A true “child of the 60s,” at 72 Ms. Loraine Campbell is a free spirit, published author, and is currently working on fictionalizing her memoir, which she hopes to fund through an Artist Trust Fellowship.  A three-time survivor of skin cancer, Ms. Campbell recently had her right cheek rebuilt after undergoing nine different surgeries on her face to remove tumors.  Despite these hardships, Ms. Campbell is a warm, upbeat, positive woman with a wealth of life experience to offer.  Ms. Campbell also happens to be “low-income,” and is a regular user of Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank.

Nearly every Friday, rain or shine, the waif-like Ms. Campbell walks a mile with her small, rolling suitcase to Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank to pick up her week’s worth of food.  Living on $710 a month in Supplemental Security Income, with only $100 a month in food stamps to feed herself (she can spend $1 on each meal), Ms. Campbell depends on Byrd Barr Place to make it through.  “If food banks weren’t around, I’d go hungry,” she stated very plainly.  A patron of other food banks in the neighborhood, Ms. Campbell tries to go once a month to the food bank at Jewish Family Services, as well as stops by Cherry Street Food Bank on her way to the library, but relies most heavily on Byrd Barr Place.

Without food banks Ms. Campbell would have to work, even at 72, in order to survive.  As it is, she spends many hours each week walking from food bank to food bank, just trying to meet her basic nutritional needs.  For Ms. Campbell, her nutrition is vital to her health.  Besides skin cancer and painful scoliosis, Ms. Campbell has been living with Hepatitis C for decades, keeping it under control mostly through her diet of organic fruits and vegetables.  A vegetarian for over 50 years, Ms. Campbell struggles to make 50% of her diet fresh (preferably organic) produce in myplate_green_halforder to keep her liver healthy and functioning.  “By the time you reach 50, you should make 50% of your diet fresh fruits and vegetables in order to stay healthy,” Ms. Campbell recommends for all adults. The United States Department of Agriculture recently came around to wisdom Ms. Campbell has known for many years, and transformed their traditional food pyramid into a picture of a plate, called “My Plate,” with half of daily food intake comprising fruits and vegetables.

 

Ms. Campbell is one of the hundreds of senior citizens who patronize Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank each week, with each of them having an equally unique and touching story.  Seniors including Ms. Campbell will be the beneficiaries of Byrd Barr Place’s Groupon Grassroots campaign, seeking to provide more fresh produce to the seniors who make up nearly half of Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank clientele. Thank you for helping us provide for our community by supporting us in our Groupon Grassroots Campaign.

Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank touches so many lives…have you been helped, or someone you care about? The facts are staggering: More than 387,000 families in Washington State are unsure of the source of their next meal. This means 1 in 7 Washington families can’t be certain that they will not go hungry today. The stories are incredible too. Our Food Bank has been there for many people in the community…sometimes in a small way, and sometimes in a big way that altered their lives forever. One story that always hits home for us is the story of Kurt Blodgett. Kurt is a carpenter from the East Coast, and he moved to Vancouver, Washington in 2008 to live closer to his daughters and their families. Two days after he arrived, his stomach ruptured unexpectedly. He spent the next four months in the hospital. When he became addicted to the medication that relieved his pain, he lost his home, and was close to losing his family and everything else he loved. Kurt knew he had to turn his life around. Byrd Barr Place, at the heart of the community where he lived, was there for him.

After a year in a treatment center for his addiction, Kurt was referred to us. Byrd Barr Place was just the hope that Kurt needed in a time of crisis. Within days, our staff at Byrd Barr Place helped Kurt move into transitional housing. Slowly, Kurt began to piece his shattered life back together. “I was amazed at the caring and concern of Byrd Barr Place’s staff,” Kurt said, ” I knew one day I wanted to give back to the people that lifted such a great weight off my shoulders.”

For many months, Kurt worked part-time in our Food Bank while he lived at a nearby mission shelter. The Food Bank became a source of renewal and a place of community for him, and he made many friends with the staff . “They were like a support group to me. It’s such a positive place to work each day,” Kurt said, “I see people come into the Food Bank and leave with a whole new attitude, a sense of hope.”

