Coalition sets stage for Jan. 26 Rainier Beach Community Action Meeting

"I have parents that will do that," Connie So volunteered after an organizer for the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition's (RBCEC) Community Action Town Hall Meeting announced that she will need Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish translators for the event.

So represented the New School, one of the dozens of organizations forming the RBCEC, which is working to improve the lives of local youths and families and to revitalize the Rainier Beach neighborhood.

The meeting, held on Jan. 12 at the New School on the Rainier Beach Community Center campus, drew about 15 coalition members seeking to put the finishing, organizational touches on the group's Jan. 26 Rainier Beach town hall meeting. The group managed to secure pledges for set-up help, childcare providers, a food service crew and door prize donations.

Other groups represented at the Jan. 12 meeting included the Rainier Beach Merchants Association, the Rainier Beach Community Center, a coalition of area grandparents, and ACORN, a multinational group that advocates for low- to moderate-income families.

For the Jan. 26 town hall meeting, New School elementary students will provide entertainment, titled "A Lunar New Year Celebration," featuring a play and music.

Following their performance, residents are invited to stay to hear updates on community happenings, receive information about local resources, and learn how they can get involved in the community.

"The third annual Community Action Meeting will let residents see what's going on and give them a chance to participate in helping [the RBCEC in its five focus areas]: youth, education and training, economic development, public safety and transportation and the environment," coalition president Gregory Davis announced at the Jan. 12 meeting.

Seattle city council members and heads of various local governmental departments are expected to join representatives from local organizations, businesses and churches at the Jan. 26 town hall.

A community platform

While RBCEC members are striving to make the upcoming event a success, they're also working to expand the three-year-old coalition's membership and influence in Rainier Beach. The Department of Neighborhoods recently granted the RBCEC $15,000, which has been earmarked for community outreach and communication.

Davis stated that she doesn't want groups or individuals to be discouraged from joining the coalition because they aren't available to attend her group's meetings, which are on Thursday evenings.

"Meetings are a middle class kind of thing, and we want to value the voice of people who can't come to meetings," Davis said.

Part of the group's outreach includes the coalition's new communications representative who will strive to represent the community members who are unable to attend. To help, the RBCEC is working on an online community board where residents can learn about events and issues in Rainier Beach.

The RBCEC is currently trying to earn a $100,000 grant aimed at helping them represent all of the area's major ethnic groups. According to Davis, each group would choose a trusted advocate to represent them at community meetings and events, and for their time these advocates would receive a stipend. The coalition is also seeking funding to help arts and science programs in the neighborhood's schools.

The RBCEC meets the second Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Rainier Beach Family Center. For more information, contact Tamsen Spengler by phone at (206) 723-1301 or e-mail at

The Community Action Town Hall Meeting will take place on Jan. 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rainier Beach Community Center gym, 8825 Rainier Ave. S. Free refreshments and childcare will be available.

Denise Miller may be reached via

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