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Interfaith Council on Homelessness hires Islander to oversee meals program

Islander Ed Swan will begin coordinating the twice-weekly meals put on by Vashon’s Interfaith Council on Homelessness (IFCH) — the first hire the small nonprofit has made since its origins six years ago.

Board president Emma Amiad said the organization’s meal program has grown so large that “we really need a coordinator to manage it.” The board, however, did not want to take money away from its direct support of Islanders to cover the costs of the new position, she said. So it found what she called “a special gift” from a generous donor to fund the position.

“It’s such a relief, because this was just such a burden for our small board,” she added.

IFCH, which not only helps homeless people but also provides financial help to Islanders who need some assistance to remain in their homes, began serving two dinners a week during the winter months about five years ago to provide warm food and some comfort to the Island’s homeless population. At the time, the group served six to eight people a meal for about three months of the year. 

Due in part to the recession, the meal program has grown, Amiad said. Now, volunteers routinely serve 20 people or more, and the meals program runs eight months of the year.

The food is provided by dozens of individuals and families who volunteer to provide a meal for those in need. Swan, as the coordinator, will be responsible for scheduling the meals, opening and closing the facilities and making sure the program runs smoothly. The meals are served in the Presbyterian Church.

Swan, well known on the Island as an expert birder, writer and environmentalist, has a long history of working in low-income housing projects and as a volunteer coordinator. “His experience and know-how really matched our needs,” Amiad said. “We are thrilled to have someone with his expertise to help us out.”

“The needs of our community have really grown,” added Nancy Vanderpool, the group’s volunteer case worker. “We see more and more families falling through the cracks. High medical costs, utility bills and rental assistance, among other needs, have all increased.”

Those able to help with this program should call Ed Swan at 463-7976.

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