Caritas Outreach Ministries, which operates a food bank on Spokane’s North Side, is organizing a health and resource fair for its clients and the community on Monday.
More than 20 Spokane-area agencies and organizations will be available at the fair, including government social and health services departments, Catholic Charities Eastern Washington, WorkSource Washington, SNAP, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, University Legal Services from Gonzaga University School of Law, Spokane Public Library, the Children’s Home Society of Washington, and more. The city of Spokane’s water trailer and the Spokane Mobile Vet Center also will be on site.
Caritas has been providing food and essentials for 27 years. It has one employee and 92 volunteers who work 6,000 hours a year, said Bob Walker, a Caritas board member who has volunteered with the group for about 13 years.
The organization is supported by 17 Spokane churches of various denominations. The food bank at the Friends Church is open three days a week. It provides both perishable and nonperishable food, paper products, and personal hygiene items. When funding is available, it also can give bus passes and utility assistance.
Caritas served 9,973 people in 2018, nearly double the number served in 2015, Walker said.
In talking with clients, Walker and other volunteers realized that many of the people they help don’t know where they can find other assistance or don’t have a way to get there.
“It just seemed as if there are a lot of folks we see who appear to be in need of services far beyond the food that we provide,” said volunteer Chuck Hooker. “Spokane, because of its size, has a lot of agencies, local and state. If they don’t know these resources exist, it is a real shame.”
The resource fair is not just for those who are having financial difficulties. For example, Walker recently spoke to one woman who needs help finding employment. WorkSource will be on hand to speak to job seekers like her.
“We’re hoping with some effort, in the surrounding community, those who don’t need what Caritas has to offer will still come and gain knowledge of where to go or where they can send their friends and neighbors who need something,” Walker said.
“We tried to make it as diverse as we could and hopefully as helpful as we could,” Hooker said.
Caritas has organized several resource fairs before, but on a smaller scale. They wanted to do something that offered more breadth.
“What we’re trying to do with this fair is connect people. It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult,” Walker said.
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