Community

How to make Renton good, for ever | Lynn Bohart

Lynn Bohart -
Lynn Bohart
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Approximately 22 communities in Washington state are fortunate enough to have a community foundation. Renton is one of those. Community foundations are one of the fastest-growing philanthropic entities in the country. Their motto is, “For Good, For Ever.” That’s because community foundations were created to encourage donors to establish permanent charitable funds to benefit a broad array of community needs now and long into the future.

Last year, the Renton Community Foundation (RCF) decided to add community leadership to its charter and embark on a journey to learn about homelessness, hunger and at-risk youth in the Renton area. The goal was to find a gap that wasn’ being addressed and see if we could help fill it.

We learned a great deal. First and foremost,  there is extraordinary work being done by experienced and caring professionals. But the need is growing, and resources are few. For instance, did you know that 1 in 4 children in Washington don’t have enough to eat? Or that Washington state is one of the 16 “most hungry” states in the U.S.? Did you know that many homeless families are forced to live in their cars right here in Renton?

We all know that people are suffering across this nation. We drive by them on the street corner. We see them in the parks. We hear about them on the news. But do we really understand their plight and how we might make a difference? Do we care enough to try?

Here are a few realities to consider. The number of middle-class families entering the “system” is increasing. These are folks who had a job yesterday. They had a home and a sense of dignity. Now, they may have nothing. They are shocked. Sad. Afraid. And they don’t know where to turn. There is an increasing number of youth living on our streets. If agencies don’t get to them quickly, these kids can fall prey to any number of predators or dangerous situations. And our growing immigrant population in South King County is struggling to bridge the gap between cultures, putting their own youth at risk of joining gangs.

At times, society’s problems may seem overwhelming , even hopeless. But talk with someone like Rich Brooks, executive director at Renton Area Youth & Family Services, and your attitude may change. He has directed his staff to get out of the offices and go meet with homeless kids where they hang out. According to Brooks, “We can no longer expect these kids to come to us. We have to go to them, even if it’s under a bridge.” And, they do. There are so many organizations reaching out and providing lifelines for some of the most vulnerable among us. What they do is amazing and incredibly hopeful.

As part of our effort to address the most pressing needs in our community, the Renton Community Foundation thought a monthly column might help to bridge the communication gap. It will educate, inform and hopefully ignite people’s interest. We will reach out to local nonprofit agencies, service clubs and donors to highlight not only the growing need for services, but the exceptional organizations and partnerships doing the work. We will delve down to find the compelling stories and the important facts, the ones that just might move you or someone you know to get involved. After all, this is all about “Renton For Good, For Ever.”

Stay tuned.

Lynn Bohart is executive director of the Renton Community Foundation. She can be reached via email at lbohart@rentonfoundation.org.

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