Neighborhood safety, beautification, and youth engagement @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April meeting

By Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for White Center Now

Neighbors, leaders, and guests met last Thursday to discuss issues of youth involvement, neighborhood safety, and cleanups at the April meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC).  The event was held online and was facilitated by NHUAC president Liz Giba and vice president Barbara Dobkin.

Meeting highlights:

“ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE” PROGRAM AT EVERGREEN AND INNOVATION: First on the agenda was a presentation about the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), which has been the cornerstone of a new set of trainings and programs this year at Evergreen High School and Innovation Heights Academy (formerly New Start High School), sponsored by Highline Public Schools. AVP describes its school-based programs as promoting “social emotional learning and community building in schools” to “reduce fighting, violence, and bullying.”

At the beginning of the school year last fall, about 300 Evergreen 9th-grade students and 100 staff members participated, and the following week at Innovation about 90 students and 20 staff participated. The program involves facilitator-led sessions, small-group discussions and games, and for most students and staff it’s their first interaction with their school colleagues before the school year begins. Some aspects of the program have carried throughout the school year, with additional classes and recurring discussion groups.

Roger Kluck, director of the area AVP chapter Projects for a Civil Society, said the project was originally started in the mid-1970s by a group of people in Greenhaven prison (New York), with a focus on addressing trauma and violence, based on the concept that “hurt people hurt people.” The program was successful and grew quickly, and is now offered in more than 50 countries in prisons, schools, churches, businesses, and shelters.

“Trauma alienates you,” Kluck said, citing the well-known Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study which found that one-third of school kids have experienced some sort of significant trauma (abandonment, abuse, parent in prison) that has an impact on their education. Kluck added that after COVID lockdowns, there was a lot of delay in kids’ social-emotional development, and his group is “working with schools to build back community building and connection.” He said the training usually starts with teachers (“a lonely business,” Kluck said), especially new teachers, followed by a 2- to 3-day workshop for students at the beginning of the school year.

Kluck said the benefit is that students build relationships and self-esteem and “go into the school year knowing people, which heads off bullying and cliques, and reduces the chance of alienation.”

Also in attendance on Thursday night was Bertram (Bert) Calcote, a long-time facilitator for AVP and the Recovery Navigator Program, who shared his own experience of getting involved with AVP and meeting Kluck at the WA state reformatory prison in Monroe.

Calcote noted that he was originally a skeptic — “I said, ‘this crap doesn’t work,’ but I went back and participated and got comfortable and realized how wrong I was.” He said that on a personal note, the program taught him how to be aware of the trauma, to rebuild relationships he had broken and to “stop playing the victim.” Calcote said his passion is talking to young people, especially young men, and showing them how to more effectively communicate and listen.

The group is also having a community meeting on April 23rd at 5:30 pm at the Burien Library, focused on bringing people together and reducing violence. Details here:

Kluck said they’re always looking for helpers, and it only takes 4 weekends of training to become a facilitator. “We’re a ‘Johnny Appleseed group, we don’t want to do it all, we spread it and let it go where it goes.” Anyone interested should contact NHUAC chair Liz Giba via email at


Next up was a presentation (see the slides here) by Erik Bell from A Cleaner Alki, who has been spearheading cleanup events throughout the peninsula for the past decade, including a massive recent cleanup event in White Center in late March involving about 100 volunteers and yielding 2.5 tons of trash (yes, really).

Bell described that gathering as the first event in a new All-Hands Neighborhood Cleanup Series in cooperation with
Seattle Public Utilities’ Adopt a Street program. He noted that he and the city considered the event to be a huge success (especially because the plans and promotions came together in only two weeks), but that he also viewed it as “just the start for an area that could use a lot of help on both sides of Roxbury.” Much of the event’s cleanup activity involved the area at/near the former Bartell Drugs building (currently listed for lease) and the surrounding blocks, and Bell noted that the Rozella Building area has been a recent focus for the group as well.

Bell said that his personal involvement with neighborhood cleanups began in 2010, when he started meeting his brother on Alki Beach for Saturday morning walks, and they began cleaning up garbage that they found along the way. In the years that have followed, more volunteers have become involved, and the group began working more formally with agencies such as SDOT and Seattle Parks. Bell said it’s been gratifying to engage with the community to make a difference, and to help “create a new culture” with partner agencies who benefit greatly from the extra volunteer effort.

Bell said his group held over 500 cleanup events in 2023, and cleared 50,000+ pounds of trash and other dangerous materials out of the local environment. He characterized the group’s efforts as generally falling within three categories:

  • Trash cleanups: Generally 2 hours in length and with specific trash-pickup goals in mind.
  • “Spruced” cleanups: Clearing sidewalks, overgrowth and line-of-sight issues (and then collecting trash that becomes visible).
  • “Block Drop” cleanups: Involves leaving buckets and “trash grabbers” in targeted areas for a day, and inviting the community to use the supplies to clean on their own time. It began as a Girl Scout project (involving Bell’s daughter).

The effort of scouting for new cleanup opportunities has identified a number of “hot spots” that Bell said deserve focused cleanup work that would improve the neighborhood and “restore a sense of safety and care in the community.”

Bell said that for cleanups in unincorporated King County, one of the main problems his group has faced is the lack of a program for reporting the collected piles of trash and getting it all picked up at the conclusion of the event. For the recent White Center cleanup, for example, his group had to haul all of the bags of trash (again, 2.5 tons of it) north of Roxbury street and into Seattle city limits, where the Adopt-a-Street crews could then pick it up that same afternoon.

