By Audra Distifeno for TCAJOB
Six months ago, Adrian Fernandez took steps to better his life. He’d previously made some poor decisions that resulted in negative consequences. Through Work Source, he was offered a mentee position at the Collegium Café in Pasco.
Adriana Hernandez, Café manager, has led Fernandez through the steps of learning to cook, prepare sandwiches, specialty coffee drinks, and other menu items. He also performs cleaning duties and operates the cash register – all things necessary to efficiently run a café from 6:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The ultimate goal is for Fernandez to use his experience at the Collegium, Latin for “gathering place,” as a stepping stone — gaining experience and learning responsibility so that he can eventually move on and mentor others in the future. Fernandez recently took his last GED test and will soon proceed forward with his education.
“Adrian is doing a great job for us,” said Glenn Cross, co-director for The Center of Sharing, which operates the Collegium Café. “He has really grown morally and personally while gaining some hands-on job skills.”
Another of the Collegium workers, a young lady who was forced to drop out of high school to work and provide money for her family promised Cheryl Broetje, co-director of the Center that she would go back to school and do something with her life. With the support and encouragement from Collegium staff, she completed high school and now attends Columbia Basin Community College.
That same young lady now works part-time for Collegium, doing mentoring and character building.
“So many people are held back due to the smallest things — not having a car, needing dental work,” Cross said.
Cross said The Center for Sharing helps remove those barriers for people so they can move forward and make a better life for themselves. At CFS, each person is viewed as having a unique talent to help serve others for the common good. Several employees — many of whom have come from bad situations or had tough experiences — have been trained and mentored, Cross said. The organization, which is part of a network of servant-led communities, strives to develop leaders here and abroad to build resilient communities.
The Collegium Café, at 3525 East “A” Street in Pasco, was originally built to serve the breakfast and lunch needs of the local community, and to provide mentorship opportunities to single mothers and others. It has been used as a Goodwill placement site and to help young men and women gain job skills they can transfer to other endeavors. The building, constructed in 2008, offers Wi-Fi, rental space for business meetings, a chapel, office space and restrooms.
The Café, however, is just one facet of the large number of services and outreach programs operated under The Center for Sharing, a non-profit organization.
Cross said the Center for Sharing chose to place the Collegium in the area specifically because east Pasco has a poor reputation and many people don’t want to live there.
The Center for Sharing also offers after-school and children’s programs to facilitate students staying in school and passing their classes. About 30 students attend the programs in east Pasco, with even more participating at Vista Hermosa in Prescott.
Retired Hanford scientists and others have mentored students at the Collegium who otherwise may not have discovered their passion for science-related careers, Cross said.
Profit and nonprofit groups within the business sector have also become more clearly focused through the Center’s Servant Leadership courses, which encourage participants to explore the question, “Why are you here?” with the understanding that a paycheck and money are part of the reason.
“We teach that the purpose of business is to serve and provide for society through a specific product or service,” Broetje said. “It’s not just for profits for shareholders or owners. It’s to specifically serve the common good.”
The answer that many Servant Leadership participants– in Pasco, the Philippines, Egypt, India and throughout the United States — have found is they want to give life meaning while serving others in some way, Cross said.
“There’s a difference between a vocation, which comes from within, and an occupation, which occupies our time and pays the bills,” Cross added.
Philanthropy is another facet CFS encourages people to explore.
The Center itself intentionally strives to participate in projects that will foster growth and people helping themselves and others, in contrast to giving hand outs. There’s a distinct difference between giving and leading, Cross and Broetje said.
“It won’t happen through our traditional methods of charity, such as Toys for Tots or food banks. Though these are good, they are Band-Aids,” Broetje said. “Most of the poverty here won’t be fixed simply through ‘aid.’”
Instead, sometimes good intentions can be detrimental to a group moving forward, Cross said. He cited the book Toxic Charity, which calls all to think critically about how they give.
“We don’t want to create an entitlement mentality,” Cross said.
In fact, CFS recently accepted toys donated by an area radio station only after deciding how parents in Tierra Vida could volunteer their time to “pay for” the toys as gifts for their children.
“Giving aid won’t be the solution or long-term fix. I now believe and try to teach that creating a sustainable community takes decades. It starts with leadership development and has to expand to institutions that influence,” Broetje said.
During Servant Leadership courses, groups are empowered to foster community around a common vision while developing skills in: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community.
“The different things that have been birthed out of the Servant Leadership courses have made a lasting difference,” Cross said. “The courses are transformable.”
The Center for Sharing came to fruition in 1986, after the Broetje family, which owns Broetje Orchards, took several trips to Mexico. Many of their workers and their workers’ families had migrated from Mexico for work in the area during the ‘80s. While traveling abroad, the Broetjes learned that poverty, corruption and a lack of accessible resources forced people there to leave their land and head north.
“Cheryl (Broetji ) went into a dump (in Mexico) and there were many people working there; they’re the ultimate recyclers,” Cross said. “A woman came out and asked Cheryl to feed her daughter. Cheryl and a traveling companion went in and found a woman tied to a chair with no eyes and who was also deaf. The other girl with Cheryl started to feed her and Cheryl cuddled her.” After a few minutes, the woman lost interest in the food and began to feel Cheryl’s face.”
Cross said it made Broetji ask herself, ‘How do we help people help themselves?’
Corss said after Broetji returned home, she opened the Center for Sharing in its original Walla Walla location with a full-service restaurant, after school program, daycare and more. At one time, it had more than 70 employees.
Eventually more workers were needed so the Center for Learning started the Servant Leadership School in 1998. Everything in Walla Walla was sold because most CFS programs had been spun off to nonprofit groups. The Center for Sharing is a sister organization to the Vista Hermosa Foundation and the Community Alliance for Service and Advancement (CASA), a for-profit company.
Vista Hermosa was the first community built near Broetje Orchards’ main facility in Prescott. Many employees have lived there since its 1991 inception. The Vista Hermosa Foundation is a private, philanthropic foundation that partners with vulnerable communities in the U.S. and internationally in ways that foster sustainability around a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose.
Tierra Vida is a community built in east Pasco under CASA, which provides affordable, quality homes to working families of diversity. There are 160 homes in Tierra Vida and 90 more homes are planned. The community also includes 95 apartments for rent, all on the same property of the Collegium.
“There’s a quote that I find helpful to describe what we’re trying to do here. ‘Living in the place you belong with the people you love, doing the work that is yours, on purpose,’” Broetje said. “That gives us a lot of work to do. We ask ourselves, ‘What do these people have to offer for the common good?’ Everyone is unique and has something to give.”
Success is gauged by these criteria, Broetje said.
“Are more people living in this way? Yes, they are. Here, in Mexico and everywhere we’ve served. Each community is a decades-long experiment,” Broetje said. “Each is a start-up community where you lead by serving the common good. We teach others to lead by serving.”
“We believe so much of this boils down to mentoring. If each business in the Tri-Cities were to take one mentee, we could help so many people,” Cross said. “It’s long suffering. We don’t give up on people.”
In the Tri-Cities and elsewhere, it’s essential that business managers/owners ask themselves some serious questions, Broetje said.
“What part or role can I play as a good manager/employer or shepherd, as you will, for my employees or flock? It’s not just a religious notion. It’s been proven that institutions have a vast influence on the lives of their people,” Broetje said.
For more information, go to www.centerforsharing.org or call 546-5999.