Author: Wendy Morris

10 things you can do during summer heat waves to save a homeless person’s life

It’s getting hot out there!  For many of us it’s easy to find a cool place, whether work or home, that has air conditioning. Or go to a restaurant, drive in an air conditioned car, go to the mall, etc. People experiencing homelessness do not have those luxuries. In fact, their very survival is at stake.

People who are homeless can be particularly vulnerable to heat waves because they cannot easily stay cool or stay hydrated. Some living on the streets might have medical or substance issues that prevent them from thinking clearly and are in need of extra assistance.  Add this to heat and dehydration, and you have a lethal combination. Moreover, heat waves are often not perceived as being as dangerous as cold weather for people experiencing homelessness.

People living on the street or in their car can take advantage of cooler air in public buildings such as Pierce County libraries, Tacoma Libraries and other public places, however going in to cool off at a local restaurant, coffee shop or movie theater, costs money they don’t have.

Here are ten things you can purchase and carry with you to hand out to people living on the street or in their car during the heat wave:

  • Frozen bottled water. Try to freeze (not just chill) bottled water before handing it out. The ice will melt slowly for drinking, but can also be used for general cooling. Freezing the bottles will provide a cold source that people can hold to their heads or necks or between their wrists.  “Enhanced” water that has electrolytes added to it is especially beneficial to help replace needs nutrients.
  • Water bottles. Consider handing out reusable, durable water bottles that can be refilled from public water sources.
  • Sunglasses. To be effective, Prevent Blindness America says glasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Hats. Baseball hats, straw hats, anything-with-a-brim hats. This keeps the sun off the face and out of the eyes.
  • Umbrellas. They will help keep the sun from directly beating down on a person on the street. 
  • Bandanas. Dipped in water and draped around the neck or head, these can bring down temperatures significantly. When dipped in cold water, the cooling bandana will provide long-term relief and can be reused again and again.
  • Sunscreen. Great idea, but don’t give away that bottle you barely used last year. Sunscreen’s protective ingredients expire after 12 months. Don’t be cheap. Buy new bottles. The average adult needs about a shot glass worth of sunscreen per day in the sun to stay totally protected.
  • Zinc oxide ointment. This will keep lips and noses from burning and is much easier to carry and apply than sunscreen.
  • Bus passes. People in need can ride an air conditioned bus to help stay cool.
  • Fast food cards. Where people in need can go in and purchase a meal and sit for a time in a cool place.  If they do not purchase food, some establishments will ask them to leave. By enabling them to make a purchase you are helping not only feed them, but keep them cool, too.    

Exercise extreme caution and make sure to take care of one another.

Do not leave children or pets in cars unattended – temperatures can quickly become deadly.  Take advantage of cooler air in public buildings such as Pierce County libraries, Tacoma Libraries, local malls, movie theaters, and other large stores.  People seeking relief from the heat by swimming in rivers risk cold shock and possibly drowning. 

Those with low or fixed incomes are also at risk. Many of them are forced to choose between eating or turning on their air conditioner. Food often wins out and in extreme heat a fan is simply not enough to keep someone cool.

As the temperatures begin to climb throughout Pierce County, the Department of Emergency Management reminds everyone to stay out of the heat as much as possible, stay hydrated, and check on elderly relatives and neighbors when temperatures soar.  They also recommend checking on those with chronic health concerns as they might be more susceptible to heat related illnesses. 

Putting Some Fun in Fundraising

For nearly 50 years Associated Ministries has united people in service to vulnerable populations, in both big and small ways. This summer we have a few new and fun ways people can help support us in our work to serve those in need.

Car Wash
We are offering, through a partnership with Puget Sound Car Wash Association, the opportunity to purchase basic car wash tickets that are good at many local car washes (when attendant is on duty) including Elephant Car Wash, Classy Chassis and Shur-Kleen and others in the Puget Sound area. And there is no expiration date!

Tickets are being sold for $8 each or three for $20, with all proceeds benefitting AM’s programs and services. You can find more information here.

Online Auction
Through the generosity of local merchants, we are able to offer some wonderful items for auction through eBay’s Charity Giving program. Two items are currently up for bid: dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios, and a “Night in Seattle” package that includes multiple restaurant certificates and tickets to a Seattle Storm game. You can check them out online at; item numbers 332679688598 and 332679674552.

