Seniors & Aging

Seniors benefit from, and can help, Interfaith Coalition

Laura Harker, executive director of the Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County, says needy seniors can be helped by the community group, and seniors are encouraged to volunteer to help staff its service programs, including severe-weather shelters for homeless people.
Laura Harker, executive director of the Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County, says needy seniors can be helped by the community group, and seniors are encouraged to volunteer to help staff its service programs, including severe-weather shelters for homeless people. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Back in 1981, more than 40 religious and social service leaders from Whatcom County met with a simple goal: Find ways to serve their neighbors in need.

The result was the Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County. At the same time that many social safety-net programs were losing funding, the nonprofit organization pooled the resources of area faith communities and partnered with social service agencies to help meet the needs of local people in poverty.

Seniors are very welcome as volunteers with our programs.

Laura Harker, Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County

Interfaith’s main focus is its housing for homeless people, according to Laura Harker, executive director. To keep families together, the program offers short-term shelter at 11 Interfaith-owned homes across the county. The program also provides ongoing case management, with the goal of getting the families back to self-sufficiency and their own homes.

While Interfaith’s programs don’t specifically target seniors, the programs can benefit seniors in need.

“And seniors are very welcome as volunteers with our programs,” Harker says.

Harker highlights Interfaith’s two severe-weather shelters as opportunities where volunteers can help.

The men’s shelter at Lighthouse Mission and the women and children’s shelter at Garden Street United Methodist Church are open overnight in the event of snowstorms or extremely cold weather. Volunteers, many of whom are seniors, can choose to help during three different shifts – evening, overnight or morning.

“Our volunteers help people register, hand out blankets and supplies, and prepare and serve meals,” Harker says. “They help us offer a very welcoming place for our guests.”

Project Warm-Up, another Interfaith program, collects hand-knit blankets, mitts, hats and scarves and distributes them through the shelters and social service agencies.

“For seniors who like to knit or are less mobile, it’s a great way to help others in the community,” Harker says. “And the handmade items are so appreciated by the folks who receive them.”

For yet another type of volunteer work, Interfaith’s annual benefit auction needs volunteers to help with setup, to decorate and to find auction items.

“This is an opportunity for folks who like to be involved in a really big, fun event,” Harker says.

Get involved

▪ Training for volunteers to help at Interfaith Coalition’s severe-weather shelter for men will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, or 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, at Lighthouse Mission, 1013 W. Holly St.

▪ Training for volunteers to help at Interfaith Coalition’s severe-weather shelter for women and children will be 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, or 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Garden Street United Methodist Church, 1326 N. Garden St.

▪ Supplies to donate to the severe-weather shelters include hygiene items, adult hats, mitts, twin-size blankets, and new socks and underwear.

▪ Items to donate to Interfaith Coalition’s temporary family housing include laundry and kitchen supplies, bedding, towels, and hygiene items.

▪ Details: 360-734-3983, Interfaith-coalition.org

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