Lhaq’temish Foundation

Lhaq’temish Foundation

Lhaq’temish Foundation

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

The Lhaq’temish Foundation developed Xwlemi’ Resilience, an integrated community health strategy, designed as a Lummi community level response to Covid-19. They collaborated to provide the Lummi community with high quality services, safe social connections, inter-agency referrals, and healthy engagement activities throughout the pandemic. Through the Xwlemi’ Resilience collaborative, Lhaq’temish Foundation leveraged resources to increase community planning, increase access to services for children and families, and increase the overall connection among community members at the local level.

 Xwlemi’ Resilience is responding to the overall public health crisis in response to the coronavirus. In order to restore balance to the Lummi community, they are approaching health and well-being as a transformational process that addresses the whole person. Xwlemi’ Resilience has one priority goal – to increase protection for the health and quality of life for the Lummi people. This is being done by increasing the coordination of services at a centralized and consistent location and increasing the coordination of services between partner organizations and Lummi tribal program services.

The Lummi people are resilient, and have worked since time immemorial to preserve, promote and protect their schelangen (way of life). Elders and cultural experts teach the people to know their food, land, water, and medicinal plants. Learning who one’s people are and where they come from is invaluable because it places cultural values and principals and their strengths and resiliency factors, into context and passes knowledge down to the next generations.

We are honored to recognize the Lhaq’temish Foundation for being at the center of wellness for the Lummi people.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Lhaq’temish Foundation is recognized, click here.

Ricardo Sanchez

Ricardo Sanchez

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Ricardo Sanchez es una persona tan honorable que siempre está disponible a ayudar. Él ha sido parte de nuestra comunidad latina en Whatcom County por muchos años. Sus hijos han atendido las escuelas de Bellingham, y él sabe la gran necesidad que existe en nuestra comunidad de fortalecer las relaciones entre familias, la escuela, y los vecindarios. Ha dedicado un número incontable de horas hacer lo necesario para que los estudiantes y las familias se sientan que en verdad son parte de esta comunidad. Ricardo sabe, y entiende que la presencia y la ayuda que él puede ofrecer en las escuelas y con las familias es fundamental para el desarrollo de este.

En su opinión, el granito de arena que el aporta día a día, impacta positivamente a los estudiantes y sus familias. Todo lo que el quiere, es que las familias sepan que no están solos, y siempre hay alguien aquí dispuesto para apoyarles. Que todo es posible, y que lo único que se necesita es la voluntad para ayudar y hacer los sueños y posibilidades realidad.

Ricardo sabe que lo esencial para alcanzar las metas de esta comunidad es alzar la voz y hablar por los que no pueden hacerlo, por esto es que el incansablemente participa en comités, haciendo trabajo voluntario, o lo que se necesite para apoyar a la comunidad latina.

Él sabe y entiende la gran necesidad que las familias de habla hispana tienen, y el quiere brindarles la seguridad de que aquí siempre hay alguien dispuesto a ayudarles. Estamos felices de darle un premio al desarrollo de la comunidad a Ricardo.

Ricardo Sanchez is an honorable person, who is always available to help Spanish speaking and Latino culture families interact with schools and community. He has been a part of our Latino community in Whatcom County for many years. His children attended Bellingham schools, and he knows the great need in our community to strengthen relationships between families, schools, and neighborhoods. He has dedicated countless hours to doing what it takes to help students and families feel welcome and truly be a part of this community. Ricardo knows and understands that the presence and help that he can offer in schools and with families is essential for the development of future relationship and connection.

In his opinion, the “grain of sand” that he contributes every day, positively impacts students and their families. All he wants is for families to know that they are not alone, and there is always someone here ready to support them. That anything is possible, and that all it takes is the will to help and make dreams and possibilities come true.

Ricardo knows that to achieve the goals of this community, it is essential to speak out and speak for those who cannot, that is why he tirelessly participates in committees, doing volunteer work, or whatever is needed to support the Latino community.

He knows and understands the great need that Spanish-speaking families have, and he wants to give them the assurance that there is always someone here willing to help them. We are happy to give Ricardo a Community Building Award.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Ricardo is recognized, click here.

Lummi Language and Schelangen Department

Lummi Language and Schelangen Department

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

The Lummi Language and Schelangen Department has, at the request of the Lummi Nation and the broader community, developed the land acknowledgement resolution which was passed by tribal council on June 15, 2021. This land acknowledgement is the basis of the one presented in the event program. Land acknowledgments are intended to be a powerful way to respect and honor indigenous peoples and is one way to resist erasure of indigenous histories, honoring and inviting the truth, while also supporting overall increased connection among community members.

