Author: Wendy Morris

Community in Action – Helping a Family in Need

When Lana* came into the Rapid Rehousing program at Associated Ministries, she was struggling; pregnant and had two little girls sleeping in the car with her. She began working very hard to find housing and applied at a few different places and was denied the same amount of times. The reasons varied; her credit, her criminal record, her income, but she did not stop. The Rapid Rehousing team worked alongside her and we finally found a landlord willing to give a young mom another chance at success.

Through Rapid Rehousing, Lana received help with move in costs and from that moment on Lana was making great progress including paying 100 percent of her rent, her electric bill, getting her oldest child into school, and even working during her last month of pregnancy. She was working very hard and was making it, but she had one big concern; her home had begun to show the signs of a roach infestation. She bug-bombed the place a couple of times on her own, but was unsuccessful.

As time passed and her tries to end the infestation failed, and as her pregnancy advanced, she grew more concerned. Lana had gotten used to cleaning incessantly and watching her children around the clock to make sure that no bugs got close to them, but once she realized that her newborn baby would be exposed and in danger, the thought of staying there was becoming less a safe option. At that point Associated Ministries put out the word to the community for assistance. We needed help in preventing Lana’s housing from becoming insecure.

RAMBO Pest Control answered the call. RAMBO offered a completely pro-bono fumigation service for the entire four-plex! They got out there right away and took care of the problem, then offered a discounted monthly service that Lana was able to present to her landlord and neighbors, in hopes of keeping the homes free of bugs.

“We appreciate how RAMBO stepped up so quickly to lend a hand to a family in need”, stated AM staff member Alexis Agee-Cooper. “Their willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the entire four-plex was fumigated, was a wonderful gift to the all of the tenants and the community.”

Since then, Lana’s baby was born and the efforts of RAMBO have helped her keep her home and feel safe and secure. We are so grateful for the efforts of RAMBO who took care of a vulnerable person in need, and proved that there are many ways in which we can help end the problem of housing insecurity. They showed how we can all be a part of the solution in different ways.

*For confidentiality, the name of the client has been changed.

Free Tax Preparation

Tax season has begun! Once again, Associated Ministries, in partnership with several other local organizations, will offer FREE tax preparation services to low and moderate income taxpayers and seniors at 23 different locations in Pierce County. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

Why get your taxes done through VITA? 

  • You will receive help from IRS certified tax preparers, and you are helping people expand their experience and resume to find jobs in the financial field. 
  • Volunteers will help eligible taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other similar credits.  A large number of taxpayers who could qualify for the EITC do not claim the credit.
  • It’s free for low and moderate income taxpayers (incomes up to $54,000), and seniors.

Before going to a VITA site, be sure to bring:

  • Income documents such as W2s from all jobs worked, and 1099 forms for other income
  • Documentation of expenses you want to claim, such as child care expenses, home mortgage interest, higher education expenses, and charitable donations
  • Bank account information for refund direct deposit
  • Photo ID for the primary taxpayer (and spouse, if married). 
  • Social Security Cards or ITIN cards for all family members. 

Please note that VITA volunteers are unable to do tax returns for married taxpayers filing separately, or returns with some complex tax situations.

VITA sites are located throughout Pierce County.  Call 2-1-1 or visit to locate a site near you.

How People of Faith & Goodwill Can Address Homelessness

The crisis is real: during the past 11 months, Associated Ministries interacted with 7,212 households that were experiencing some level of housing instability in Pierce County. These are struggling families and vulnerable individuals who spent the previous night on the street, in a shelter, in a place not meant for human habitation, as well as those fleeing from domestic violence.

So what does this number mean? It represents those who have reached out to the Coordinated Entry System (CES), Pierce County’s Homeless Crisis Response System for help, and were determined to be genuinely homeless. The CES is a partnership of Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services, Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare and Comprehensive Life Resources and is funded by Pierce County Community Connections.

What can people of faith and goodwill in our community do to address the growing challenge of homelessness? To begin, attend one of two interactive learning sessions regarding homelessness in Pierce County on Jan. 19 or 24. Participants will come away with a better understanding of this crisis and will be briefed on the assistance programs that are available, as well as the work that remains to be done.

We are grateful to Rev. Martin Yabroff of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson of Bethlehem Baptist Church, both members of Associated Ministries’ Board of Directors, who will host the gatherings. “I hope that as many congregations as possible will be represented to learn about the Homeless Crisis Response System,” said Rev. Yabroff.

