Washington Park Residents Celebrate a Neighborhood Success!

 Residents of three neighborhoods served by Commitment to Community (C2C) and members of the greater community gathered for a potluck in the Washington Park area on Sunday, July 22nd. The gathering marked the celebration of the success of a Washington Park group of residents that advocated for the installation of a much-needed stop sign at the intersection of 7th and Paine. The stop sign, wanted by neighbors for several years, became a reality after C2C Organizer Delia Gutierrez facilitated a neighborhood meeting between City engineer Doug Eaton and residents. Mr. Eaton came to the neighborhood to listen to the concerns of the residents and discuss traffic control issues. The collaborative effort resulted not only in a stop sign, but in the creation of relationships between neighborhood residents, and the City. The group was led by Washington Park resident Marta Venegas.

Es importante que nos juntemos para celebrar nuestros exitos” (It’s important that we come together to celebrate our successes) Ms. Venegas said. “Nosotros tenemos el poder para mejorar nuestros vecindarios y nuestra comunidad” (We have the power to improve our neighborhoods and our community). 

Approximately 41 residents of the three neighborhoods attended the potluck. Representatives of the Walla Walla Police Department, Parks Department, Walla Walla Community College and the Sherwood Trust also attended. The event was also an occasion for a reunion for several members of Congregation Beth Israel who last year worked together with residents on a Washington Park alley cleanup project. 

Commitment to Community’s work is focused on building the capacity of neighborhoods to thrive by developing the capacity in people to reach their goals and dreams. C2C strives to strengthen social capital in neighborhoods while developing engagement opportunities for and with the greater community. C2C currently works in the Edith & Carrie, Blue Ridge, and Washington Park neighborhoods.

Article from the Union Bulletin,  July 8, 2018

If you’re going to spend a year building a house by hand, it helps to know that it was for an exemplary cause. That’s the case for students in Walla Walla Community College’s carpentry program, who build houses for the Blue Mountain Action Council’s Carrie Avenue project.

Each year, the students build a house from the ground up. Years ago, these were large, upscale houses. But for the past two years, WWCC has built smaller, affordable homes in partnership with the Blue Mountain Action Council.

“There are many benefits to the partnership between BMAC and the WWCC carpentry program,” says Blue Mountain Action Council’s Pat Adams, who is also a WWCC graduate. “The biggest benefit being neighborhood improvement while providing affordable housing to the community.”

The Carrie Avenue neighborhood has been a “pet project” for the Action Council for several years, according to Adams. With the help of the nonprofit Pomegranate Center, BMAC has been able to add a park and a community center to the neighborhood, as well as three homes, two of which were built by the community college’s carpentry students. Today, one of those houses is a group home for low-income people with mental and physical disabilities.

“I felt great about building for a charity organization like BMAC,” says Shane Luke, who graduated from the program in June. He helped build both of the Carrie Avenue houses and now works at Dovetail Studio in Walla Walla, which specializes in custom furniture, cabinets, interior remodels and functional art pieces

“My father was a carpenter my entire life, doing general contracting,” he recalls. “Growing up, I thought I would never be a carpenter. I saw him break his back all those years, and I didn’t see any reason why I would want to do that.”

But after spending five years as a wind turbine inspector, Luke lost his job when the company he worked for went bankrupt, and he decided to try college.

“When I found out about the WWCC carpentry program, I knew it was something I could focus on and take seriously,” he says. “At first I had a hard time being a student because I knew I could go right to work doing construction and making money. But I got a lot of financial help from the college, which upped my spirits. And I even loved my homework, and learning all the technical things.”

Another student who loves the program is Clint Beck, who will graduate later this year. In fact, he loves it enough to commute 57 miles each way from his home in Hermiston, without ever missing a day of school or being late to class.

Beck is a nontraditional student with an extensive background in the building industry.

“My dad was the biggest builder in Eastern Oregon when I was growing up,” he says. “So I always thought I would be a builder. My dad built 109 houses, and I worked on most of them, cleaning up job sites, framing houses and putting on siding. So when I was 18 and the business went bankrupt, my dreams of taking it over were dashed.”

Beck went on to establish his own contracting business in Louisiana. But in 2008, when the economy crashed, his business too went bankrupt.

