April 15, 2010 in Washington Voices

ChangePoint at work

Retired pastors team up to help their community
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Ian Robertson talks about “finding meaning in your life” as part of his reflection at the ChangePoint weekly hymn sing, “Singspiration.”
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Map of this story's location

The Revs. Ian Robertson and Steve Wilson just can’t manage to stay retired.

Both men retired from their pastor positions at the Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene in recent years. Wilson still has his longtime job as a National Football League official and Robertson tried his hand at the Spokane Valley City Council, serving for a few months after being appointed to the council but losing his seat in November to Dean Grafos.

When that ended, Robertson was approached about serving on the Spokane Valley Partners board of directors. Instead, the two men decided to start their own organization called ChangePoint Spokane, dedicated to helping others in as many different ways as they could imagine.

The organization offers old-fashioned hymn singing every Sunday at 11 a.m. at CenterPlace. They’re working on a community education program to address the city’s panhandling problem and plan to offer career-change classes. They are working with Spokane Valley school districts to bring a character emphasis program to the schools. A weekly television show highlighting local inspirational stories is planned for Cable Channel 14.

Robertson said he’s not concerned about overextending himself. He just has a passion for helping others. “Don’t worry if you have too many irons in the fire if the fire is hot,” he said.

“The world was built around working,” Wilson said. “You weren’t built to sit around watching Oprah all day.”

Home base is an office in the Spokane Valley Partners building, which they will help support by raising money for the one-stop-shopping location for low-income residents. The nonprofit has a food bank, a clothing bank, offers a variety of classes, hosts several other nonprofits and offers emergency assistance to low-income families.

“They don’t have enough spokespeople for Partners,” said Wilson. “We can help fill that gap.”

“My life goal right now in retirement is building a better community,” said Robertson. “Spokane Valley Partners is the best organization for doing that.”

Recently a new effort was started at the local Dollar Tree. Food items were placed near the checkout counter and people were asked if they would like to purchase one or more items to benefit the Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank. It has been wildly successful, with 80,000 pounds of food collected in the last six months, Robertson said.

He would like to expand that to other grocery stores and also give people the option of donating cash. More and more people are seeking help for things like gas money, and Valley Partners can always use money for that kind of emergency assistance, he said. “We can raise half a million in the next year,” Robertson said. “I just believe we’re hitting on something we can do to make a big difference.”

The duo is excited about what the future has in store for them and not the least bit interested in sitting at home in their recliners. “I think the good Lord has helped us see the big picture in the community,” Robertson said.

They’re also happy to be working with each other again. Wilson, 54, said he has known Robertson, 72, for 13 years. “I don’t think I’ve found anybody I enjoy working with more than Ian,” he said. “He has energy beyond anyone I’ve ever met. That’s the guy I want to work with. Nobody else.”

They aren’t being paid and they are using their own money for start up costs. “He just bought the tables,” Robertson said. “I bought the chairs. Any money that we bring in goes to Valley Partners.”

Both appreciate that they are at Valley Partners, which is housed in the building that used to be the Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene. Wilson’s father helped build the church and Wilson grew up there. Robertson said when Valley Partners director Ken Briggs handed him a key, he said, “Welcome back home.”

“We want to feel we’re making difference,” Wilson said. “That’s what it is all about for us.”


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