Small-town communities are famous for their ability to work together. Good-hearted individuals unite over important causes, dedicating themselves to improving life for all. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lewis County.

Our local nonprofits and community organizations work hard to improve lives and enhance opportunities here at home. But despite committed enthusiasm, many barriers stand in the way of true societal change; everything from funding to gathering enough volunteers, to identifying the best way to improve. And it’s hard to serve others if you can’t connect with those who need assistance in the first place.

Gather Church Centralia
A rainbow over Gather Church in Centralia. Photo courtesy: Gather Church

Twin Transit knows connection. The local transit authority connects Centralia and Chehalis every day. In addition to connecting individuals and destinations, Twin Transit also connects the organizations that make our community great with those they serve.

To this end, Twin Transit recently donated buses to three important community partners: Human Response Network of Lewis County, Jesus Name Pentecostal Church of Yelm and Gather Church of Centralia. Each of these organizations serves the community in unique and essential ways.

Jesus Name Pentecostal Church of Yelm received a 2012 medium-duty Ford El Dorado Cut-A-Way bus “for their efforts to expose their students and parishioners to a wider variety of community and regional activities,” says Twin Transit Director Joe Clark. “The cultural exchange of those efforts – in a significant way – demonstrates how we are much more alike than different.”

For nearly a decade, Gather Church has served those who need it most. Their ministries include a food bank, clothing bank, a trauma-informed childcare center and a program called Pathways, which walks alongside individuals who are seeking all forms of life recovery. Gather Church received a 2012 medium-duty Ford El Dorado Cut-A-Way bus and a 1994 Dodge Voyager Van to assist with these important efforts.

Gather Church Centralia
The doors opening for another Thursday night community dinner at Gather Church. Photo credit: Kia Huffman

“The bus donation was for Gather Church’s work with the disadvantaged in our community,” Clark says. “They’re using the bus to bring people to their facility for services that they may not otherwise have transportation to utilize.”

“There have been too many barriers in the way of people getting the assistance that they need,” says Pastor Cole Meckle of Gather Church. For this reason, Gather Church has chosen to make all their services low-barrier. “In other words, we aren’t going to make you jump through a bunch of hoops in order to get help,” Meckle says. “If you are living someplace that does not allow you to prove your address, you shouldn’t be turned away from getting food.”

Gather Church hosts several large gatherings each week, which can be difficult to coordinate transportation for. “Primarily the way it has worked is just individuals showing up and taking three or four people at a time,” says Mickle.

Gather Church Centralia
Pastor Cole and Gather Church volunteers preparing to open the food bank for the evening.
Photo credit: Kia Huffman

Dan Stanfield and his wife have attended Gather Church for the last six years. Dan noticed the need for transportation to and from the community meals his wife helps serve each week. He took the initiative and started waiting in front of the church to offer free rides. He wasn’t the only one. Gather Church’s work is made possible by volunteer efforts like these. Now their volunteers will have the capacity to assist more people than ever before. “We’re trying to make sure that people are getting where they need to go in a timely manner and in a way that is safe,” Mickle says.

The extra space will help accommodate not only the passengers but their possessions. “That’s one of the other hard parts,” says Meckle. “Sometimes it’s one thing to accommodate three or four people, but it’s another to add all their stuff.”

Whether it’s offering a ride or helping someone find housing, Gather Church has one guiding focus. “This is our community; if it is going to thrive, we must assist the people,” Meckle says. “The mass majority of people who come to Gather Church are from here.”

Gather Church Centralia
The amazingly organized clothing bank at Gather Church. Photo credit: Kia Huffman

Gather Church’s progress is encouraging. “There are some pretty amazing success stories from people we have helped to house that have become advocates and work in that area now,” Meckle says.

He cites three individuals who went through a Gather Church program, attended Centralia College and are now serving in the community as chemical dependency professionals. Another gentleman lost his housing due to battles with depression but thanks to the support of Gather Church, he has been successfully housed for over a year and now works as an advocate for victims of harm.

One of the care coordinators currently on staff with Gather Church also has past experience with addiction and homelessness. “It’s amazing to see people go through it, have their eyes opened to these struggles and then they want to make a difference and do something about it,” says Meckle.

Thanks to partnerships within the community, volunteers, and generous donations like Twin Transit’s vehicles, our community is working together to become the best it can be. “If we can keep that snowball effect going, we can make a difference,” says Meckle.

To contact Gather Church about volunteering or donating, visit their website or call 360-827-0267.

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