Gerrit Nyland: Homeless Programs Data Administrator for Catholic Community Services.  Gerrit will present a clear and compelling understanding of what homelessness looks like in Pierce County.

Tiegan Tidball Bradbury: Systems Analyst for the City of Tacoma.  Tiegan will provide an update on where the City is at regarding its emergency declaration on homelessness.

Noah Baskett: Sr. Director of Community Engagement for the Rescue Mission, Tacoma.  Noah will discuss potential projects in which people of faith and goodwill can take part. 

This is a CALL TO ACTION for those representing a specific faith community (as a pastor or appointed representative) along with anyone else interested in helping to end homelessness. Multiple attendees from your faith community or organization are welcome to attend; we will have three different breakout groups, and you may want to have a person attending each one.

If you have any questions, please contact Valorie Crout at or 253-426-1508. 

Q & A with AM Interns

I recently chatted with two of our interns, Ryan and Bethanie, about their internship experience. Ryan has been with us for a few months, and Bethanie for almost a year.

Wendy: How did you come to intern here?
Ryan: I was referred here by the Goodwill volunteer program. I needed volunteer hours to qualify for my education benefits and they helped me find a great match for my skillset.
Bethanie: I become an intern here at Associated Ministries through word of mouth. I needed to gather work experience, and had heard that AM was in need of volunteers and Interns.

W: What have you been learning while interning here?
R: I have been learning about the database software used by non-profits and using community calendars. I have also been learning about the businesses and churches that do volunteer work with Associated Ministries.
B: I have learned about client services and ways to be strength-based in my work with the clients. It has been an invaluable experience for me, and showed me exactly why I decided to work in this field. The tough decisions that need to be made regarding clients and staff members. It’s not easy to look at a homeless client and say “I’m sorry but I cannot help you.”

W: What is your goal to learn while here?
B: The original learning target I had set out for myself was to get some work experience in the human services field. It was after working here for a couple of months that I found exactly what I wanted to do; I want to learn how to be a better direct service provider.
R: I would like to learn more about the website software WordPress, and the logistics that go into planning events and fundraisers.

W: What has been the most interesting/informative thing you’ve learned while here? 
B: I would have to say the most interesting thing I have learned so far is just the sheer capacity of the effect on what AM does throughout the community. The most informative thing I have learned is that it’s okay to be human.
R: I have learned many interesting things so far in my time here, but one thing that stands out to me is that I learned how to repair and troubleshoot a laminating machine.

W: What has been the most challenging thing?
R: The most challenging thing for me here has been managing the number of tasks that need attention. There are always several projects lined up, and AM is doing important work!
B: The most challenging thing for me was at the beginning of my internship here and being able to talk to my co-workers and clients naturally. I wasn’t sure how to act or talk to people. It was touch and go for a while. It became easy after a while to loosen up and talk to people. The AM staff has a really good knack for making you feel comfortable here.

W: Why should people intern with us?
R: Associated Ministries has a wonderful environment, with great people who care about their work. The work itself is important too, and it’s gratifying to be of service to the community.
B: There are many different departments that are interconnected with each other that make it so you are never alone in one thing that you are doing. I’ve learned a great deal on what it is like to work for a non-profit agency. So if you want to help out the homeless community or even work more on administration come intern or volunteer at AM. You won’t regret it.

Join the Quest!

When does a pallet, a tarp, rope and binder clips equal 75? When you are putting them together to create a shelter at our AMAZING QUEST!

That is just one of the activities that folks can participate in at our first AMAZING QUEST to Understand Homelessness. This brand new community event is designed to educate the community and raise funds to fight homelessness. While you will not only be earning points for a chance at some terrific prizes, you will be learning about the issue of homelessness that affects thousands of people in our community.

AMAZING QUEST will take place on Saturday, October 7, beginning and ending at People’s Park in Tacoma and teams will visit various landmarks around the Hilltop neighborhood to play, learn, and win points. You may even encounter other places and people to gather extra points!

We are excited about this event and welcome all faith communities, businesses, service clubs and other organizations to sign up, as well as share about this fun event. How can you help?

  • Ask your staff to form one or more teams of 2-8 people and show up to demonstrate your concern about homelessness in Pierce County. This is a great way to show your support for those in need and interact with other participants and leaders, and a fun team-building activity.

  • Hang posters on bulletin boards, distribute flyers on counters and in break rooms, and post flyers in your window to encourage participation in this unique event.

  • Encourage your workplace team to collect pledges from family and friends; your business, faith community or organization could also make a donation to support the team and/or the event itself.

  • Consider being an official event sponsor, aligning your business with a compelling cause and showcasing your services before hundreds of participants.

  • Be a volunteer and help make this fun event be the happening place! Volunteer as young as 15 are needed for a variety of tasks.

So join us for a day of fun, music, food and being part of a community who cares. Check out our website at to learn more and sign up!  

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