Center helps keep the community peace

Since 1991, the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County has helped end a lot of conflict in this community, everything from neighborhood feuds to workplace conflicts, stressed-out families to landlord-tenant disputes.

Working toward peaceful solutions, volunteers trained in mediation skills will take on just about any case where the parties at loggerheads are willing to negotiate their differences in good faith, and with common courtesy.

Once embraced, this simple creed can lead to positive outcomes. Some 80 percent of the cases the Dispute Resolution Center takes on reach partial or full resolution. Just as important, 90 percent of the agreements reached hold together over time.

Last year, more than 160 trained volunteer mediators and phone conciliators helped some 4,200 people in our community find pathways beyond their anger, frustration and negativity, bringing peace to volatile situations, healing festering emotional wounds and generally improving the overall health and well-being of the community.

Helping people resolve their conflicts isn’t the only thing the nonprofit group does. Each year, the Dispute Resolution Center teaches mediation skills to hundreds of community members who enroll in a 40-hour class. The newly trained mediators not only help with the DRC caseload, they take their new-found skills back to their workplace, their homes and their neighborhoods to help make and keep the peace in a variety of settings.

In 2012, the center trained more than 700 citizens, including 106 youth in Thurston and Mason counties.

The court system relies on the services of the Dispute Resolution Center, including family court, which often sends divorced parents in conflict over their parenting plans to DRC. When parents no longer bound by their marriage vows can learn to communicate in a civil and respectful manner, they benefit and, more importantly, the children benefit, too.

The Great Recession has led to a new arena of mediation between homeowners and lenders triggered by mortgage foreclosures. Foreclosures accounted for 9 percent of the DRC’s cases last year.

Last Sunday, some 400 community members gathered at the Red Lion Inn in Olympia for the Dispute Resolution Center’s 10th Annual “A Toast of Chocolate.” The chocolate and wine-tasting fundraiser pulled in more than $71,000 in donations to help keep the Dispute Resolution Center operating.

Kudos to the Dispute Resolution Center staff and volunteers, and community supporters who help the DRC keep the peace.

For more information about how to become a community peacekeeper or how to support this low-key, but vital, community service, visit mediatethurston.org.