In 2010, he, his wife and four sons moved back to Hermiston. He worked at the Boardman Tree Farm for five years, doing security and driving fork lift. On night shifts, he walked the perimeter, picking up enough cans to earn him $2,000, which he invested in two building lots, planning for the future.

Then the farm was sold, and the employees were laid off. But because of a North American Free Trade Agreement certification that the jobs had been lost to overseas companies, Beck was eligible for two years of retraining, with unemployment, mileage and tuition paid for. Those resources allowed him to enroll in the carpentry program.

Although he had a head start in the building trade, has already obtained his Oregon contractor’s license, and serves as a mentor to younger students in his class, Beck emphasizes that he still benefits from the program.

“What I brought to this class was a lot of knowledge about building,” he says. “But even though I built 30 houses and oversaw hundreds of guys doing that, I was really lacking in the hands-on. I wanted more working knowledge of framing and doing the trim, and I got that here. I’m 48, and I’m still learning.”

Armando Maldonado is the instructor who has made all of this happen. He teaches his students everything from grading to laying the concrete foundation and subfloor, to framing the walls, making the rough openings of the windows and doors, and setting the trusses.

“On a real-world job site, you need to hurry up and get the job done,” Luke explains. “In the program, you can cut three boards wrong until you get them right. We’re not under pressure because we have a year to build a house, which is plenty of time to learn to do it right. That’s what I really loved about the program. And there couldn’t be a better instructor than Armando.”

Maldonado is known for being an exacting but patient teacher.“I like trying to help people and encouraging them to be a better person in life. I do that as a teacher, as a volunteer firefighter, and as a Little League coach,” he says.

Maldonado does have a wish list. “If only someone would donate just one lot for us to build on and sell the house, after three to four years the program could be self-sustaining,” he says wistfully.

For now, the program enjoys the benefits of building for Blue Mountain Action Council.

“The use of local subcontractors and suppliers benefits the local economy,” Adams points out. “Many of these contractors donate time, materials, and speak or offer specific instruction to the students. Providing a quality education for future builders and business leaders of the community is very beneficial as well.”

Abra Bennett is Walla Walla Community College’s writer in residence. She can be reached at 509-527-3669 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mural Clean Up Group Cropped

Eleven members of neighborhoods where Commitment to Community works recently combined forces to clean and apply protective coating to the 9th and 6th street murals. The project was a community collaboration with Valley Transit, the Walla Walla Fire Department, and the Washington State Department of Transportation. 

The murals, painted by neighborhood children about 10 years ago as part of a C2C/neighborhood  project, undergo a cleaning about once a year. Valley Transit generously donated the time of a technician with a water trailer to spray down the murals before and after a scrubbing by the residents. The Fire Department refilled the water tank so that cleaning work could proceed uninterrupted. Once the cleaning and rinsing completed, volunteers applied a protective coating, provided by the Department of Transportation. Afterwords, volunteers celebrated their community work with a pizza lunch.

This marks the second year in a row that Valley Transit and the Fire Department have helped with the community project. 

Thanks to all our dedicated neighborhood leaders!


Story from the Union Bulletin, June 6th, 2018 
Written By: Annie Charnley Eveland

Commitment to Community Volunteers Help Distribute Food

Twenty-one residents from the Blue Ridge, Edith, Carrie and Washington Park neighborhoods volunteered to help bag, box and distribute food during Blue Mountain Action Council’s mobile food bank day on May 24, reported J. Andrew Rodriguez, director of Commitment to Community with BMAC.

C2C helped organize volunteers for the food distribution. Part of a total volunteer group of 37 for the event, they helped distribute 11,203 pounds of food valued at $18,709 to 349 households.

C2C works to build the capacity of these neighborhoods residents by developing leadership and advocacy skills and connecting residents to resources and services in the greater community.

“Volunteer projects like this one deepen social capital between and among the residents while serving the greater community,” J. Andrew said.

The next community food distribution at the BMAC food bank will be 4-6 p.m. July 26 in the parking lot at 921 W. Cherry St.

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We are so proud of our fearless leader and CEO, Kathy Covey!

Kathy was named Eastern Washingon University's Service Alum of 2018. Last week, she and her family traveled to Spokane to celebrate and accept this great honor.

As part of the award, EWU created a wonderful video that captures both the essence of Kathy's service and what her team works so hard for each and every day.

Watch Kathy's story.



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