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Faith community opens local issues forum

Faith community opens local issues forum

by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

Port Angeles church community members are coming together to discuss and tackle issues affecting children and those affected by the weakened economy.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church hosts three panels with local leaders and stakeholders on Oct. 30.

Topics include:

? The medically under-served and providing medical care

? Keeping children in

school and on track to success

? How the faith community is heard in Olympia

Larry Little, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine in the Olympics, will discuss insurance issues.

Dr. Jane Pryne, superintendent of Port Angeles School District; Randy Hill, Sequim High School assistant principal; and others will discuss school dropout rates.

The Rev. Paul Benz, director of Lutheran Public Policy Office of Washington, will discuss his role as one of two faith lobbyists at the Washington Legislature.

Merry Van Deusen, event chairman, said the goal is to raise people's awareness of local issues that affect everyone.

"There's some problems in our community and we need to do something about them," she said.

Van Deusen is a member of Advocacy in Action, a group that volunteers in schools and the community to make a difference.

"We use the concept of 'Love thy neighbor as yourself,'" she said.

She feels the primary purpose of the education panel is to get people talking about problems they see in schools.

"Several churches have adopted schools because there is a high dropout rate," she said.

"Why are we having a dropout rate? When kids don't succeed at lower grades, then it snowballs."

The Rev. Ted Mattie, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, said the panels are important because they give faith communities a chance to hear about community issues and how everyone can be a part of solutions.

His church's members volunteer at schools: painting facilities, making cookies for staff, tutoring students, wiping down library books and more.

"We have volunteers who do this when schools can't afford additional staff members," he said.

"We're just trying to help, and churches are called to serve. It's not to take a political stance. We're called to be part of the community."

Three churches are coordinating the event: First Presbyterian Church, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

Van Deusen invites

Sequim church members and citizens because the problems affect them, too.

Panels are open to discussion and questions.

"We're just trying to create awareness and get people involved," Van Deusen said.

The event is free.

For more information, call Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 452-2323.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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