The Gathering Place – Blaine has served Blaine, Birch Bay and Custer for the past two years. We’ve helped people obtain food, clothing, mental and medical care, government programs, addiction treatment and more. We welcomed the asylum seekers, several large families fleeing abuse and persecution. Leading them out of desperate situations by helping prepare asylum claims and secure legal help.
Recently as local needs rose exponentially, waves of refugees found us. Our nation faces catastrophic immigration system failures, and there is no political appetite for a comprehensive immigration plan. Asylum seekers have no solid legal status here. Without a social security number, they can’t access assistance programs, banking, work legally and more. Free legal aid is non-existent. Our immigration courts are overwhelmed. It now takes years for people to get employment authorization and legitimate case adjudicated.
As a small charity we could not afford to house and sustain large families for the long haul. We find it impossible to say “no.” We are not alone, as other charities face increased demands with fewer resources. After several failed attempts to secure sustainable funding, we made the tough decision to close our doors this week.
We thank the small group of very faithful community members that helped us help others. We have provided a written explanation and tax receipts to you. All surplus funds in our accounts after settlement will be donated to the Blaine Community Assistance Program (CAP), as designated in our bylaws, and required by IRS code.
Thanks to all those who helped us serve the community and for your trust. Some who were served have now gone on to serve others. We rest in the fact that many lives were touched, served and changed over the past two years. We truly celebrate all of your ongoing victories in life.
Joe Zaccaria, on behalf of The
Gathering Place board of directors
In a recent issue of The Northern Light, a writer says, “Please don’t be afraid of ‘MAGA’ Republicans.” Really?
Which MAGA supporters should we not be wary of? The ones who support the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen? Don’t be afraid of the ones who want to control women’s bodies? Was January 6 rioting making America great? How about the ex ‘resident’ of the White House stealing documents, including the most classified, then taking them to Florida; shouldn’t we be concerned about that?
What about seditious conspiracy fomented by the MAGA supporters, which resulted in the deaths of police officers? What about the spineless supporters of MAGA in Congress who threaten “riots in the streets” if our justice system finds an ex-president guilty of crimes? How about the MAGA supporters who conspired to kidnap the governor of Michigan? What about plotting to bomb an apartment in Garden City, Kansas?
What about the MAGA-supporting mass shooter in El Paso? What about neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia? What about MAGA supporters who demand their elected representatives support the big lie? What about MAGA supporters trying to defund public schools, police forces and the FBI? What about using the big lie as an excuse to change laws to override the votes in red states?
OK, maybe not all Republicans are MAGA supporters, but the MAGA supporters give plenty of cause for concern.
First, let me assure you that I care that you are reading this letter to you. For 84 years, here and in five other states around our country I have caught glimpses of a culture of caring in my family, schools, churches, jobs and friendships. I have learned to expand the circle of people and ideas that delight, instruct and nurture me.
One way I have chosen to care is by voting for leaders and representatives. During the stages of my life I have read, met and pondered what the experiences and priorities of each candidate (or issue) would mean in leading us toward our becoming beloved community.
A couple of months ago I was talking with a woman, just slightly younger than me. I mentioned the importance of filling out and returning her ballot for the primary election. She smugly replied, “I have never voted in my life. You can’t blame me for the mess we are in.”
I went away sorrowful. Her voice is unheard. Her experience is missing. Her sense of belonging is gone.
As we approach this exceptionally important midterm election I yearn for you to prepare by reading widely, talking with a variety of neighbors, pondering and/or praying. Resolve to vote. Speak respectfully about our democracy and our reliable Washington state voting process.
Be aware of how changes in laws and interpretation of them have changed our campaign finance laws led to super-saturation of money for glossy ads, yard signs and deceptive messaging. Ponder if the power of the few super-wealthy individuals and corporations has led to improvement of life for us all or the strength of our nation.
Please care enough to prepare and to vote.
If our next state senator doesn’t vote on the budget, we cannot get what we need in Whatcom County.
I’m tired of politicians playing games. Saying they support something like flood funding, then voting against it. The only way to get things we need – roads, bridges, funding for mental health centers or flood recovery – is to work with others on the budget. If our next senator votes no – like Simon Sefzik did – the people of Whatcom County lose out. Flood recovery isn’t a game or a political talking point. We need state funds. Only Sharon Shewmake will be able to deliver.
Tiffany Smiley is an articulate energetic natural leader who will fight crime, fentanyl, illegal immigration, inflation and over-spending; she will support border protection, energy independence and American independence. Senator Tiffany Smiley will listen to the people and respond with common sense legislation.
Dana Point, California
Last week, I attended the September 20 Town Hall: Lens on Law Enforcement hosted by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and Bellingham Chamber of Commerce. During the 90-minute event, law enforcement was given about 20 minutes to speak to the issues at hand. I was thoroughly disappointed this event didn’t address the heart of our public safety crisis. So much airtime was given to politicians and so little to law enforcement.
Over three weeks ago, senator Simon Sefzik announced that he would be hosting a public safety forum in the Meridian High School auditorium on September 29 at 7 p.m. so the public can hear directly from law enforcement on our public safety crisis. This forum boasts a grand total of zero politicians on the panel. Sefzik will be moderating this forum so that we can all hear from the local police chiefs instead of empty political promises and excuses from politicians.
If you’re unable to attend in person, you can live stream this event on YouTube or Facebook via Bellingham Metro News.
Sefzik has been an advocate for law enforcement and public safety since the first day he took an oath to represent us. He’s been endorsed by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, Washington Fraternal Order of Police and Whatcom County sheriff Elfo.
Crime is destroying our public lands, making it increasingly difficult for businesses to make ends meet and endangering our kids. Sefzik is demonstrating the leadership we need to move toward a safer Whatcom County. If you’re concerned about Washington’s crime wave, I urge you to come hear from law enforcement at the upcoming forum, and vote for senator Simon Sefzik in November.
Skookum Kids, the foster care organization I founded and lead today, was proudly among the first to endorse Proposition 5, which will appear on the ballot of every Whatcom County voter in November. If passed, Proposition 5 would create a dedicated, locally-controlled fund with specific goals and robust accountability, so that we can begin digging our way out of this childcare crisis that began before, but has worsened since, the start of the pandemic.
This was new for us. Skookum has a long history of advocating for smart policy, but we have limited our advocacy efforts to the expense side of the ledger on what activities should be funded and why. We have avoided the fraught questions of how much money the government at each level has to work with and where it should come from.
But last year we came to realize that the kind of community we all hope for, one in which it is safe and sweet to be a child, where it is easy to put down roots and raise a family, is out of reach unless there is a strong local investment in the health and well-being of children and families. So we started exploring, alongside some of our closest partners, what such a fund might look like and how it could be designed strategically.
The ordinance on your ballot is our best work, the culmination of years of effort by the smartest minds and most experienced social service professionals in our community. We believe this fund, with its robust structure of accountability, is our best opportunity to invest in the long-term health of our community. Hard to think of a better way to spend $7. We urge you to vote “yes.”
Ray Deck III
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