Father helps quadriplegic son communicate and hold jobs using specialized interface

December 27, 2011

Doug Brookens, left, helped design a computer system that allows his physically challenged son, Bob, to communicate, surf the Internet and hold down two paying jobs. By Tom Corrigan

Once his father switches it on, Issaquah resident Bob Brookens, who just turned 40, instantly starts operating the MacBook Air attached to his wheelchair. The cursor moves rapidly and the screen flickers and changes rapidly as well.

Through the computer, Brookens makes a personal comment to his father, Doug Brookens. Bob is then ready and willing to demonstrate how he completes his job for a call center provider.

Bob is a quadriplegic who has cerebral palsy and cannot communicate verbally. He’s not able to use a keyboard or a joystick. But in the early 1980s, working with the University of Washington, Doug was able to rig up a computer interface his son could use.

“For the first time, he could communicate more than ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Doug said, adding that with email and the Internet, Bob’s world eventually got a whole lot bigger. That interface, which has been through plenty of refinement over the years, now allows Bob to hold down not one, but two part-time paying jobs.

The call center job really is a long-distance, Internet position. The Bellevue office of AtWork! has even set up a space for Bob to complete his assigned tasks, said Lisa Fox, director of employment services for AtWork!

AtWork! is a nonprofit organization helping challenged people throughout the area.

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Decluttering offers chance to reuse, recycle

December 13, 2011

Habitat for Humanity Store volunteer Cindy Clark (left) and merchandising supervisor Molly Jacobson work in the Bellevue showroom, moving and assembling previously owned furniture donated to sell. By Greg Farrar

The items relegated to closets, crawlspaces, garages and junk drawers need not be banished to the landfill during a home decluttering effort.

Local recycling and reuse experts said the trick is to find fresh uses for old and unnecessary items, either through donations or repairs. Items in good condition make ideal candidates for donations to thrift stores. King County and local businesses offer recycling services for many household goods and items in not-so-good shape.

King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson said options abound for unloading the items cluttering the nooks and crannies in a home.

“Always consider donation, because reuse is better than recycling,” Watson said. “Someone else can use it — family, friends,” online classified services and thrift stores.

Watson adds another R to the time-tested mantra to reduce, reuse and recycle — repair. Often, furniture and other household items in otherwise good condition can be repaired for less expense and hassle than replacement. Old furniture, for instance, is a candidate for reupholstering.

Arie Mahler, donations manager for Seattle Goodwill, said sending items to a thrift store is a solid choice to reduce clutter — and aid a local nonprofit organization in the process, too.

“We’re pretty forgiving when it comes to donations,” he said.

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Food scraps return as compost to fuel community garden

November 29, 2011

King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson (left) adds compost to a garden plot Nov. 16. Contributed

Turning trash to treasure — or, at least, rich compost — could lengthen the landfill’s lifespan.

King County Solid Waste Division officials said the average King County family tosses 45 pounds of food scraps each month. The agency estimates food recycling could divert the amount of garbage headed to the county-run Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by more than 20 percent.

So, the Solid Waste Division enlisted 10 families in the Sycamore neighborhood near downtown Issaquah to collect food scraps throughout August — and demonstrate the ease of food-scrap recycling. Overall, neighbors amassed more than 400 pounds from refuse otherwise headed for the landfill — chicken bones, pineapple tops, paper towels soaked in bacon grease and much more.

The garbage pile festering beneath the hot August sun in Donna Misner’s driveway re-emerged Nov. 16 as rich compost.

King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson joined the residents in late August to bid the garbage heap farewell on a journey to Cedar Grove Composting.

Then, 85 days and a decomposition cycle later, Misner and other Sycamore neighbors gathered on a rain-soaked morning to see the result.

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Kiwanis Club of Issaquah hosts coat, shoe drive

November 22, 2011

The Kiwanis Club of Issaquah is holding a coat and shoe drive throughout November.

The drive runs through Nov. 30 and donations benefit the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

Coats and shoes — in adult’s and children’s sizes — should be clean, and new or gently used.

Donation sites include The Issaquah Press, 45 Front St. S.; the Issaquah Gilman branch of KeyBank, 405 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Suite A; and AtWork! Issaquah Operations, 690 N.W. Juniper St.

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Kiwanis Club of Issaquah hosts coat, shoe drive

November 15, 2011

The Kiwanis Club of Issaquah is holding a coat and shoe drive throughout November.

The drive runs through Nov. 30 and donations benefit the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

Coats and shoes — in adult’s and children’s sizes — should be clean, and new or gently used.

Donation sites include The Issaquah Press, 45 Front St. S.; the Issaquah Gilman branch of KeyBank, 405 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Suite A; and AtWork! Issaquah Operations, 690 N.W. Juniper St.