This week we are focusing on a particular group of clients in our Food Bank: our seniors. We are running a Groupon campaign to raise support to provide them with special fresh produce bags.  Won’t you help us keep our Food Bank that is at the heart of our community to help seniors who are living on a very limited, fixed income? Learn more about how you can support the campaign.

Thank you to everyone who promoted and supported us in our Groupon Grassroots campaign! Through your generous donations you purchased 161 bags of produce to help the seniors in Byrd Barr Place’s Food Bank. These bags will provide fresh produce bags filled with fruits and vegetables such as red peppers, kale, bananas, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce to seniors in need, including seniors such as Loraine Campbell.  To read Loraine’s story, click here.

March 18, 2013 is the first day that residents who have their heat included with rent can apply for Byrd Barr Place’s Energy Assistance Program. To receive energy assistance, clients need to call 1-800-348-7144 to make an appointment. New appointment times are added every Monday at 8am. We will be visiting 20 subsidized housing buildings throughout the Seattle area in the next several months, so call 206-812-4940 to find out if we are coming to yours and save yourself an appointment! Fore more information click here.

The staggering proportion of wealth inequality in America still stuns even those of us engaged on the front lines, those of us who are supposedly “experts” on poverty in our region, if not our entire country.  But the reality facing our clients, and us as a nation, is far grimmer than what we think it is.  The “top 1%” that we keep hearing about in the news is well off, we know that, but how well off are they really?

According to Harvard Business Professor Michael Norton, the top 1% of Americans control 40% of the nation’s wealth.  When we look at how the bottom 50% of Americans (that is 155.5 million people, or half of the U.S. population) control 0.5% of the country’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, while the top 1% own 50% of the country’s investments, we must face that we have a real problem.

But very few Americans comprehend this is the reality.  Over 92% of 5,000 people surveyed, both Republican and Democrat, both wealthy and poor, think that wealth should be “more evenly” distributed in America, not realizing that even their perception of how wealth is currently distributed would be a vast improvement over the reality.

Here is what 5,000 Americans “think” wealth distribution looks like in America:

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what 92% of Americans think wealth distribution “should” be in America:

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what wealth distribution actually looks like in America:

 

 

 

 

 

When the bottom 80% of the population controls only 7% of the nation’s wealth, when the average worker needs to work more than a month to make what a CEO makes in one hour, it is no wonder that 1/2 of American children have to rely on food assistance at some point during their childhoods, that record numbers of people are receiving food stamps, that in Seattle alone 24,000 eligible households registered for subsidized housing vouchers in a mere three weeks.  We are in a real crisis.  We can’t go on like this.

What are you doing?

Learn.  Reflect.  Act.

To learn more-

Watch: “Wealth Inequality in America” and “A Place at the Table

Read: “What We Know About Wealth”

Byrd Barr Place has partnered with the Seattle Police Department African American Advisory Council to honor Black History Month through an event showcasing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Please join us on Saturday, February 23rd at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park from 10-2 to listen to Dr. King’s speech. This is a family event, with entertainment for children and light refreshments.  For more information, click here.

Carol Richman, the “mother of CAMP” and the woman who wrote the original CAMP proposal seeking funding from the federal government through the War on Poverty legislation in 1964, endorses the agency’s name change to Centerstone. To read her initial letter to Sargent Shriver about the War on Poverty and the allocation of funds, click here. When asked to comment on the new developments within the agency, Mrs. Richman replied, “The name change isn’t something we should get excited about.  The mission of CAMP, doing good work, is what we should get excited about.”

Mrs. Richman, who has been involved in social activism and civil rights her entire life, moved to Seattle in 1961 and moved into the Central Area.  Barely had her feet hit the ground before she noticed the vast achievement gap among pupils at Madrona Elementary.  Mrs. Richman took matters into her own hands, and with the support of the Madrona PTA, Mrs. Richman helped found the Madrona Preschool Enrichment Program in 1962.  This preschool was a predecessor of the popular Headstart program, focusing on early childhood education for low-income families in order to prepare children for learning.

