Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Charitable confusion

Cheney Community Service Council encourages churches, other groups to get involved with organization they started

 

Cases of food fill the storage area of the Cheney Food Bank. monthly meal, which is also held each September in Sutton Park to mark the end of summer.

About 70 years ago a group of Cheney pastors and residents realized they were doubling up on efforts to help those in need and decided to organize to do something about it.

And so, the Cheney Community Service Council was born with the desire to coordinate health, safety, welfare and education programs in the city and adjacent areas.

Former Cheney Food Bank director and current council treasurer John Matthews said that group started with only a checkbook and big hearts, listing $262 in donations and $150 in purchases of goods.

"They didn't have a building," Matthews said. "They just had a checkbook and did it out of their homes."

Flash forward to 2018, and that organization - which is composed of the food bank, clothing exchange and police department chaplaincy - is still going strong. But as in 1958, Matthews, council president Tony Birch, member Rick Campbell and others are again seeing a doubling of efforts that, while well-intentioned, might possibly detract from the effectiveness of local charities.

"Right now, everyone is doing their own thing," Campbell said.

Prior to formation of the council, some individuals attempted to take advantage of the generosity of others by going from church to church with a different story of need. Creating an organization with unified communication helped reduce that, and the eventual addition of the chaplaincy around 1996-1998 provided a central source for individuals truly in need to be able to get help while allowing groups to provide assistance without complicating things by involving city resources.

The council was incorporated on Sept. 16, 1981 and received its 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service on June 18, 1982. The food bank eventually moved to its present location on the Third Street side of the Wren Pierson Community Center in 1996 after the city's recycling center moved out, with the clothing exchange eventually following suit.

But over time as pastors and members of their respective church communities moved away or passed on, the unifying nature of the council became less known in the city. Those same churches that first banded together to form the council subsequently started other charitable works such as Cheney Outreach and Feed Cheney.

Birch, Campbell and Matthews say the result has generated confusion among people who aren't familiar with the structure of support of these charitable works.

"People get all of these entities mixed together into one," Birch said. "They think giving to one is giving to all."

Campbell illustrated that with a story from his church where he asked if they were giving money to the food bank and the clothing exchange. "Well, we give to Outreach," was the reply Campbell said he received.

Birch said both Outreach and Feed Cheney have their own board of directors. Outreach also sends a representative to council meetings to report on activities, and according to the minutes of the October 2017 meeting, the council agreed to extend an invitation to Feed Cheney to send a representative.

While they both have separate boards, the Cheney Community Service Council and Cheney Outreach have some interconnections. If someone comes to the food bank for the first time, for instance, Matthews said he refers them to Outreach so they can sign up to receive aid.

If Outreach is not open, he carries their sign up forms at the food bank as well, and will pass along new applicants to them along with a list of people who stopped to pick up food that week. Campbell said this helps Outreach demonstrate community needs, which helps with their grant funding.

"If they go to the food bank for help, and not Outreach, we're siphoning off the needs ability from them," he added.

New Outreach Director Diana Davis said the organization offers information and referrals to community resources, including not only the food bank and clothing exchange but also providing information on Feed Cheney. Outreach serves the elderly, ill, homeless, disabled and low-income families by providing these resources along with assistance with paying utility bills, rent, transportation and recreational activities for kids.

While having some attachment to the council, Davis said Outreach's funding is primarily through grants and community donations.

"Our funding does not come from them (Outreach)," she said.

Feed Cheney began in what is now called Cheney Congregational Church in 2010, but has since moved to the United Methodist Church due to the Congregationalists move from the United Church of Christ denomination last year. Feed Cheney volunteer Natalie Tauzin said they are evaluating this move and it could change by the end of March.

The organization provides a monthly free meal, but also has also engaged in other activities, such as a location for flu shots in September, Tauzin said. It has also served as an outlet for clothing distributions as well as distributing food, some of which Matthews said comes from the food bank.

"Most of our food comes from Second Harvest (in Spokane)," Tauzin said. "The (Cheney) food bank provides a little bit when they have extra."

Feed Cheney takes place the last Monday of each month, something Tauzin said corresponds with Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and when people using the food bank's monthly distribution is scheduled.

"The end of the month is intentional because that's when SNAP's benefits run out," Tauzin said. "We want to make sure people go away with several meals for the rest of the month."

While all of these charitable organizations are separate entities, Campbell, Birch and Matthews said they all have the same desire to help in some capacity. Campbell added they hope members of local churches and organizations will reconnect with the Cheney Community Service Council - the organization they started - in order to boost the community's ability to help those in need.

Volunteers help out on the serving line at Feed Cheney's

"People come thinking they just need food, when really they need more," Campbell said. "We can actually bring more resources to bear than they (other organizations) realize. They want to solve an immediate need, we want to solve a problem."

Cheney Food Bank

Open first four Wednesdays of the month 9 a.m. – noon. 235-2325

Cheney Clothing Exchange

Open Wednesdays noon -- 6 p.m. 235-2327

Cheney Outreach

Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9 -- 11:30 a.m. 235-8900

Feed Cheney

Open the fourth Monday of the month beginning at 5 p.m. 324-1649 or http://www.feedcheney.com

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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