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Board Members

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.

Arlene Feld – Congregation Beth Israel

Arlene-Feld-board-member-interfaith-coalitionArlene 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.

Marta Hand – United Church of Ferndale

Marta-Hand-interfaith-coalition-board-memberMarta 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.

Rev. Marjorie Lorant – Hope Lutheran Church Pastor

Marjorie LorantRev. 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.”

Patricia V. “Trish” Navarre – Sacred Heart Parish

Trish-Navarre-board-member-interfaith-coalitionTrish 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.”

Barbara Mathers-Schmidt – First Congregational Church
Professor/chair, Western Washington University

Barbara-Mathers-Schmidt_1I value that Interfaith is a coalition of people of faith who are acting together to reach out to those who need support.

Joyce Pedlow – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Human resources director, Bellingham Herald, retired

Joyce-PedlowI 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.

Brenda Riseland – First Christian Church
Teacher and counselor, retired

Brenda-RiselandIt 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.

Holly Telfer – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Nurse, retired Board Chair

Holly-TelferI 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.

Jeff Ziels – Church of the Assumption

jeff-ziels-board-member-interfaith-coalitionJeff 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 Corps, he has lived his whole life in Bellingham.

Nathan Dwyer

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

Eric-Chambers-parishionerEric 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.

Seth Thomas – St. James Presbyterian Church

Seth Thomas is the Pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church. In his first years in service at St. James, Seth has developed a deep love for the work of Interfaith Coalition and the way that our collaborative network of congregations can serve as a structure for addressing some of the most unjust and systemic struggles facing people in our community.

Seth has served in ministry in the Bellingham community for over a decade, previously serving as Music Director at Birchwood Presbyterian and College Minister at the INN University Ministries at First Presbyterian Church. 

He and his wife Stacy are both Western Washington University graduates and have set deep roots in the Bellingham community. Seth is also a proud father, loves to run and ride bikes, hike and travel, and read lots and lots of books with a coffee mug in hand.

Melissa Alves – Church of the Assumption

Melissa Alves serves on the Pastoral Council for Assumption Catholic Church and is active in various ministries. She believes strongly in Interfaith’s mission and values, and in its service model of a small and dedicated staff, combining with significant volunteer resources and our network of committed congregations to deliver outsized results to our brothers and sisters in need.

Melissa is a retired finance executive with a prior career in venture capital and public accounting. A Canadian CPA by background, she spent the first decade of her career in the audit practice of Ernst & Young in Toronto and San Francisco. She then spent the remainder of her career in the venture capital industry as a CFO, at firms focused on investing in early stage technology startups. She and her husband enjoy various outdoors pursuits, including road cycling, hiking and snow sports.

Sue Dabney – Garden Street United Methodist

Sue mentions that “It is an opportunity to serve an organization that has done so much for our community over 35 years. It is an honor to be asked to be on the board.”

Sue retired last year as a Family Medicine physician. She began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the South Pacific and then was a Health Educator at the University of Missouri before moving to Bellingham. She and her husband, Jim, have a 21 year old son who is in college. Sue is an active volunteer at her congregation, Garden St. United Methodist Church. She has volunteered with interfaith Coalition’s Family Promise program and earlier as a women’s severe weather shelter volunteer.

Geraldine Reitz – Congregation Beth Israel

“I am interested in broadening my sight and the depth of my understanding of the issues and the world in which some of the patients I visit at the hospital and the Hospice live. I look forward to connecting with and working with others who are doing the important work of the Interfaith Coalition.”

Geraldine is a Chaplain at St. Joseph’s Medical Center and a former guidance counselor and teacher. She is an active volunteer at her congregation, Beth Israel, and currently is Community Board President of Hillel, Western’s Jewish student’s club. Her community volunteer work includes Advance Care Planning Facilitator, WAHA (Whatcom Alliance for Healthcare Advancement), Hospice Volunteer and Interfaith Coat Drive volunteer. Geraldine and her husband have three children.