Dining with a Difference
Come join us at our first restaurant “takeover” event on Monday, July 9th at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Downtown Tacoma.  Diners who show the flyer will have 15% of their total bill for dinner donated to Associated Ministries. This is an easy way to help support AM while simply enjoying a nice meal.  Remember to invite your friends and family to come too!  A door prize for four reserved tickets to the Tacoma Rainiers will be offered.  Reservations are not required but suggested for large groups. Stay tuned for additional Dining with a Difference opportunities to be announced later this summer.

Other ways to help
The donation of time is always a welcome gift.  Volunteers are needed to help with Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful.  You can find more information online at  For sponsorship or volunteer information, please contact Wendy Morris at

Paint Tacoma Builds Community!

Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful is about to embark on its 34th summer of painting houses for low-income homeowners and we need you!

Our goal is to paint 27 houses in Tacoma this year, helping people in need in our community through the generosity of volunteers and sponsors.  Volunteers come from all walks of life: workplace, families, faith communities, individuals, student groups, unions, community groups and more!

Wonder how volunteering can make a difference?  Last year one Eastside couple who have been married for more than 60 years, applied to have their home painted. The wife is suffering from cancer, and medical bills make it impossible to pay someone to paint. A crew from Pierce County Public Works painted their home.

How you can help: Gather your friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, church members, or any other group you are a part of and sign up today!  Your crew will be assigned a house to paint, and be provided with training, guidance, paint, supplies, and T-shirts.  House-painting is a multi-day project. Your crew can serve for one day only, or work on a house from start to finish. Whatever time you can give is appreciated!

Don’t have a crew? Sign up as an individual and we will place you with a team.

Training is required for new crews (crew leads) and volunteers.  You need attend only one 2-hour session.  You can choose from:


Wednesday, June 27 from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Friday, June 29 from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Saturday, June 30 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am

All trainings will be held in the garage at Associated Ministries.

How to sign up: Visit Click on the “Volunteer” tab and fill out the online application. And check out our video clip from TV Tacoma’s CityLine here.

Join Us to Celebrate the Impact of Our Partnership!

Associated Ministries is hosting a new spring gathering to honor our supporters, volunteers and interfaith partners. The program will include a complementary lunch and will highlight the inspiring work we have done together to help keep dreams alive for vulnerable members of our community.

We will celebrate our Community Partner, Faith Community Partner, and Individual volunteer of the year, and share how they have made a difference to others this past year.

AM staff were asked to base their nominations on the following criteria:

  • Makes an impact in their community
  • Thinks of others before themselves
  • Willing to reach out a hand to one
  • Opens their heart, uses their voice or lends their muscle to make a difference
  • Gives 110% to their cause
  • Creates opportunities for those in need
  • Inspires hope
  • Inspire by example
  • Is inclusive
  • Goes above and beyond in their service

We are humbled by the stories shared regarding how all the nominees have affected our community! It will be honor to celebrate all nominees at this first time event.

Please join us to celebrate transformed lives on Wednesday, May 9, 11:30 am-1:00 pm at Temple Beth El, 5975 S. 12th St., Tacoma. An RSVP is required by visiting THIS LINK.

And to further entice you, we will also have a some raffle items at the event at just $5 per ticket.  Prizes include “A Year in Bloom” from Stadium Thriftway, a fun basket of goodies from Frisko Freeze, and more!  Please contact Michele Cotton at with any questions.

Walk in the Park

Does a morning at the park sound like a great way to spend your Saturday? At the Hunger Walk & 5K Run you can enjoy a morning of beautiful lake views and help your neighbors in need at the same time. Speed walk, casually stroll, jog, or take a thrilling chip-timed run around scenic Waughop Lake. Whichever one you choose, you will know that you are helping hungry neighbors get the food they need.

Emergency Food Network is hosting this 38th annual event on May 5, 2018 at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. Funds raised at the event help Emergency Food Network provide food to Pierce County community members in need.

Sign up as an individual, or get $5 off by registering as part of a team! Register today to secure your spot and start your fundraising efforts!


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.

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