News Columns & Blogs

Community mediators resolve disputes, improve quality of life

In every community, you’ll find about 200 or so people engaged in the most visible organizations. They are the ones you see at the chambers of commerce, city government meetings, the United Way, the service clubs, the colleges and universities, the business associations and so on. Attend any of those events or meetings and you’ll encounter some of these same people over and over again.

They do important work, and they help shape the personality as well as the future of our community.

But like any person, a community has many layers of complexity. You almost always have to dig deep into those layers to really understand it. And it seems that the healthiest communities have the most layers of engaged citizens.

The Olympia and North Thurston community certainly falls into that category. The depth of civic engagement runs deep here.

The Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County is a good example. Founded 18 years ago by Evan Ferber, who continues as its executive director, the nonprofit has been quietly empowering people to resolve their own conflicts without lawyers or courts.

The mediators help neighbors settle disputes over fences, trees and barking dogs. They help dysfunctional community boards, derailed by internal conflict, get back on track. They help parents agree on parenting plans. They help co-workers get along in the workplace.

They save city and county taxpayers more than $100,000 a year by mediating divorces and diverting commercial disputes from Small Claims Court.

And in doing so they are laying “the foundation for a peaceful and civil community, one mediation at a time,” according to the organization’s vision. Or, as current DRC board chairperson Adrienne Stuart says, the group provides “an eloquent and humane way for people to communicate with each other.”

They trained 485 people with professional mediating skills last year, and resolved disputes for almost 2,000 clients. Most of those (46 percent) were families, but surprisingly, 40 percent were workplace related and 11 percent involved neighborhoods.

The Dispute Resolution Center is just one example of a valuable local resource flying well below the radar. But it perfectly exemplifies a layer of our community where seriously dedicated people are devoting their lives in service to others.

OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU

We’ve already run a news story about recent accolades awarded to The Olympian, but I want to mention them again.

The Olympian was judged to be the best midsized daily newspaper (circulation between 25,001 and 65,000) in the Northwest, a region from Northern California to Alaska, Idaho and Montana. The award was presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. We were judged on several factors including the quality of our writing and photographs, and the breadth and depth of our reporting.

In addition to the general excellence award for the whole newspaper, reporters Matt Batcheldor, Gail Wood and Rolf Boone and photographers Steve Bloom, Tony Overman and Steve Herppich won awards for their individual work.

We don’t put our newspaper together for the judges of these industry competitions, and the honors don’t mean much if the stories we write aren’t relevant to your lives. That we win them is only important to you as testament to the McClatchy Co.’s commitment to high-quality journalism.

A CONVENTION CENTER?

Will the East Bay development include a convention center? We certainly hope so.

The community’s need for a place to hold large events becomes painfully apparent during every high school graduation season. Thousands of students, family members and friends fill the gymnasium at Saint Martin’s University to take part in these moments of life.

The community is fortunate that the Saint Martin’s facility exists, but it is an old gym, where parents sit on bleachers to watch the ceremonies in un-air- conditioned discomfort while trying to hear speakers in the acoustically challenged arena.

A downtown conference center befitting a state capital also could play host to statewide conferences and conventions and help boost the local economy.

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian.com.

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