Thanks to a generous donation, the Community Assistance Program has a home

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The Community Assistance Program (CAP) now has its own building, thanks to a generation donation from the Freedom Community Church. The space, a 4,000-square-foot former church at 508 G Street, will allow CAP to streamline its operations, executive director Dan DeMent said.

CAP, an all-volunteer outreach program supported by local churches and donations, works to provide people in need in Blaine, Birch Bay, Custer and Point Roberts with necessities for daily life. CAP currently operates an array of programs out of several churches and other locations throughout Blaine.

“The plan is to consolidate our current activities,” DeMent said. “We basically function as a number of independent programs, and this would give us an opportunity to have it all in the same place.”

The building will allow CAP to process donated clothing, bedding and other donations faster, allow it to keep more consistent hours and be more efficient with volunteer hours, and it may serve as a distribution location for Thanksgiving baskets and other programs in the future.

For Freedom Community Church pastor David Riddle, it became evident earlier this year that the church had run its course. “It just became clear that we, as a church, had finished our race and that we were to put our strengths to other churches,” he said. 

Since the church and property was donated to Freedom Community Church eight years ago by Northwest Community Church after that church had “finished its race,” it made sense to Riddle to pass the property along to a worthy organization for free.

He first thought about giving it to another church, but all the churches he knew of already had buildings. Riddle is a former CAP board member, so CAP was an obvious second choice.

“The building was a gift to us and we consider it a privilege to pass that gift along,” he said.

The church building has two stories with a chapel on the top floor and several spacious rooms below. It also has a parking lot that DeMent said should be big enough for CAP’s purposes.

CAP needs a conditional use permit from the city of Blaine before it can use the building for its many programs, since it’s in an area zoned for single-family homes, townhouses and duplexes.

CAP’s services include community meals, food assistance, clothing assistance, holiday gift assistance, free financial literary courses and a crisis office that provides immediate help with utility bills, prescription needs, short-term emergency lodging and other pressing needs.

Currently, those programs are spread throughout various locations in Blaine: The crisis office was at Christ Episcopal Church before the pandemic (it’s now mobile); community meals were held at the Blaine Senior Center; volunteers processed clothing donations from a 320-square-foot modified shipping container at 500 C Street, next to the Blaine Food Bank; clothing, Thanksgiving baskets and holiday gifts have been distributed at the Cost Cutter shopping center.

The organization outgrew its clothing bank long ago, DeMent said and CAP was working toward building a 1,200-square-foot “CAP center” in its space next to the food bank.

“We were just ready to file for permits and proceed on that when we got this offer,” he said.

Though CAP started working toward finding its own space in 2018, the Covid-19 pandemic provided a fresh example of how owning a building could strengthen the organization. In March, CAP had to vacate its regular office due to a statewide closure of all Episcopal facilities. It had to close its clothing assistance program to the public that same month because social distancing isn’t possible in the storage container from which it operated.

“Covid has been a great example of how forces out of our control dictate do much,” DeMent said.

In 2019, CAP served 3,767 guests at its community meals, provided 230 families with Thanksgiving baskets, distributed 578 winter coats, and managed $59,208 in total donations, according to its annual report.

Learn more about the Community Assistance Program at blainecap.org.

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