Rev. Jackson added, “Often those who need assistance the most don’t know how to tap into the necessary resources. This is the same case with congregations and various faith institutions who seek to support those without a place to call ‘home.’ I personally invite you to attend these meetings and learn about the Homeless Crisis Response System, who should be referred and how to navigate the system. Most importantly, we’ll be better equipped to respond to our community’s homelessness crisis.” 

Two opportunities have been scheduled share an overview of homelessness in Pierce County and how the Coordinated Entry System is being designed to address it:

  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, hosted by Rev. Martin Yabroff at 7410 South 12th Street, Tacoma, WA 98465 on Thurs., Jan. 19th at 1-3pm.
  • Bethlehem Baptist Church, hosted by Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson at 4818 East Portland Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404 on Tues., Jan. 24th at 6-8pm.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact us at

Mark Your Calendars – Upcoming Associated Ministries’ Events!

It is hard to believe that 2017 will be upon us in less than 2 weeks! As we look ahead to a new year, Associated Ministries is excited to share with you some of the upcoming events for the next year. 

MLK Reclaiming the Prophetic Vision Interfaith Service, Urban Grace Downtown Church, Sunday, January 15 | 2:30pm

Women Building Bridges of Interfaith Unity Interfaith Women’s Conference, Curtis Senior High School | Saturday, March 4 | 8:30-4:30 p.m.

Spring Gala Foss Waterway Seaport, Saturday, April 29

Interfaith Ramadan Iftar Observance, University of Puget Sound, June (day TBD)

Interfaith National Day of Prayer Service, Location TBD, May 4

Tacoma Rainier’s Baseball Interfaith Night, Cheney Stadium, July 16 | 1:35pm

For more information on all of these events and more, please check out our website at or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Supportive Services for Youth

Housing Specialists, Juanita Contreras and Will Bergstrom, along with other Associated Ministries staff and members of the community, attended an all-day training on youth mental health first aid.  This training was designed to help increase the understanding of how to assist youth who are dealing with mental health concerns.  I recently held a conversation with Juanita and Will to gain their insights into the training and what we can do to help youth afflicted with mental health issues.

Wendy Morris: What did you learn from the training?

Juanita Contreras: “We discussed many of the diagnoses and behavioral problems/disorders that youth might face including depression, anxiety, ADHD and more, and how to recognize potential signs in youth.

WM: Was the issue of suicide among youth discussed?”

Will Bergstrom: “Yes, there was a strong focus on recognizing potential suicidal youth. Listening to the language that they’re using, paying attention to any mention of the word “suicide”. A point that both the adult and youth Mental Health First Aid trainings stressed is to directly ask folks “are you thinking of killing yourself” if we have gotten any indication that the threat might be a serious one. The strong wording is difficult to accept, and asking a youth that sort of question is never comfortable, but sometimes asking that question can make all the difference.

JC: “We also discussed the story of the guy who survived an attempted suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge, and he said that he wouldn’t have done it if just one person had stopped to check to see if he was ok.”

Teenage Boy On The Streets With RucksackWM: What do you feel the community needs to do to help?

WB: “There is definitely a need for mental health resources tailored towards youth in Pierce County. We have only just recently gotten a homeless shelter for youth, and even that is part time. Similarly, there are school counselors, and some mental health resources that engage youth, but a youth-tailored program would be good.”

WM: What can individual people do to help?

JC: “Pay attention to what youth are saying, and have crisis line info on hand. Don’t be afraid to ask how a youth is doing if they are exhibiting signs of depression or withdrawal- sometimes a friendly hello makes all the difference.”

WM: How can people learn more?  What resources are out there for people to get involved?

WB: Learn about youth programs in your community or consider applying to be a host home. Programs that help youth, including REACH, Community Youth Services or VADIS are always in need of assistance including donations and volunteers.

Harvesting for Hunger

True to Northwest style, hundreds of people came out even with the threat of rain, to participate in the 36th annual Pierce County Hunger Walk!

Raising thousands of dollars to help fight against hunger in our community, people from throughout the community came together as one, to show they care.  And they are still receiving donations for their part in the walk!

Perhaps you are now thinking, “darn, I wish I could’ve participated”; there is still time to help. For the month of October, we are continuing to raise funds through “Harvesting for Hunger”.  So whether you had to miss the walk this year, or were able to participate but feel lead to do more, you have the opportunity.

Our “Harvesting for Hunger” is a fun way for folks to donate through an interactive poster.  Kids can color the pieces of fruit and vegetables, adults write the amount they will be donating, and then post it on either the tree or basket.

