The Interfaith Coalition Board of Directors represents many different congregations and faiths in our community. They bring a wealth of experience and commitment to the mission of Interfaith.
Click + on name to read more; click – to condense.
Christ Lutheran Church
I am committed to helping families stay together and getting homeless folks get off the street and into a safe environment. It is our mission to help them be the best they can be. As a nurse, I took care of many homeless people, and prayed each time that they could get their medications and be safe while healing from their surgeries. It was a helpless feeling, to have no control over their healing process. As an Interfaith board member, I am trying to reach out and improve life for as many souls as we can reach.
St. James Presbyterian
Human Resources Manager, Retired
As a child, my family lived in various substandard houses without indoor plumbing. I cannot claim that I suffered, but it did impress on me the importance of decent housing.
As a young teacher in northeast Montana, many of my students also lived in marginal housing with neither plumbing nor electricity.
Later in my career, I served as the human resources manager for the Housing Authority in Vancouver, Washington. My wife and I moved to Bellingham after retiring, I was thrilled to learn about the Interfaith Coalition and the work they were doing to address homelessness. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute!
Congregation Beth Israel
Arlene is a retired family therapist. In the last 10 years of her career, she was a counselor for Whatcom County Behavioral Health Crisis Triage. This position gave her first-hand experience and understanding of the problems of homelessness, mental illness and addictions. It was the impetus for becoming an advocate for people with these challenges.
“I believe our faiths share strong traditions of supporting our brothers and sisters,” she says. “We are stronger working together. As we learn from one another, we can be a model for understanding and tolerance.”
Arlene places community service high on her list of values. She currently serves on the Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Committee and on Police Chief Cook's Advisory Committee. She was chairperson of the Lettered Streets Neighborhood for four years.
United Church of Ferndale
Marta has been an active member of the United Church of Ferndale for almost 50 years. She enjoys liturgical worship design and has served as Moderator and in many other roles. She also volunteers with the Ferndale Food Bank and Ferndale Community Meal program and has been a congregational representative to Interfaith Coalition for many years.
She says, “I was encouraged by the dedication of the Rev. Bobbi Virta to take a more active role to provide housing to families in crisis. I hope my willingness to serve others will bring added strength to an amazing organization.”
Marta’s work background varies from education to business owner to being a tailor in an alteration shop.
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Marjorie Lorant, pastor of Hope Lutheran in Lynden, was an Interfaith board member for several years in the mid-'90s. Her emphasis at Hope is to encourage members to be involved in the community by helping individuals in need. She began "Reading for the Summer" , collecting pre-used books and taking them with other volunteers to field workers' camps, loaning books to the children. Each week, the books were exchanged for new ones, keeping the children's reading levels up during the summer. Before the families left to work in California, the children were given new backpacks filled with the needed school supplies.
"Being homeless is a devastating condition to be in," she said. "Not only is the physical condition difficult but it robs people of their dignity and respect. My heart is in helping my sisters and brothers whoever and wherever they may be."
Sacred Heart Parish
Trish mentions that she sometimes thinks her middle initial “V” refers to “Volunteer” since she has been actively involved in countless volunteer activities – in the community as well as her parish, Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
She spent 25 years working in the field of development with diverse nonprofits like The Western Foundation, The Whatcom Museum and Mt. Baker Theatre. She made a career change and is now teaching English to non-native speakers at Whatcom Community College.
Trish says, “I have been singularly impressed with the work of Interfaith during my 37 years in Whatcom County. A few years ago, I experienced the trauma of watching a family member deal with homelessness. It changed me and personalized my commitment to work toward easing the pain and heartache of those seeking to find stability and rootedness amidst chaos."
First Congregational Church
Professor/chair, Western Washington University
I value that Interfaith is a coalition of people of faith who are acting together to reach out to those who need support.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Human resources director, Bellingham Herald, retired
I believe the Coalition has had a rich history of faith organizations working together to support some of our most vulnerable neighbors with the basic needs of access to health care and emergency housing.
First Christian Church
Teacher and counselor, retired
It is vital to help folks who do not have a roof over their head. Interfaith’s housing system does that, along with assisting case workers to help families get back on their feet. Interfaith’s dedication to marginalized folks in the community keeps me coming back to serve on the Board.
Garden Street United Methodist Church
Angie Ritchey is the Director of Young Adult and Family Ministries at Garden Street United Methodist Church. She runs the Wesley Club, which serves college and young adults with opportunities for inclusive faith exploration, weekly meals, and service projects. Angie also directs the youth and children programs at her church.
Prior to her work at Garden Street, Angie had a successful 10-year career in banking. She worked as a branch manager in both Whatcom and Skagit counties and was promoted to an assistant vice president of the bank.
Angie is a graduate of Western Washington University, where she met her husband of 21 years, Scott. She is the proud mom of three children and a puppy, and she loves a good book with a great cup of coffee.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
I feel that providing housing for the homeless affects everything else a person may be able to accomplish. We are making a difference in the world.
Church of the Assumption
Jeff Ziels is a lifelong parishioner of Assumption Catholic Church and has been involved in various volunteer positions at both the church and school, including chairing the Parish Council. He believes strongly in our mission and believes that having folks of different faiths work towards a common good helps the entire community prosper. He has been a severe weather shelter volunteer.
Jeff is a self-employed woodworker/contractor and is married with two high school children. Other than time away for college and a couple of years in the Peace Corp, he has lived his whole life in Bellingham.
Nathan Dwyer lives in Bellingham with his wife and children. He is a partner in the Bellingham law firm of Robinson & Kole where he focuses his practice on workers’ compensation and personal injury law. When not litigating cases he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, watching documentary films, and attending sporting events.
Nathan and his wife have been members of Bellingham Covenant Church for 10 years. Over the years he has, among other things, served as an usher, taught children’s church, chaperoned a week long youth trip, and coached the softball team.
Nathan is very interested in how to confront the growing issue of homelessness in our community. Several of Nathan’s clients have dealt with the issue and he has seen first-hand how challenging the lack of a stable home can be for individuals dealing with injury or disability.
Eric Chambers is a parishioner at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church and currently serves as Church Treasurer. He has served on numerous non-profit boards including an ecumenical housing organization, Habitat for Humanity (Skagit), a pre-school, and a children's museum (where he also served as the founding president) and has consulted with dozens of other organizations. For over a decade he taught courses in nonprofit management and budgeting, program evaluation and planning, and fund development, among others for WWU's Human Services program. He is an active member of the Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.
Eric is driven by the idea that people don’t ‘fall through the cracks” in the system but, rather, they fall through the hands of those tasked with helping them. By intertwining hands across systems, generations, cultures, and faith we start to fill in those cracks with kindness and compassion—exactly the kind of work Interfaith Coalition does every day!
Eric works for a nonprofit organization that provides teachers more effective ways of integrating technology into the classroom. He has two children in college and one in elementary school. He and his wife Julie enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and snow shoeing throughout the great Pacific Northwest.