Here’s the scoop, free ice cream social on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at Fort Steilacoom Park

L.A.S.A. also known as Living Access Support Alliance, is hosting an ice cream social at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood from 4 pm to 6 pm this Thursday. L.A.S.A. is a non-profit agency committed to the prevention of homelessness. The VIP people that will be scooping the ice cream include: Kathleen Merryman from the Tacoma News Tribune, Richards, Mayor of the city of Lakewood, Rusty George from Rusty George Creative (marketing firm), Santa from the North Pole, Karl Roth from the Lakewood Fire Department, Zada from the Belly Dancer Extraordinaire, Annie Guthrie from Miss Pierce County’s Outstanding Teen 2011, Dick Muri from the Pierce County Council, and Balarie McLeod from the Lakewood Knights Lion Club. At 5:30 pm, there will be a blessing by Pastor Bonnie Chandler Warren and Irene Fruzzetti, Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma.  There will be a bounce house and cotton candy, as well as Forza coffee who are supplying face painting.

L.A.S.A.’s mission is to be a community supported agency committed to the prevention of both homelessness and recurrent homelessness. Tonight 255 people (85 families) will be sleeping in a warm bed in a house provided by L.A.S.A. Each month our Outreach volunteers help an average of 60 families preventing them from becoming homeless by providing them with utility or rental assistance.

Janne Hutchins, Executive Director of L.A.S.A. for 15 years, expressed what she thought of her job, “I wouldn’t be here this long if I didn’t think there was value, enjoy the people I work with or adding benefit to the community. It can be frustrating with folks that sometimes don’t seem to want the help that you provide…Working in a building that used to be a house with insufficient tools…A lot of frustration attached to the job…a lot of reward too. Reward comes when you work with the family that self actualizes to some degree; see them pick up and fly leave the nest…sort of speak.” She discussed the best thing about her job, “Variety of duties no two days are the same. The very best one of the clients told me that she got a job and is very excited that come October she will be paying all of her own rent.”

When inquiring about L.A.S.A. what many people may not know about the organization,  Janne replied, “We’ve been known [in the past] as the Lakewood Area Shelter Association…legal name change this fall… caused a lot of confusion of the name. The biggest confusion is the word “shelter,” some people think the word “shelter” means we have puppies and kittens for adoption. People show up and drop off pets and people come for birds for adoption some confusion as to what shelter means. With people real negative connotation… for example, a young mother who’s never been in trouble before and she’s scared by a visual image [shelter] in a high school basketball court (sleeping with 50 other families) and her kids are gonna be in danger with prowlers at night. Another bad thing about shelter and people see sign at Friday night at 6 pm…a single man comes for the night and think we have dormitory rooms, this is our administrative office. Another reason for the name change; we really serve through Pierce County. I don’t think people realize the type of housing we provide. We provide emergency housing to transitional housing to low income permanent housing. Transitional housing (most service provided)…when someone moves in a transitional unit…get a key to their own apartment unit. If they need furnishings and help with toiletries, [they receive that] and then also receive case management services.

When people move in, the client may think “oh cheap housing and we have an apartment complex that’s very attractive. Then they find out that it’s set aside for homeless families. If somebody moves out and sister and cousin calls to get in program with the really cheap rent so they’re about program experience…not cheap housing. Case management is at the cornerstone of our services. I like to think that the client is getting case management and housing is attached to it.”

Paula Shirley, Lead Case manager and housing retention specialist, for 11 years, discussed more about case management services, “Case management is a homeless person that’s in transitional housing. They need some sort of care management help link them to resources in community not just housing piece and act as a landlord and help them establish good credit for rental housing. What other the families other needs? Do they need counseling? Are they lacking in education? Employment training opportunities or their mental or physical health concerns. We really look at all their needs to make sure we provide them with the resources and services that they need.”

“Families that are the most successful are the ones that work with their case manager as much as possible,” Janne added.

Tisha Janzen, a new business owner, is a graduating client of L.A.S.A. over a year ago. She explained how she successfully completed the program and goals with her case manager. Tisha had received housing outside of L.A.S.A.’s units. “[You can] better yourself and get tools you need on your own from transitional housing to being out on your own,” Tisha explained.

She expressed what she thought of L.A.S.A., “My opinion is that they’re very supportive and great. [You] come in regularly and deal with case manager…very supportive and helped my kids and me even after graduating.” Tisha described the best thing about L.A.S.A., “They’re supportive and their giving to families in helping them get on their feet is definitely the best thing about them. A lot of times people don’t know where to turn.”

Who Tisha recommends to the program, “If I came across a woman or husband and wife w/children that are homeless and be serious about program…somebody with children that need help would definitely recommend to LASA.” When asked who would succeed in the program, Tisha replied, “Someone who’s had difficulties and wants a second chance and wants more can definitely benefit the most.”

Janne described the purpose of the ice cream social, “This is really to announce our name change, the new logo, the new look. Giving ourselves a little celebration and all the different agencies you see listed helped sponsor it. Costco donated ice cream; Forza’s donating coffee so it’s not a fundraiser for us it’s a “FUNraiser”. There’s gonna be a bounce house. The community supports us and kinda our way for saying, “thank you.” We will have donation cans out however [for those who want to donate to L.A.S.A.]”

When asked what she looked forward to most at the event, Janne replied, “The unveiling of the belly dancer and Santa Claus and the new name. I think the part I enjoy the most is the person’s name is Irene Fruzzetti; it’s very welcoming and Bonnie’s the same way very respectful of everyone’s belief.”

Janne’s response to who she recommends attend the event, “I think that if you’ve got little kids that this will be a blast, there’s gonna be a bounce house…those things are pretty pricey. Sparkle pressure washing is putting it up for free-treats for kids and bounce house and real near a really, really, neat playground for Fort Steilacoom park.

One of the fun things to do is go overboard on toppings for ice creams (gummy bears, Swedish fish, sour gummies, and toppings galore). I’m bringing walnuts since it’s a non-profit; there’s no calories it’s guilt free ice cream (I was crossing my fingers when I said that).

Frequently people wanna know what they can do for us, if people are in need of services or do something for else (i.e. give donations) we are greatly appreciative of donations but we are preparing for back to school…no room for donations come early September…getting ready for Christmas. Really excited to talk to them about adopting a family for Christmas, we have 65 families that we meet their basic Christmas needs met. Our outreach department does focus on Lakewood and Lakewood citizens and outreach help people with rent, utilities, bus tickets, pharmaceuticals and they’re open Monday through Friday from 10 am to noon and can be reached at: (253) 581-8280. Call Janne at: (253) 581-8689 for helping out with that.”

Paula shared what she is looking forward to with the event, “What excites me most is a community building event way to give back to community that has given so graciously to us make sure people really know what we do. We are also inviting our program participants and their families, the opportunity to have fun and play.”

“We would not be able to do what we do without the community [helping] and just grateful to Rusty George Creative (marketing firm) that helped us go through our new branding. I think what we do is essential to having a healthy community and we could not do what we do without some incredible community support,” Janne commented. “[L.A.S.A.’s been] supportive to my family and I and I am greatly appreciative. Amazing that they’re [L.A.S.A.] out there helping people…I’m proof their work is doing good and a lot can come out of it and [clients can] make it further than they might think they can,” Tisha added. “The whole community’s invited,” Paula concluded.