A New Light Shining in Bellevue
By R. Brent Christie, Executive Director of Jubilee REACH Center
“… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Neighbors called the old, overgrown and abandoned church “a dark place.” One said, “If my child came from that building, I knew something bad had happened.” But after meeting with school principals, counselors, and city officials, a few leaders from a local church caught a vision.
In the heart of the most diverse community in Bellevue, Washington — where 39 different languages are spoken and 64 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced price lunch — an old, worn church building became a hub for Christ-centered hospitality to share with God's people who are in need.
An ever-expanding ripple effect
Light dawned in the neighborhood about three years ago. First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue contributed the resources, time, and talent through a capital campaign called the Ripple Effect — evoking images of a pebble dropped into water that spreads ripples in ever growing circles. Then in September 2006, the Jubilee REACH Center (JRC) opened its doors with 19 volunteers providing care for 20 kids before school.
Today more than 40 volunteers from 30 churches — in collaboration with the Bellevue School District, the City of Bellevue, local businesses, and other service organizations — bring Jesus’ healing, build community, and transform lives through 26 integrated programs. And those programs reach over 3,000 people who walk through the doors of the center each month.
Now, the community is changing, one heart at a time. By modeling Christ’s love and building relationships, JRC hears the needs of families, then raises up volunteers to provide them a hand up. The center does this through programs and more:
- Christian community caregivers supported dozens of families in crisis. (They helped 22 families avoid homelessness during November and December 2008.)
- Assisted more than 170 parents learn English and become connected with others in the community, while their toddlers were prepared for kindergarten.
- “Jubilee elves” matched churches with sponsor schools to distribute gifts to nearly 100 families and the love of Christ at Christmas last year — beginning a process of year-round care for families in need.
- Help students move from academic failure to the honor roll by developing healthy habits before and after school as they complete homework, and express themselves through music, art, sports, and technology.
Today, neighbor Lidea Mateas, says, “I see the Jubilee REACH Center in this community is like light in the dark.”
JRC offers all its programs free of charge and, in an effort to accommodate the increase in participation attendance, the center has opened the Heart and Home Value Center in Bellevue’s Overlake area. Called a “community and capacity building” store, the shop accepts new and like-new clothing, accessories, and furnishings. It also welcomes volunteers, all while providing transitional jobs and training for families in crisis, helping to increase their job skills.
R. Brent Christie is the executive director of the Jubilee REACH Center in Bellevue, Washington. He has served on the boards of Eastside Academy, Rwanda Partners, and Urban Impact. He and his wife of more than 30 years have two grown children and live in Woodinville, Washington.
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