Lutheran Community Services adapts to serve Snohomish County residents’ needs

EVERETT — No two local resource centers are quite the same.

The trick to serving the needs of a community is first figuring out what those needs are, said Crisann Brooks, family support director for Lutheran Community Services Northwest. The nonprofit has six resource centers in Snohomish County, and each one has adapted to offer programs that are specific to the people who use it.

The centers are especially important in rural areas where people don’t have easy access to other social service organizations. They have emergency food pantries and baby supplies, support groups and classes, and the ability to enroll people in government or nonprofit programs for food or housing.

“People can come in with all variety of needs and what we do is help connect them with resources for whatever that is,” said Julie Senechal, program coordinator for the Lake Stevens Family Support Center.

Lake Stevens was one of the first two support centers Lutheran Community Services started in the county. It opened in 1992, as did the Family Support Center of South Snohomish County in Lynnwood. The South Everett Neighborhood Center followed in 1996 and shares a building with the Familias Unidas Latino Resource Center that started in 2000.

The last two resource centers are fairly new. The Granite Falls Family Support Center has been around since September 2012 and the Arlington Community Resource Center just opened this summer.

The core purpose of the centers is to connect people with the help they need, and that’s consistent from one city to the next. But while Arlington staff and volunteers are looking to offer grief counseling and support groups, the Granite Falls and Lake Stevens centers are focused on new financial management classes and annual back-to-school supply drives this month. Familias Unidas, the South Everett Neighborhood Center and the Family Support Center of South Snohomish County focus on health resources like breast cancer education, dental care and healthy eating classes.

“The nicest thing about these places is people walk in and they don’t have to take a number and they don’t have to fill out a bunch of paperwork,” Senechal said. “They can just sit down and start talking. It’s a nice first step.”

Having services in a house where people can sit down, grab a cup of coffee and ask questions is a huge help to people who don’t know where to turn, said Malysa Johnson, program supervisor for the Lake Stevens and Granite Falls centers.

“They don’t feel like they’re coming to an establishment or a government agency or someone they can’t trust,” she said.

A typical visitor is looking for food assistance along with ideas for housing and transportation, said Liz Chigovanyika, program coordinator in Granite Falls. Her center also recently started offering drug and alcohol assessments to see where clients are on the scale of substance use, abuse or dependence and learn about treatment options.

The centers are looking for more volunteers. They’re interested in people who are bilingual, and not just in English and Spanish. Other languages, especially Mandarin Chinese, would be helpful. They also are looking for disabled volunteers who want to learn new skills.

Greg Hambidge, 27, has been volunteering at the Lake Stevens Family Support Center for about five years. He’s developmentally disabled and has gained confidence and social skills through his work. He sweeps the sidewalks, rakes the yard and takes out the trash but his favorite thing to do is go to the post office and get the center’s mail.

“I learned a lot of things,” he said. Topping his list of lessons is how to be happy and professional.

New programs, classes and groups are added to resource centers every year, Brooks said. One of the newest offerings is Juvenile Justice 101, a pilot program that started in May at the South Everett Neighborhood Center. Adults who have been through the juvenile courts system when a child or grandchild was arrested guide others through the process.

“Courts historically have been lacking in their information to families,” said Susan Krueger, a probation supervisor and mentor in the program. “Many families have to go in to the process cold, and it’s scary,”

It’s been rewarding to help others, volunteer Martha Shegrud said.

“The moment for me was when I introduced myself to a mother and I said I had a grandson who had been through this and I just saw her whole face relax,” she said.

In the end, that’s what family resource centers are about, Brooks said. They help people find solid ground when they’re in trouble.

“It’s about hope,” she said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

How to help

To volunteer, donate or learn more about Lutheran Community Services’ resource centers, call your local center or visit their website.

Arlington Community Resource Center: 360-386-7989,

Granite Falls Family Support Center: 360-386-9282,

Familias Unidas: 425-355-6005,

Family Support Center of South Snohomish County: 425-670-8984,

Lake Stevens Family Support Center: 425-397-7433,

South Everett Neighborhood Center: 425-355-6005,

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