The Lummi language is called Xwlemi’ Chosen. As part of colonialization of the lands inhabited by Native Americans, native languages were forbidden to be spoken.  Much of native learning is done in the oral tradition—wisdom and knowledge passed from generation to generation through spoken word–much language and culture was at risk of being lost.

The Lummi Language and Schelangen Department is essential to the Lummi Nation in its effort to reclaim and restore language and culture for the wellbeing of its people for generations to come.

The department is at the center of development and implementation of Xwlemi’ Chosen resources that help teach and share the traditional language of the Lummi people and promote indigenized educational opportunities for the greater community. The language department has served over 300 K through 12 students enrolled in Whatcom County to learn Lummi culture and language.

Their leadership continues to expand reach and engagement within our region while strengthening relationships and uplifting pride and confidence in being the Lhaq’temish, the Lummi people.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Lummi Language and Schelangen Department is recognized, click here.

Margaret Gibson

Margaret Gibson

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Skate parks can be places that many adults pass without giving much thought to, much less engaging with the skaters and other youth who frequent them. But not our next awardee. Margaret Gibson not only engaged with the skate park crowd but set out to gain their trust by fulfilling their physical and emotional needs through familiarity and relationship continuity.

Early in the COVID pandemic, Blaine schools were meeting in-person for half days. While walking her dog, Margaret noticed that a number of students went directly from school to the skate park to hang out . As she spoke with the kids, many of whom she knew from her 23 years as a K to 12 school nurse in the Blaine district, they indicated that they were hungry since lunch was not served when school was a half day.

And so, Margaret began a regular routine. A few times each week she picks up food and drinks donated from the Blaine Food Bank and drives to the skate park with her newfoundland dog, Willow, where she is greeted enthusiastically with hugs and curiosity about what treasures she has brought for the skaters that day.

While she encourages them to eat, she inquiries about who they are and what and how they are doing. Margaret listens to their stories with genuine care about their well-being, celebrating who they are and encouraging them. She creates a space for youth at the skate park to know that there are trusted adults in the community, like her, that really listen and see them.

Thank you, Margaret, for your concern and care for the youth of Blaine.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Margaret is recognized, click here.

Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center

Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

What do you get when you combine two passionate women, a team of 6 carefully trained and award-winning horses, and 20 volunteers per week in a stunning 5-acre Whatcom County farm setting?  

You get our next award winner – the Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center.  This local nonprofit organization is directed by Julia Bozzo, with assistance from Hilary Groh. Together, they provide adaptive recreation services for 31 clients each week, who learn a lot from the horses about physical movement, communication, and emotional regulation, all the while building confidence from being in control of a powerful animal.

The riding staff focuses on what clients can do, and builds from there, which they say often results in a shift of perspectives for all involved.  Consider how different it feels for a girl who is typically in a wheelchair, when others look up at her and she gazes down on them—a literal change that can result in a cascade of positive effects.  Or contemplate the life-changing outcome for a young boy who started as a client 20 years ago and is now serving as a volunteer who teaches other volunteers how to do their jobs better! 

For this inspiring work that brings so many community members from different backgrounds together, I am pleased to present a 2021 Community Building Award to the Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center is recognized, click here.

Generations Forward Family Council

Generations Forward Family Council

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Generations Forward Family Council’s vision is to create a community where every family can truly thrive.  They feel that their goal will be reached when families of color are welcomed and supported, tribal sovereignty is respected and protected, single parents and non-traditional families have the resources they need, and all children have safe housing, appropriate childcare, healthcare, and accessible education.  They have focused on presenting platforms and forums to connect community members and allow them to have their voices heard. 

The Family Council is comprised of champions. Each family champion does their own distinct work within the organization connected to their personal passions.  Champions may create family support networks, facilitate family councils, lead anti-racist community calls, and offer community gatherings and resource sharing opportunities.

Additionally, some family council champions also serve as subject matter experts, act as points of contact for working with government organizations, and/or serve on the Child and Wellbeing Task Force.  They also unite the community through “Community Spotlight”, short podcasts that interview a member of the community to share quick and useful information for Whatcom County parents of young children, ages 0-7.

Using a program called “Unhappy Hour”, former family champion, now alumni member, Monica Kohler, has gathered family council members to voice their opinions on issues such as childcare.  These Unhappy Hour sessions are recorded and shared in an opportunity to reach people in an authentic way.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Generations Forward Family Council is recognized, click here.

Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center’s Mediation Program

Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center’s Mediation Program

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Conflict is perhaps an inevitable element of the human experience, and in this time of unprecedented social and political polarization our daily news includes many examples. 

Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center’s Mediation Program provides a fantastic resource that enables community members to come together in a structured process designed to help resolve conflict.  Whether working with families to create peace in the home through parenting plans, helping neighbors address disputes, supporting businesses or agencies, or most recently, helping landlords and tenants navigate eviction scenarios,

WDRC’s case managers and mediators serve the community with compassion, deep listening skills, and genuine care.  Clients often comment that it is the first time they have told anyone their stories, or that it is the first time they have felt heard without being judged.

Providing conflict coaching, helping clients set goals, opening hearts to others’ perspectives and empowering community members to connect across differences results in an astonishing 80% resolution rate for around 300 cases each year—one conversation at a time. 

For their work strengthening relationships through conflict resolution, this award goes to Gayle LaCroix, Program Manager, her staff of five case managers and the 30 volunteer mediators who work with them.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which WDRC’s Mediation Program is recognized, click here.

Deana Ottum

Deana Ottum

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

There are many different ways that people are called into community building.  For Deana, it was the love and care of her son, who began experiencing mental health issues in middle school.  She took him to family classes (a life changing time, she noted), but he eventually aged out of a lot of the support systems in place at the time. 

Though the University of Washington has one of the best First Episodes programs in the country, they had no presence in the North Sound region, so she had to drive him to Seattle to get help.  Since then, Deana has worked to increase and improve mental health services for her son and others in our community.

Two years ago, she started the Whatcom Serious Mental Illness Coalition to advocate for the equal treatment of those struggling with mental health.  In conjunction with NAMI Whatcom, she has worked to bring together police, sheriffs, EMTs, Health Care Authority representatives, the health department and the Grace Project to find resources and create mental health safety in Whatcom County. 

She has facilitated the family to family program with NAMI Whatcom, and has been a resource for families who have children struggling with mental health. 

Through these efforts, she has created a network for families to have a safe and supportive group of people they can go to for help and self-care. 

This Community Building Award recognizes Deana for her time and efforts to provide much needed services to Whatcom County.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Deana is recognized, click here.

Susan Taylor, CRNA

Susan Taylor, CRNA

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Susan is a registered nurse and certified registered nurse anesthetist with nearly 30 years of medical experience.  This is her day job.

As Covid-19 vaccination became available in our community, the systemic bottleneck for quick access to vaccination clinics became clear to Susan.  She met the emerging need with skills and knowledge she possessed and leveraged her professional network to create a solution: mobile vaccination clinics.  And for the last year, this is how she has filled her evenings and weekends in a voluntary role.

Susan used her own resources of knowledge, money and time to become a certified vaccine provider within the state.  She volunteered her professional skills and recruited others to do the same to open additional vaccination sites.  The goal of the clinics was to take the vaccination to people where they are at in community.  “Where they are at” referred not only to geographic location, like more rural areas of Whatcom County, but also to “where they are at” in terms of making the choice to become vaccinated.

In her efforts, she offered to come to businesses, churches and other community spaces by request—making vaccination easily accessible.  She reached out to leaders in diverse communities who held concerns and questions about vaccination and worked to make clinics available in community spaces where people could inquire and make decisions about vaccination for themselves.

In total, Susan and the volunteers she rallied, offered over 80 mobile clinics as a means of decreasing barriers for those who wished to become vaccinated.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Susan is recognized, click here.

Renee Swan Waite & Cynthia Wilson

Renee Swan Waite & Cynthia Wilson (Oomagelees)

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Renee and Cynthia of the Lummi Nation deeply understand how to build community one relationship at a time. Their work creating cultural bridges proves this!

Their joint work launched when Renee made a personal connection at “Nerd Camp”—a local reading conference she attended. That chance meeting was followed by an invitation to present at Western Washington University, where she and Cynthia met teachers from the Bellingham School District.

They were, in turn, invited to present to Bellingham teachers, and have now presented numerous workshops to both local and national audiences of teachers and local churches.

The warm generosity of spirit Cynthia and Renee possess shows up in how they share their culture. Whether engaging Kulshan Middle School in ceremony honoring the Lummi tribal member who designed their logo or bringing teachers to the canoe paddle for first-hand experiences, Renee and Cynthia offer opportunity for community members to gain greater understanding of one another. And the work transforms lives—changing the ways teachers think and teach and shifting practices by school districts and churches who now include land acknowledgements in their buildings and meetings. Further, they are now receiving questions on how different groups could engage in reparation activities.

For their invitation to “come across the bridge” and their dedication to expanding cultural understanding, we honor them with this Community Building Award.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Renee and Cynthia are recognized, click here.