Several attendees of the meeting on Thursday night, including NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin, shared ideas with Bell for contact people and resources to potentially help bridge those gaps. One of those people mentioned, Bong Sto. Domingo (who works for King County), then joined the Zoom meeting and helped make some additional suggestions and connections. Bell expressed his gratitude for the information, noting that this is the type of cooperation that is crucial for making programs like this work in a sustainable way.

Bell emphasized that his group is always looking for new volunteers, who can connect with his group via their website or Facebook page.

UPDATE FROM KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Detective Glen Brannon was also in attendance at the meeting to answer questions and provide updates about community concerns.  Some discussion points:

  • White Center cleanup: Regarding Bell’s recent cleanup efforts, Det. Brannon said “the timing was incredible” because he had recently talked to some constituents (including Dr. Perez at Sea Mar health center) about the Bartell’s property and the excess trash, and then “miraculously it disappeared!” Brannon and Giba said that they had expected attendance from Bartell’s staff at the Thursday meeting, but that it didn’t happen. He noted that there needs to be agreement from the property owner in order to (for example) pursue prosecution for people committing crimes on the property. Brannon mentioned other community-supported events to clean up areas (such as an encampment cleanup on March 13th).  “A lot of our chronic areas are getting cleaned up now, and it’s because of the community getting together, saying ‘I know somebody who can help,’ so everybody should pat themselves on the back for that” but he added that there is always work to do.
  • Drug Bust: Attendees discussed the late-February drug bust by the Precinct 4 Special Emphasis Team (WCN coverage here).  Brannon said “we are blessed in Precinct 4 to have group of detectives able to work at the cartel distribution level — one of top groups making busts.” He added that the sheriff’s office works with lots of groups to help support the effort, he “can’t talk too much about it, but it’s a great group” and the recent bust yielded impressive results:
    • 71,000 M-30 Fentanyl Pills
    • 31 pounds of Methamphetamine
    • 2.76 pounds Fentanyl powder
    • 1.12 pounds of Heroin
    • $7047 cash seized
    • 1 car seized
    • 2 individuals were booked into the Federal Detention Center (FDC) pending federal charges.
  • Gun Incidents: Attendees talked about recent events such as the late-February bullets at Patrick’s Bakery and Café, and the early-March shooting near Evergreen.
  • Encampments: Brannon asked the group for input and observations regarding issues with public camping, noting that his office is always working to get affected people access to services, and they’ve seen increased participation (one particular encampment dropped from 30 people down to 6, recently).
  • Neighborhood Cooperation:
    • Brannon said his team was recently able to go to a property and recovered a stolen car and stolen motorcyles based on tip from someone, and he encouraged neighbors to report what they see. Neighbors happy with cleanup, found a car, was towed away.  Det. Brannon said Dep. Steve Johnson initiated cleanup.
    • Neighbor Leo said that he noticed that a person named “Jessica” (familiar to Brannon) and her family seem to be back in the area — they had been associated with issues such as prowling and street theft in the past. Brannon said he would be surprised if that was the case because she had been “doing really well — had found a job” but that he would follow up.
    • Attendee Roslyn Hyde (who owns property in White Center) mentioned to Brannon that she has a friend with a yoga studio on 152nd in Burien, and there was a recent incident in which a dead person was found, possibly related to people congregating and camping in the area. Brannon confirmed that he is working closely with Burien’s crime reduction unit on similar issues, because “Burien has a reputation for being a good place to be homeless” and there are “political hot-potato” discussions happening. He mentioned another example of a strip mall owner who is dealing with and encampment. Hyde also noted that her property in White Center was hit with graffiti on an old garage, and Brannon said he will follow up.
    • Other neighbors asked about occurrences in their areas (such as street racing on 1st Avenue, gunfire incidents, etc) and Brannon gave responses when possible.
  • Information Sharing: Brannon said that he continues to work with community contacts in area schools and boys and girls clubs, especially with summer coming up and more youth out and about. He also talked with meeting attendees about ideas for sharing information via electronic and physical message boards and kiosks, to keep the community informed.


Det. Brannon noted that Saturday, April 27th, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and that Steve Cox Memorial Park is one of the participating sites — dropoffs are encouraged from 10am-2pm. (editor’s note: the SPD Southwest Precinct at 2300 SW Webster in West Seattle is also a participating site)

Brannon also said that the next Coffee With a Cop event will be Wednesday, April 17th, at 10 am at Starbucks in White Center, and that there is an upcoming job fair June 1st from 1:30-6pm.

Darlene Sellers from King County Parks shared details about events at the White Center Teen Program (Log Cabin):

  • JobLaunch – Pathways to Healthcare for ages 16-24 on Wednesday, April 17 from 3:30-5 pm (Online event with viewing parties at the Log Cabin in WC & the Skyway Library.)
  • Annual PNTH Job Fair (30 employers) and Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, June 5 at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

Sellers also shared a recap of Cultural Connection Night, held March 22nd at the Log Cabin: posted online here.

Meeting attendee Roslyn Hyde (who owns property in White Center) invited everyone to a free networking event on Thursday, May 9th from 7:45 am-9:15 am, focused on entrepreneurs and local business owners. Event details here.

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC meets most months on the first Thursday, online at 7 pm, so the next meeting will be May 2.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments are closed.