Everybody can participate!  It is a fun way faith communities (especially youth groups), school or civic groups or businesses can show their support in the fight to combat hunger in Pierce County.  All funds raised will go to Emergency Food Network who can take $1 and turn it into $12 worth of food.

The steps to “Harvesting for Hunger” are simple:

  1. a person is selected as the point of contact
  2. posts the poster of their choice (or both if they want!)
  3. advertises the opportunity to either “fill the basket” or “harvest the tree”
  4. collects the money
  5. contacts Michele Cotton at to arrange delivery of monetary donations
  6. more people in our community will receive necessary food for themselves and their families!

Downloads of posters and images you can use are available online under the Hunger Walk Resource Tab.  Uniting together to help the most vulnerable in our community is a mission we can all agree on!

A Joyful Celebration – Bon Odori

On a pleasant July afternoon, the Tacoma Buddhist Temple held their annual Bon Odori Japanese Folk Dance festival.

People from throughout the area came to celebrate listening to the taiko drums and watching the dancers in their beautiful kimonos and cotton yukatas. Everyone is welcome to join in the dance – the Temple even holds dance lessons prior to the festival.

The Bon Odori festival, also known as O Bon, is derived from the Buddhist Ullambana Festival, which is a time to welcome the return of one’s ancestors. There is an emphasis on loved ones lost the previous year, and all ancestors are honored through offerings and celebrations, as well as celebrating our own present lives.

In front of the temple, Fawcett street was closed for the event and strung with colorful hanging lanterns. Delicious food was offered at various booths, and people could visit inside the temple to learn more about Buddhism, or visit the serene temple garden.

Central to the celebration are the folk dances (Bon Odori) performed to music that includes the steady beat of a taiko. The taiko sits on a raised platform, or a yagura, and musicians use bachi, or drumsticks, on the taiko, to keep time for the Bon Odori dancers. The guiding purpose of Bon Odori is to set aside the ego through unselfconscious dancing. 20160730_172136

Participation is customarily diverse with young and old, formally trained and informally trained dancers, Japanese Americans and non-Japanese Americans. This year dozens of people danced to and enjoyed the drumming sounds of Fuji Taiko of Tacoma and Matsuri Taiko of Seattle.

This was my first year attending the festival, and I was fortunate enough to go with Tammy Boros. When I asked Tammy what she enjoyed about the festival she said, “I liked the Bon Odori festival because it gives me a way to feel connected to my culture and my community.  It is a wonderful reminder of the beautiful artistry and traditions of the Japanese culture.”

If you have not attended a Bon Odori festival, I encourage you to do so next year and celebrate along with our Buddhist friends and neighbors. I know I will return.

Meet David Alger

Editorial Note: The article below was written by an Associated MinistriesNext Move intern in conjunction with two other Next Move interns. Associated Ministries was pleased to host three students from the Tacoma Public Schools. This students added to our agency with their new ideas, creativity and passion. The interns, Amaya Fox, Ella Banken and Tyreke Wilbanks were an integral part of helping write stories, research historic documents and add to our photo library to help us tell the story of Associated Ministries. Their final project, which was conducted as a joint interview, was with long-time Executive Director, Reverend David Alger. We hope you enjoy their work!

Reverend David Alger Interview by Amaya Fox

Reverend Dave Alger is a man who needs no introduction around Tacoma and Pierce County. As the former Executive Director of Associated Ministries for nearly thirty years, Alger has created a lasting impact on not only Associated Ministries, but also on the Tacoma community.

In his time as Executive Director, Alger was instrumental in the founding and development of many programs that sought to build a better Tacoma such as the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, the Moments of Blessing services, interfaith meetings, and the Hilltop Action Coalition.

Alger and interns 2I, along with fellow interns Ella Banken and Tyreke Wilbanks, was lucky enough to sit down with Rev. Alger for an hour and talk to him about his time as Executive Director and how AM was vital in the development of Tacoma, specifically the Hilltop community.

We discussed the idea of interfaith and the true meaning behind it, as it has been, and still is, such a prominent aspect of what is done at AM. In Alger’s perspective, the essential things necessary to effectively become an interfaith organization are “time, energy, and a willingness to accept the validity of other groups.” He goes on to say how, especially as Executive Director, he had to learn how to “roll with various religious customs and deal with the radical differences.” To him, interfaith means nothing without “honest, trusting relationships,” which is exactly what he strove to create in his time as Executive Director.

