Frank Johnson

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n this edition of Messages of Faith, we share an interview with local pastors who have been working together to insure the Cold-Weather Shelter continues, post-COVID-19.

Dan Arnold, Executive Pastor of Mercer Creek Church, is the current president of the Kittitas Valley Ministerial Association (KVMA). Pastor Dan, how has the KVMA renewed its pledge to help the homeless this winter through the Cold-Weather Shelter (CWS)?

When the KVMA started the CWS just a few years ago, it was because we saw a need that wasn’t being met in our community. As church leaders, we knew that the church had a biblical mandate to serve the poor. The CWS became our biggest endeavor as a small association. As COVID hit, and funding was set to change, we needed to clarify our commitment. So, a team of pastors started meeting and asking the hard questions. In the end, we walked away with a clear mandate that we needed to keep the shelter going, and we wanted it to continue to be led by our association of churches. For years Don Green, pastor of First Christian Church, has functioned as our point person, and he still will, but we decided to surround him with greater support and renewed buy-in from the KVMA. Last week, our team brought multiple partnership agreements and financial commitments to the full KVMA, and I’m excited to say that they were enthusiastically supported by our full association.

Don Green, Pastor of First Christian Church, is one of the founders of the CWS. Pastor Don, in the past few years, seven different churches provided space for one night each as an overnight safe place for homeless people. How will the CWS be different this year?

The Covid-19 virus and subsequent social restrictions have required us to take a closer look at how to safely operate the shelter this year. It became evident that the logistics of maintaining social distance and the possible need to isolate or even quarantine shelter guests if they arrive showing virus symptoms would make it nearly impossible to use seven different locations. We opted for a single location where we could control the environment and keep everyone safe. Thanks to Grace Episcopal Church and our partners at HopeSource we have a building that will house up to twenty people socially distanced. We have been working closely with the County Health Department to come up with sound policies and procedures to operate a smooth running and safe shelter in the midst of this crazy pandemic.

Gary Bye is Pastor of New Life Assembly in Kittitas and the immediate past president of the KVMA. Pastor Gary, how is the KVMA partnering with HopeSource and FISH Food Bank to make the CWS a viable ministry this year?

The KVMA is thrilled to be partnering with both F.I.S.H. Community Food Bank and HopeSource this year to make the CWS available. The churches of the KVMA ran the CWS on their own for the first five years, providing locations (church buildings) and volunteers, so our homeless friends had a warm place to sleep, but that was it. Fortunately, F.I.S.H partnered with the KVMA a couple years ago to provide logistical help and most importantly, food. This year COVID-19 presented us with extra challenges; that’s where HopeSource stepped in. They specialize in housing, so they helped us to secure a dedicated site and to work through the housing challenges.

Steve Luten is Pastor of Ellensburg Foursquare Church. He has been on the planning team for the CWS this year. Pastor Steve, what kind of involvement is the KVMA looking for from the churches and the community for the CWS this year?

Volunteers have always been essential for the operation of the shelter, but this year our need is greater than ever. We need people involved in every aspect of shelter operation from evening check-in to morning send-off. Volunteer duties range from socializing with guests to serving meals to monitoring the shelter throughout the night. Volunteers are also needed for sanitizing the space each day. This year the KVMA is helping pay for the breakfast meals served. To do this the KVMA will be receiving donations from churches and community members.

Frank Johnson is the pastor of Chestnut Street Baptist Church.


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