Submitted by Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity
How to bring health, wellness and a spirit of togetherness to a neighborhood plagued by crime and drug-dealing that left residents traumatized?
Stubborness, a dream, and a whole lot of help from the community.
More than 150 people ran, jogged, walked and strollered the first-ever Team Tillicum 5K Run Walk Presented by Lowe’s held at Harry Todd Park in Tillicum on Sept. 9, 2017.
The 5K started as a dream for Tillicum residents more than two years ago and then became reality with help from Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity and a grant from Lowe’s.
Turn-around sparked by Tillicum’s Becka Scanlan
It was a dream that would have died if it weren’t for the stubbornness. Becka Scanlan, a proud resident of Habitat for Humanity’s Tillicum housing community, couldn’t understand why her neighbors didn’t talk to each other.
“Everyone was so standoffish,” said Scanlan, who is not one to mince words. “I knew that if we could get to know one another, we could help each other.”
Scanlan got involved with the Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association and wound up as the group’s secretary. Tillicum resident and TWNA treasurer Abby Henning took an instant liking to Scanlan and the two hatched a plan for a 5K.
“It wasn’t always easy,” said Scanlan who also is senior pastor at New Beginnings Church in Tillicum. “People were constantly complaining. They would complain about garbage in the streets but wouldn’t do anything about it. They would talk about all the things going wrong but wouldn’t lift a finger to make it better.”
Scanlan wasn’t having it.
“I was sitting in my house one day, my wonderful house, and President Kennedy came to mind. I thought, we should stop asking what our community can do for us and start asking what we can do for our community.”
Scanlan and Henning partnered with Habitat to win a neighborhood revitalization grant from Lowe’s. The pair then helped Habitat leverage the seed money by working with the City of Lakewood and others.
But will they come?
Putting on an event is one thing. Coaxing the neighbors out of their homes was another thing entirely.
Early in 2017, Scanlan started a ‘walk with me’ initiative. Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, she would wait at the Tillicum Youth and Family Center run by Youth for Christ and then start walking the same course she would walk for the 5K event.
“It was great how we would start with two and end up with 10 as we walked,” she said. “Since January I’ve been out there, no matter the weather. I wanted them to know I was serious. That this was serious. That this (walking) was going to be a way of life.”
Scanlan stops suddenly, tears welling up in her eyes.
“As I was out there today…I saw people standing on their doorsteps and waving,” she said, her voice quavering.
“In order for change to take place you have to get involved. Sometimes I sit and I say to God, ‘who am I that I can make a difference?’ He wants us to be a shining light. I’m here to make a difference. To add on to what’s already here. Not to take away.”
What’s next? Just keep walking.
Scanlan is confident there will be a second 5K next year. “We can do more outreach, more things for the community. We have to let people know they don’t have to be scared, that their neighbors are here to help. That they can help others.”
And that they can keep walking. Every other Saturday, Scanlan will walk the 5K route with whoever shows up, making sure that togther their neighborhood is healthy and connected year-round.