Those who work and volunteer at Spokane Valley’s most visible social service agency will tell you that the mission is less about footing the bill for disadvantaged residents than getting them back on their feet.
While the food bank and clothing bank at Spokane Valley Partners may receive much of the publicity, the building at 10814 E. Broadway also houses classes in healthy cooking, smart energy practices and money management.
Now, the facility has added another program specializing in constructive change.
Earlier this year, a nonprofit group called ChangePoint moved into the second level of SVP headquarters. The effort is led by Ian Robertson and Steve Wilson, known for their contributions to the faith community as well as a variety of civic causes.
|Steve Wilson (left) and Ian Robertson launched ChangePoint earlier this year as a way to help a diverse range of area residents from seniors to the unemployed. The nonprofit organization specializes in job training, environmental awareness, communications and support for the disadvantaged. Photo by: Craig Howard
Robertson began to form the foundation for ChangePoint after talking to SVP executive director Ken Briggs last December about the possibility of joining the agency’s board of directors.
Soon thereafter, Robertson began gathering programs that could be added as spokes to the ChangePoint wheel. One of the components involved job training that would hearken back to Robertson’s time in southern California where he volunteered for a workforce development course that helped former gang members secure employment.
At ChangePoint, students go through a two-week curriculum that includes self-help texts like “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey and additional character development through programs like P.A.C.E. – Partners Advancing Character Education.
Robertson said teaching traits like responsibility, honesty and integrity can translate into success at the workplace and beyond.
“It’s about changing mentalities to achieve stability in life,” he said.
Briggs said the workforce education at ChangePoint parallels SVP’s emphasis on providing “a hand up not a handout.”
“We want to get people out of the cycle of poverty,” Briggs said.
“Sometimes people just need some motivation to realize they can do it.”
Wilson reiterated the goal of establishing self-sufficiency by “creating a responsible environment.”
“If you’re a person of character and honesty, it’s going to mean excellence in the workplace,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of significant issues that develop in our society that our foundational. We want to help people with simple things that will lead to change.”
Robertson said that mentoring will eventually be part of the follow-up portion of the class. He hopes to encourage retired residents to support the program as volunteers down the road.
As he did in California, Robertson plans to work with local companies, referring graduates of the program for employment.
Another aspect of ChangePoint involves helping area seniors stay in tune – literally. The group has brought on musicians Dave and Susan Graham to lead a weekly sing-along called “Singspiration” at the Spokane Valley Senior Center each Sunday at 11 a.m. The agenda involves a song list of traditional favorites, hymns and patriotic selections. Robertson said the informal chorus is about making sure seniors feel purpose and camaraderie in their community.
“Too many feel left out in today’s changing world,” he said.
ChangePoint will also work with local seniors as part of a new program on CATV, Channel 14. The series will spotlight residents and their memories in what Robertson describes as “stories of inspiration from people in our community.”
Another branch off the ChangePoint tree involves an idea for community gardens that would provide fresh fruits and vegetables for local farmer’s markets. The program is part of a focus on environmental awareness that also involves an effort to promote sustainable energy.
While serving on the Spokane Valley City Council, Robertson was involved in the discussion over how to address the city’s panhandling concerns. At ChangePoint, he and another former muncipal leader, Richard Munson, are working to find a constructive way to help those who appeal for money on street corners throughout Spokane Valley.
Robertson said the goal is to find a reliable channel for funds that would provide food, clothing, shelter, medical assistance and job training for panhandlers. The approach would represent a positive alternative to residents passing along spare change that often goes toward drugs and alcohol.
From renovated parking meters that collect money to signing on local businesses to ask for donations, Robertson said there are several options to generate funds that would go directly to social services agencies like SVP and Meals on Wheels to benefit panhandlers.
He pointed to a successful collaboration with local Dollar Tree stores in which shoppers can buy an extra food item to support the SVP food bank.
“It’s about networking,” Robertson said. “We’re trying to improve the quality of life for everyone in the area.”
Want to find out more?
ChangePoint is located in Room 204 at Spokane Valley Partners, 10814 E. Broadway in Spokane Valley. The office is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Monday and Friday by appointment. To learn more, call 927-1153, ext. 28, or visit www.ChangePointSpokane.org.