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Connecting people with help they need in Key Peninsula and White River

In life, there are problems and solutions.

Connecting the two is one of our most important jobs.

One of the biggest challenges we face is that not everyone in our county has the same opportunities to be healthy. Some communities have a harder time connecting to our services and have worse health outcomes.

That’s especially true in some of the beautiful rural corners of our county like White River and the Key Peninsula, two of our six Communities of Focus.

That’s why we set up shop in Key Peninsula two years ago. Twice a week, we give residents easier access to our staff and programs.

A partial map of Pierce County that shows the 6 communities of focus: Key Peninsula, South Tacoma, Springbrook, East Tacoma, Parkland, and White River.

Working closely with the Key Peninsula Community Council, Safe Streets, Crossroads Treatment Center and County Council District 7, we’ve found new ways to help people through a community office.

We have heard, for instance, that there are few places to gather on the Key Peninsula. There are no sit-down coffee shops and few meeting spaces, which is why we built out the office with a friendly community feel. By highlighting local artists and community partners, we created a gathering space for residents to connect to each other and our services.

Transportation is a barrier for some who need to make a trip to the Health Department.  There is no bus service on Key Peninsula, and paying toll fees and gas to drive 50 miles roundtrip can get expensive. Now people can connect with staff to get consultations on permits and turn in applications without a trip across the bridge.

We also learned internet is spotty on Key Peninsula, so, we installed a kiosk in our Key Center office. People use it to get food-worker cards, look up and apply for permits, and otherwise connect with what they need online.

One of the community members who has benefited from the office is real estate agent Gina Menard, who is also President of Food Backpacks 4 Kids.

“When I go to the office, I get immediate help and my questions answered,” Menard said. “We really need the services in this community. Not everyone has a computer and a car, and it can be a real tough life out here for some people.”

We offer lots of other things in the Key Peninsula Community Office:

  • Staff members can help you with on-site septic questions.
  • We can give you tips for your yard.
  • A Safe Streets partnership to people keep your family safe.
  • Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young is in the office once a week.
  • Even a meeting place if your group needs it!

We’re in the early stages of learning how we can help out in White River in similar ways. Last October, we started looking hard at that community’s unique needs.

Pierce County gave us $25,000 last year to improve people’s health outcomes in White River. We decided to use participatory budgeting to let the people who live there decide how we should use the money. Students at White River High School voted to use $15,000 to install water-bottle filling stations.

Here are some more ideas the Families First Coalition came up with that the community will be voting on soon:

  • A community garden.
  • A summer youth program.
  • Working together to harvest food from people’s gardens and trees and deliver it to those in need.
  • A mobile resources vehicle that could transport people who need a ride, or bring things like mental healthcare directly to people.
  • Yoga and meditation classes.

We’ve already found some ways to help. Recently, for instance, the freezer at the Food Bank broke down. Our staff was able to find several micro-grants for the Food Bank to apply for, with the goal of bringing in enough money to fix the freezer.

If your community has problems, we’re here to help you find the solution.