The Moments of Blessing are another effective service brought to Tacoma by Alger. He originally got the idea from a similar movement happening in Indianapolis and took it into his own hands; crafting it into a moving and spiritually uplifting program. In short, a Moment of Blessing is a service designed to reclaim a space where a homicide has occurred. It has become one of AM’s most effective and well-known programs to date. Alger strived to “work to involve people and show people how to be involved,” with such a rare opportunity to touch people’s hearts. “They are very, very moving and powerful times of healing.”

To begin getting involved in the Hilltop community, Alger made the decision to relocate AM right into the middle of Hilltop, in a time where gang violence was no stranger to the community. The move in his eyes “was a statement that we were committed to the city” and the building of a safer Tacoma, although the move initially did raise many safety concerns. This controversial decision was one of many that paid off immensely for AM and Hilltop, bringing the two together in a way that could not have been done otherwise.

Reverend Dave Alger, I’ve learned, is one of those people whom you could just sit down with for as little as ten minutes and think to yourself, “wow, I should be doing more to help the community.” He is an inspiration to many and a motivator for all. He encompasses the mission behind AM and all that it stands for in a way that no other person quite has, and for that Tacoma and Pierce County are forever thankful.  

Interfaith Dialogue on Peace Building – Saturday, June 11th, 1-2PM

Interfaith-symbolsThe Tacoma Buddhist Temple, in partnership with Associated Ministries, will host an interfaith dialogue on peace building on June 11, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. This is a free public event and is open to all members of the Tacoma community. It is hoped that this event will help people of faith in Tacoma think about what they can do to contribute to peace here, and in the wider world.

Panelists include Joshua Christy (Baha’i Faith Tacoma), Reverend Joseph Hickey-Tiernan (Church of the Holy Spirit, Vashon Island), Professor Turan Kayaoglu (University of Washington-Tacoma), and Reverend Kojo Kakihara (Tacoma Buddhist Temple). The event will be moderated by Dr. Amanda Feller, a professor of communication at Pacific Lutheran University who specializes in dialog and conflict resolution.

Asked why he wanted to hold this event at his temple, Reverend Kakihara explains, “Depending on how we use it, religion can become a barrier that separates us from others, but I believe that religion enables us to accept different people, as well as bring happiness and peace to their and our lives. I hope that through this event we are all able to deepen our understanding of our own religions and the religions of others in order to sense the interconnectedness of life.”

Dr. Erik Hammerstrom, another of the event’s organizers, says, “There is a tendency to over-emphasize religion’s role in conflict in the world. While conflict is certainly one part of the history of religion, it is also important for religious people to affirm and uplift the many contributions that religion has made, and can continue to make, to building peace at the local and global levels.” Hammerstrom is a professor of religion at Pacific Lutheran University and a member of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s Buddhist Education Committee.

What:                   Interfaith Dialogue on Peace-Building

Where:                 Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402

When:                  Saturday, June 11, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Contact Person:   Dr. Erik Hammerstrom,, 503-502-5070

Link to Event

It’s Time to Paint!

Preserve affordable housing; Beautify communities; Help neighbors in need. That’s the vision of Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful (PTPB), now in its 32nd year!

Each year hundreds of volunteers of all ages are needed to paint the exterior of the homes of low-income homeowners during the summer months. It is a wonderful opportunity for communities of faith, service clubs and businesses to come together and help serve community members in need.

“It’s such a joy to be a part of Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful. We have a passion for helping our neighbors in need, and PTPB gives us all the tools to make a difference in this way”, says volunteer Julie Washburn from Need a Break Services. “The preparation they do and the provision of materials makes it easy to sign up, show up, and make a difference. The homeowners we meet become friends along the way. It’s always a meaningful and fun project!”

Volunteers do not need to have experience and there are also opportunities to help besides painting. Someone can help with photography, be a paint advisor, help with hospitality, and assist with securing donated supplies to name a few ways you can volunteer. “Both individual volunteers and volunteer groups are welcome,” says Amy Allison, PTPB’s Director. “Whether you can serve for just one day, or you can take on a project from start to finish, we value your support!”

According to past house painting recipient, Michelle A., “I just wanted to encourage you to keep up the good work with this great ministry. It made such a difference for our house, and the kindness and generosity of the volunteers is something I will remember always! Thank you!”

You can be part of that memory for someone, and help make a difference in their lives. For more information on volunteering, visit our PTPB website at or contact our Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Wendy Morris at 253-383-3056 ext. 117 or

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