As the executive director of Spokane Valley’s most visible social service agency, Ken Briggs is well aware of the uphill challenges many people face each day.
Earlier this month, the CEO of Spokane Valley Partners set out to generate funds and awareness for the community center by addressing an imposing slope of his own.
On July 9, Briggs joined a few dozen local runners in a 34.3-mile climb from Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane to the summit of Mt. Spokane. Those who donated to Briggs’ cause pledged between $1 and $3 a mile, helping to raise a total of over $1,700.
A veteran of marathons and ultra-marathons – he runs between 15-20 events each year – Briggs said the ascent to Mt. Spokane is one of the most daunting routes he has undertaken. The final 12 miles of the run include significant temperature changes and a shift in elevation of around 4,000 feet.
“It’s a real challenge,” Briggs said. “This was a tough one.”
Despite occasional cramping that required intermittent breaks, Briggs completed the course in a time of 6 hours and 45 minutes. More important than the time, Briggs said he hoped his effort helped others realize they can scale barriers that have at times, seemed overwhelming.
“I’m all about challenging people’s assumptions about who they are and what they think they can achieve,” Briggs said.
From a food bank and clothing bank to emergency assistance with electric bills, SVP helps many low-income individuals and families find their footing. Since becoming CEO in 2006, Briggs has also emphasized the importance of the agency helping residents become self-sufficient. The center provides classes in healthy cooking and energy conservation while a program called ChangePoint helps with employment training, career direction and job placement.
“It’s more of a hand up than a hand out,” he said.
Briggs expressed optimism that another byproduct of his run would include residents placing more emphasis on exercise. Before he became a long-distance runner, Briggs began walking regularly over 10 years ago after concerns over rising cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. When he first began running, Briggs could barely jog across four blocks.
“I realize that not everyone can run to the top of Mt. Spokane,” Briggs said. “But you can walk or swim or work in your garden – something other than sitting around watching TV.”
Anne Martin, a member of the SVP board of directors, said Briggs continues to go the extra mile to bolster the agency’s mission. This was the second year that Briggs has incorporated running to generate additional dollars.
“It was a great fundraiser and just incredible that Ken ran that distance,” Martin said. “It’s a constant battle to maintain the money here – every little bit helps.”
Last week, SVP held another fundraiser – albeit on flatter ground and at a more leisurely pace than Briggs’ run. The 13th annual “Will Golf for Food” tournament took place at Meadowwood Golf Course in Liberty Lake, the culmination of a program that included over a dozen businesses holding food drives in the weeks leading up to the golfing event.
When Don Kaufman first took over as SVP development director in 2007, the tournament was generating around $20,000. This year, the occasion drew over 140 golfers and raised $45,000.
“It went really well,” Kaufman said. “We really appreciate the support.”
The continued sustenance is especially welcome, considering ongoing demand at the agency. Last year, requests at the food bank were up 11 percent. In 2011, the client list has increased another 6 percent,
Briggs and Kaufman both acknowledged the ongoing contributions of entities
like the city of Spokane Valley, local businesses and civic groups, churches and residents who do their part to help provide stability and reassurance to their less fortunate neighbors.
“I think they can feel good about investing in the work we do here,” Briggs said.
Want to find out more?
Spokane Valley Partners is located at 10814 E. Broadway in Spokane Valley. To learn about opportunities to donate to the agency or to volunteer,
call Don Kaufman at 927-1153.