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Kiwanis Club of Issaquah hosts coat, shoe drive

November 8, 2011

The Kiwanis Club of Issaquah is holding a coat and shoe drive throughout November.

The drive runs through Nov. 30 and donations benefit the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

Coats and shoes — in adult’s and children’s sizes — should be clean, and new or gently used.

Donation sites include The Issaquah Press, 45 Front St. S.; the Issaquah Gilman branch of KeyBank, 405 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Suite A; and AtWork! Issaquah Operations, 690 N.W. Juniper St.

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Kiwanis Club of Issaquah seeks coat donations

November 1, 2011

The Kiwanis Club of Issaquah is holding a coat and shoe drive throughout November.

The drive runs from Nov. 1-30 and donations benefit the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

Coats and shoes — in adult and child sizes — should be clean, and new or gently used.

Donation sites include The Issaquah Press, KeyBank, AtWork!, Eastside Audiology, Hilton Garden Inn, Sammamish Club, Columbia Athletic, Liberty High School, Footzone and Starbucks by Safeway.

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Kiwanis Club of Issaquah seeks coat donations

October 25, 2011

The Kiwanis Club of Issaquah is holding a coat and shoe drive throughout November.

The drive runs from Nov. 1-30 and donations benefit the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

Coats and shoes — in adult and child sizes — should be clean, and new or gently used.

Donation sites include The Issaquah Press, KeyBank, AtWork!, Eastside Audiology, Hilton Garden Inn, Sammamish Club, Columbia Athletic, Liberty High School, Footzone and Starbucks by Safeway.

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Gardeners grow community spirit in pea patches

August 30, 2011

Issaquah-area community gardens offer bounty, camaraderie

Summertime in the Mirrormont Pea Patch resembles a slice of Eden on Tiger Mountain.

Linda Jean Shepherd (above) points to some of the plants growing in a raised garden plot at the Mirrormont Pea Patch. By Greg Farrar

Pathways crisscross the ground among the lush leaves and verdant vines reaching out from bean, potato, tomato and dozens of other plants. Colorful blooms and delicate herbs greet guests at the garden gate.

“It’s about growing food, but it’s also about growing community,” Linda Jean Shepherd, a longtime Mirrormont resident and lead figure in establishing the pea patch, said on a stroll through the garden.

Some plots contain plants in neat rows. The plants in others bend and coil to Mother Nature’s whims.

“It’s so fun to see how people’s personalities are expressed in their gardens,” Shepherd said.

In Mirrormont and elsewhere in the Issaquah area, community gardens continue to sprout on empty lots and unused corners. The pea patches offer opportunities to grow produce, sure, but also a chance to grow community as neighbors join to dig and plant.

Gardeners from the pea patches often donate fresh, and often organic, produce to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank and other food pantries.

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Neighborhood turns trash, food scraps, to treasure, rich compost

August 30, 2011

Residents donate 400 pounds of garbage for composting effort

The half-gnawed corncobs, shorn pineapple tops, slimy banana peels and grease-stained pizza boxes simmered in the midday sun — a concoction assembled from the kitchen castoffs of 10 Issaquah families.

Residents of the Sycamore neighborhood near downtown Issaquah dump a last load of food scraps into more than 400 pounds of collected food waste. Contributed

The festering pile in Donna Misner’s driveway Aug. 24 included more than 400 pounds collected from residents in the Sycamore neighborhood near downtown Issaquah.

King County joined the residents to increase food-scrap recycling for a month to accomplish dual goals: demonstrate the ease of food-scrap recycling and turn the garbage into rich compost for a community garden.

“I don’t consider this waste. People always joke, ‘Oh, it’s garbage and it’s stinky. This is a material. This is a resource — that’s what this is right here,” King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson said during a midday event in the Sycamore driveway. “It may smell a little bit on a hot day, but when you do it at home, it’s not going to smell. When Cedar Grove makes it into compost, the final product is a product that’s going to help your garden grow. It’s a resource.”

Cedar Grove Composting plans to transform the refuse into compost and then donate the results to the Issaquah Flatland Community Garden near the AtWork! Recycling Center by late fall. Gardeners send 25 percent of the organic bounty to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

“The garden is a nice focal point for the Issaquah community,” AtWork! Community Development Manager Dennis Wadja said. “Neighbors walk to the garden, children are exposed to growing food, the food bank receives nutritious organic food and space is available for the disabled population. We see this recycling project as an opportunity to connect deeper to the wider community.”

(Cedar Grove Composting is near the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in unincorporated King County between Issaquah and Maple Valley.)

Officials and teams from the King County Solid Waste Division and Cedar Grove Composting — including a county staffer dressed as a banana — gathered at the Misner home along Issaquah Creek as Tiger Mountain basked in the sunshine beyond.

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