KirklandSafe, an organization dedicated to making sure everyone who lives in, works in and visits Kirkland feels welcome and safe, held its first meeting last week at the Kirkland Justice Center.
“Kirkland is a changing place,” KirklandSafe steering committee member David Greschler said. “It’s really important for those coming into our city to feel included, safe and welcome.”
The organization was originally formed earlier this year in support of the Kirkland City Council’s proclamation and ordinance promoting the city as an inclusive, safe and welcoming place. Several of the members of KirklandSafe played a role in urging the council to push those items forward, including Greschler and Leah Kliger.
“KirklandSafe came out of an initiative that started with a few people and also with the city,” Greschler said.
Greschler led KirklandSafe’s June 13 meeting, where Debbie Lacy, co-founder and director of the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition (ERIC), was the featured speaker. She talked about the idea of being welcoming and her organization’s involvement with the Welcoming America movement.
“Our country is getting more divided,” Lacy said. “It’s not just that welcoming newcomers is a nice and good thing to do — it is vital … If we are not able to do this as a community, we will fall behind.”
She told the group that creating a welcoming community is not about individual actions, it’s about changing the way people see the world.
“This isn’t something you check off a list — it’s a lens,” Lacy said. “(We need to make sure) these values are infused in our way of life.”
She discussed how ERIC acts as a resource for institutions, schools, nonprofits and faith organizations to identify what is needed to fill the gaps in the lives of refugees and immigrants on the Eastside. She said teamwork is key in creating a welcoming and supportive environment.
“It’s not any one person’s or one organization’s job,” Lacy said. “There’s a place and a role for every single person. … There’s not a single person who’s gotten anywhere without another person’s help.”
In addition to Lacy’s talk, the first meeting gave attendees an idea of the different projects the group is working on, from participating in Kirkland’s Fourth of July festivities to restarting the All Kirkland Reads program to general advocacy and outreach.
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church associate pastor Mary-Alyce Burleigh, a former Kirkland mayor, also discussed how her church has been helping refugee families from Iraq and Uganda get settled in Kirkland, asking for donations to the program.
“My grandparents came from Holland, we all came from some place else,” Burleigh said.
For more information about KirklandSafe, visit kirklandsafe.org.