With a Bachelors degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in Public Law and Government, Mrs. Richman was expertly in-tune with the pulse in Washington, D.C.  An active member of the Central Area Community Council and the Central Area Citizens’ Committee for Economic Opportunity, Mrs. Richman decided to strike while the iron was hot and crafted a proposal for an agency that would prompt citizens to action and social organization within the Central Area.  Out of this idea grew the agency that became the Central Area Motivation Program or CAMP, the name originally coined by Lillian Gideon, a member of the Central Area Community Council.

In its founding documents, CAMP proposed to be an agency of social change and organization.  Armed with a long name and an idealistic vision, the agency was forced to reevaluate its purpose when confronted with the stark reality of life in the Central Area in the 1960s.  When the block workers went door to door, attempting to motivate Central Area residents with their call to action, they were confronted with a very different reality.  Instead of an army of ready participants, the block workers found lives in disarray and families needing intensive case management and social services.  The Central Area was suffering a huge economic downturn during the 1960s, with discriminatory zoning laws and employment policies contributing to over 40% unemployment in the African American community.  What the block workers encountered were families more interested in ensuring their basic survival than in participating in any social movements.

Like any responsive agency seeking to meet the needs of its community, the Central Area Motivation Program quickly developed programs to meet some of the basic needs of its residents, including a daycare, job training, after school study centers, programs to bring arts to the youth, African American history curriculum, and area beautification projects, just to name a few of the agency’s many undertakings. But in this process of adapting to meet the needs of the community, in answering their call for help, CAMP ceased to be a motivator for social action before it had even begun.  While the focus of the agency strayed from its founding days, the name held on for 48 more years.

“Do people even think about what the Central Area Motivation Program means?” Carol Richman, the “mother of CAMP,” asked in September 2012.   “If they thought about it, they would understand that this agency never did what its name said it would do, which was to motivate people…[That being said] I’m very proud of what became of CAMP.  It’s doing a good job adjusting to the needs of the community.”

Today Centerstone offers a variety of basic needs services for low-income families throughout the Central Area and the city of Seattle, including energy assistance, housing assistance, a food bank, and financial education courses.  Centerstone has embraced its reality, as a basic needs social service agency for low-income families and individuals, while hoping to return to some of its original purposing through advocacy and education.  Today Centerstone works to help people help themselves and each other as they move from poverty to self-sufficiency through programs and advocacy.

Centerstone is not the motivator here, but the helping hand to a better future.  “I think that CAMP succeeded because it still exists,” remarked Mrs. Richman when reflecting on the agency’s evolution over the last 48 years. “It serves its community and helps those who need it.  That is success.”

For more information on the history of the Central Area and the African American experience in Seattle during the 1960s, please refer to Seattle in Black and White: The Congress of Racial Equality and the Fight for Equal Opportunity (2011) by Joan Singler, Jean Burning, Bettylou Valentine, and Maid Adams.

On Monday October 22nd, Byrd Barr Place employees spent the day helping out one of Byrd Barr Place’s founding members and a pivotal leader in the Central Area Economic Opportunity Citizens’ Committee.  One of the main authors of the original CAMP proposal, W. Ivan King has been invested in the plight of Central Area residents since he was a young man in the 1950s and 1960s, contributing as a committee member, social organizer, volunteer, employee, and historian for this impressive organization over the last 48 years.

Byrd Barr Place CEO Andrea Caupain decided it was time to give back to a man who has given Byrd Barr Place so much throughout his life, and so on Monday, October 22nd, Byrd Barr Place employees spent the day reaching back to their roots with Byrd Barr Place’s first “Beautification Project” in decades.  For several hours employees helped to tame Mr. King’s yard and garden, battling flower pots, spiders, and overgrown brush, before sharing lunch with Mr. King and learning more about the organization’s rich history.

Here are some photos of their day!

Before…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Progress…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Ivan King!