Mustard Seed Project grows under Franciscan umbrella


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Chris Fitzgerald, KP News

The Mustard Seed Project, a Key Peninsula grass-roots project spearheaded by Edie Morgan, received an $83,340 grant from Catholic Health Initiatives and the Franciscan Health System. (Franciscan, builder of St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives.) The goal of the project is to create an “elder-friendly” community by offering services and programs in their community to allow Key Peninsula residents to age in place.

Spending a sunny morning at the Key Center library discussing senior health and wellness issues for the Mustard Seed Project are, from left to right/front row: Dale Sandretzky, Charlotte Winchester, Edie Morgan, Marguerite Bussard, and left to right/back row: Virginia Thompson, Jody Gauthier, Mary Krumbein, Rae Braun, Joyce Niemann, Kitty Custer. Photo by Chris Fitzgerald

“The Mustard Seed Project has the qualities that CHI seeks when awarding mission and ministry fund grants: It meets an identified community need, is innovative, is able to be replicated, and promotes collaboration with other organizations in the community,” Gale Robinette, Franciscan spokesman, wrote in a press release. “Supporting the Mustard Seed Project and other community-based programs helps to advance the CHI and Franciscan mission of service and healing.”

When Morgan began investigating available services for Key Peninsula senior residents in 2006, she didn’t have a name for her passion yet. Many months later, she refers to her efforts as “aging in place.” Focused on four topics of particular interest and need for this population — information and referral, transportation and mobility, elder health and wellness services, and housing options — Morgan was using personal resources to bankroll the project.

She developed an area network, amassing documents, forms, and correspondence. Every contact led to something else that needed yet more paper, more stamps, more gas to get places that held promise to further her quest of assisting seniors in their efforts to “stay put” in their elder years. Financial resources were worrisome; she needed some economic base that would allow her to continue this important work without having to water it down by splitting her time in half (part-time program research and part-time work to support the effort).

Through the help of an expert on nonprofit education and development, Morgan developed a list of potential funding resources. The Franciscan Foundation was the first one she called, she remembers. “I felt so foolish, so pushed beyond my comfort level,” she said. Determined, she continued down the list, sure she was out of her league, certain no one would be interested. Several weeks later, she was surprised when the phone rang.

Robert Krotz was at that time the president of the Franciscan Foundation. He told Morgan her idea fit with the foundation’s mission, and that they were interested.

“The Franciscan Foundation is happy to assist Edie Morgan in her efforts to bring the Mustard Seed Project to fruition because improving health care access for Key Peninsula residents is one of her key objectives in making the Peninsula an elder-friendly community,” Krotz, who is currently the director of the St. Anthony Hospital campaign, wrote in an email to KP News. “Improving health care access for residents of Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor and South Kitsap County is the primary reason we (Franciscan Health System) are building St. Anthony Hospital… Even though St. Anthony isn’t scheduled to open for another 18 months, we’re viewing our support of the Mustard Seed Project as St. Anthony’s first community-outreach project.”

In March, a $10,000 grant from the Franciscan Foundation enabled Morgan to keep the project alive. The foundation also extended its nonprofit status to Morgan’s organization (The Mustard Seed Project is now a registered charity with the state of Washington.) This enables her to act “as if” she were a nonprofit, under the foundation’s guidance. It’s a large umbrella that gives her the ability to work on something important for every resident who plans to grow old and remain at home on the Key Peninsula.

The Franciscan Foundation grant writer, the fund-development staff and its nonprofit accounting department partner with Morgan to help her project succeed. They have several grant applications out, and until recently, were waiting to hear about, as Edie says, “the big one.” On June 22, the waiting was over.

“Supporting groups like the Mustard Seed Project is all about our mission to create healthier communities,” Robinette said in an interview following the announcement.

With this new windfall in place, Morgan is moving forward with her goals to make the KP as senior-friendly as possible. “We are very grateful to the Franciscan Foundation and Catholic Health Initiatives for their incredible support,” she said. “This grant will make a huge difference in our ability to move forward with the work of building an elder-friendly KP. This is the best possible news.”

Morgan and a core group of citizens meet regularly at the library. She says they have a full set of goals to reach in 2007, and with this new funding, can begin projects they proposed for the two-year grant in their application. Training is ongoing for volunteers to staff a senior information and referral service at a Key Center site. The organization is looking for more members to spend time focusing on housing, wellness, and transportation issues that will one day affect everyone choosing to remain in this rural community through their senior years. Morgan invites everyone interested in achieving an elder-friendly KP to join in this evolving process and be part of the Mustard Seed’s success.