Guest Column: Caring

Pastor Ian Robertson

“A city council, business, and non-profit: Caring for the Community”

Margaret Mead said it well: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever had.”

How then, between Thanksgiving and the New Year, how may we show genuine concern for the welfare of the poor and needy? What do they really need? Judged by church and charitable groups, the answer is “food.” Big dinners! Charity truly feeds a person for a day, but does it make any lasting difference?

The reality is that no one is starving in Spokane County.

Auto manufacturer Henry Ford once said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would say faster horses.” So, all the extra meals are OK, but do they help people break out of the poverty cycle? Perhaps capital rather than charity is a better way to demonstrate genuine long-term help to the poor and needy.

So, kudos to three groups of people who truly care: a city council, a non-profit, and a business.

First, we congratulate Ben Stuckart, Spokane’s Council President for the decision to make surplus government property available for affordable housing. The focus is on mixed pocket communities, primarily for seniors, veterans, and working families, that are below the ALICE Threshold.

ALICE is a United Way acronym for Asset-Limited. Income-Constrained, Employed. Families unable to afford five basic necessities: housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. These are not the panhandlers on the streets, who have shelters and other services provided for them. This council resolution is aimed to help people break the poverty cycle and get away from dependence on charity. That is genuine caring. Thanks, Ben Stuckart, and the other council members: Mike Fagan, Kate Burke, Breean Beggs, Lori Kinnear, Candace Mumm, and Karen Stratton. 2019 is going to be a great year as new healthy communities develop.

Second, I am amazed at the new Recovery Café in Peaceful Valley. What a way to provide a caring community for people struggling with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It’s part of Community-Minded Enterprises (CME), a non-profit that has pumped more than $40 million into Eastern Washington to provide so many holistic services.

My personal disclaimer: I’ve been on CME’s board as far back as I can remember, so I’m speaking with first-hand knowledge. They also care about employees and volunteers. Named one of the best companies to work for. Thanks, Kathy Thamm, for your leadership as CEO.

Third, a company that really cares is Broetje Orchards in Prescott, WA, just north of Walla Walla.

Vista Hermosa Village is one of three communities with 840 homes for employees, first as rentals, and now also as home owners. It’s much more than housing. It’s truly building community with all kinds of services. Thanks to the owners, Ralph and Cheryl Broetje. They have donated over $49 million helping entrepreneurs in third-world countries start new businesses or expand existing businesses. Once again, it’s providing capital, not charity. It’s helping break the poverty cycle.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This season, let’s all be kind supportive helpers, showing genuine concern for the welfare of others.

My prayer for our community quotes the prophet Isaiah. “I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places…You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew…You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. (Isaiah 58:11,12 The Message) This is my hope for people of all faiths and all economic conditions.


Ian Robertson is a retired Spokane Valley pastor. He is on the PACE board, was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, was a founding member of The HUB Sports Center in Liberty Lake. He recently founded ChangePoint Northwest Center for Housing, developing eco communities and home ownership for struggling families. He may be contacted at