Our Values: Participants as Partners

This post is the second in a series introducing FamilyWorks’ new Mission, Vision, and Values. Check back each week to read interviews from staff and board members highlighting each of our values, and click here to view a collection of currently published posts in this series.

What’s your role? How did you get involved with FamilyWorks?

As the Family Resource Center Manager at FamilyWorks, my role encompasses a broad array of responsibilities, primarily ensuring my staff and programs effectively serve families in the North Seattle area. I came across FamilyWorks during my time as an Americorps, doing outreach at various food banks to enroll people into public benefits. One of the regular sites I visited was the Wallingford Food Bank, and I had many opportunities to learn more about the organization. I was drawn to the distinctive work of FamilyWorks when I learned that they also operated a Family Resource Center. When I found they had an opening, I applied for the part-time role as a Family Programs Coordinator then transitioned to management after receiving my Masters in Social Work.

What does this value mean to you personally?

This value resonates with me deeply because it highlights the expertise that participants bring to the table. By working alongside our participants, they help shape our programs and services. One rewarding aspect of working with participants is the chance to create meaningful relationships and listen to their unique stories. Through all the years I have been working at FamilyWorks, I’ve been able to see participants grow and continue to visit us, sharing their experiences, strengths, and contributions to help build a community at FamilyWorks.

How does FamilyWorks embody this value?

This value is ingrained into the work of FamilyWorks, as we actively seek opportunities to gather input, evaluate, and involve participants in shaping our programs and updating policies. As staff, we hold space and conversations reflecting on how we can be inclusive of the diverse pool of participants we serve in terms of their strengths, feedback, and trends we observe.

Can you give an example of how you’ve seen this value in action at FamilyWorks?

In recent years, we’ve successfully expanded and introduced new programs, largely due to the input and collaboration from our participants. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a great example when we learned from participants about all the different challenges they faced in accessing our services and programs. They were our partners in ensuring we were intentional in overcoming gaps in services and working towards creating long-standing services. Meeting participants where they’re at is our model, and this led to the development of some of our programs today, including our Mobile Food Pantry, Community Closet and School-Based Resource Centers.

How do you hope this value will impact the future of FamilyWorks?

My greatest aspiration for the future is to empower participants to take the lead and contribute their insights into how we can further develop and expand as an organization. I want to be at a place where we have opportunities for our participants who can step into more leadership roles and have the power to make these changes.

A current project we have in place is creating a Participant Advisory Committee. This committee will consist of a group of caregivers within the North Seattle area who will come together to provide input on designing programs and services that meet the needs of families in the community. I’m excited to have this project finally come to fruition and work more closely with participants in a more intimate and inclusive way.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am thankful every day that we can work alongside our participants to grow, learn, and connect together. I am excited that this value can recognize the expertise and leadership of our participants who genuinely contribute to our shared goals and mission.