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C2C December Photo Edited


About 50 adults and children from the Edith & Carrie neighborhood came together for their annual Christmas celebration at Carrie Center, a community gathering place built by Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC) in 2015.

Three neighborhoods are part of BMAC’s Commitment to Community (C2C) program, which helps build capacity so these neighborhoods thrive and succeed. The neighborhoods have over the years developed a special style of Christmas celebration planned each year by neighborhood leaders. What makes the Edith & Carrie celebration unique is a Posada procession that was started last year by Emmanuel Lomeli, a neighborhood leader who was instrumental in organizing this year’s event, too. La Posada is a Mexican Christmas tradition reenacting Mary and Joseph wandering the streets, going door to door asking for shelter, only to be turned away, until one door is opened and they are welcomed in. Of course, the open door is supposed to be at Carrie Center.

Asked why he started La Posada in his neighborhood, Emmanuel pointed out that he wants his children to know the real meaning of Christmas, which is all about sharing with the community, not just Santa and gifts.

This year was special because Maria Ayala, a neighborhood leader and active member of the choir at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, was able to book Heraclio Torres, her choirmaster and an accomplished guitarist, for the event.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and neighbors had to quickly think of a plan B for the procession. Instead of walking the streets, actors representing Mary and Joseph, and most of the Spanish-speaking neighbors, braved the cold and rain outside in front of Carrie Center to sing their Spanish Posada verses. The mostly English-speaking participants, including a group of fire fighters and police officers, stayed indoors and tried on a different kind of bravery: group singing. They, some neighbors and some public school officials sang the Posada responses in English. At the end, the wet and hungry pilgrims were welcomed into the warm space, a potluck their reward. Much to the displeasure of some of the children, everybody had to earn the delicious meal by first singing a few traditional American Christmas songs, in both English and Spanish, again to the masterful accompaniment of Heraclio Torres.

About half an hour into the celebration, a loud noise came from the door, as Santa Claus made his grand entrance. After sitting down on a special chair by the Christmas tree, Santa welcomed each child with a small gift bag and a stuffed animal. Some adults also got in line in order to have their picture taken with Santa. The stuffed animals and a special Chinese potluck dish were generously donated by Panda Express, where Emmanuel Lomeli works as a manager.

Walla Walla Police Department’s Vicki Ruley and Wanda Galland, who have become regulars at neighborhood celebrations, generously contributed items to the children’s gift bags and helped the organizers find an authentic looking Santa Claus, retired police officer Jim Romine.

At the height of the celebration, all tables and chairs were occupied. There was standing room only, but visitors, including City Council Members Steve Moss and Yazmin Bahena, Parks & Recreation Director Andy Coleman, and other city officials, used the opportunity to mingle and chat with neighbors.

Neighborhood Outreach Organizer Ursula Volwiler was extremely happy with the turnout and felt that the planning committee’s hard work had paid off. Each member had invited neighbors and friends, and as a final effort, Emmanuel had gone door-to-door reminding everybody in the Edith & Carrie neighborhood, making a point to say that Santa would be there.

James Powell, a former neighborhood leader who still helps organize Edith & Carrie events and attends them regularly, felt that this event went beyond the surface meaning of a potluck and that the people of the neighborhood truly came together and were engaged. Volwiler confirmed that this was the first time for some residents to participate in a neighborhood potluck, and they saw how much fun it is. Volwiler plans to follow up with residents and gather ideas for neighborhood projects and activities for the coming year.

2018 bfom steering committee l 1

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  • Dec 24, 2018


The eighth annual Barrel Full of Money fundraiser for the Blue Mountain Action raised its highest amount ever.

The two-month fundraiser put on with the help of more than 60 area wineries, along with businesses and nonprofit partners, jumped 14 percent from last year’s high with $39,396.02.

The check was presented last Thursday to BMAC in a ceremony at Baker Boyer Bank.

The funds raised will provide more than 196,900 meals for those in need, said BMAC Food Bank Director Jeff Mathias.

The food bank distributes more than 928,000 pounds of food through pantries across the county each year.

Since the launch of Barrel Full of Money — a drive that sets up actual wine barrels at a couple of locations and donation canisters all over tasting rooms and participating businesses — the campaign has raised more than $166,000 for the food bank.

The drive is a joint effort between the alliance, BMAC and local sponsor organizations and businesses: Alaska Airlines, Baker Boyer Bank, Big House Brewpub, Columbia Rural Electric Association, Dunham Cellars, Elkhorn Media Group, Hayden Homes, the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, Olive Marketplace & Café and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

This year’s campaign also included a raffle; donation canisters at local wineries and businesses; full-sized wine barrels — used as donation vessels — at local restaurants; an auction and wine reception at Dunham Cellars; and cash donations from local businesses and residents.

Gifford Hirlinger Winery, which forgoes a formal tasting fee in favor of donations for the Food Bank, provided $5,000 for the campaign — as much as collected through the raffle, officials said.`

MOD Pizza, a Seattle based quick-service pizza chain, opened on December 6th in Walla Walla. Aside from being touted for their delicious, affordable pizza, they are also viewed to be a conscious company who gives back to their employees and their communities.  


A recent article in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin says "The business has a “people first” approach that starts with paying employees above-industry wages and continues through its “impact hiring” of people with special needs or in need of a second chance. A column in Forbes recently highlighted how its openness to hire people with a history of incarceration, drug abuse, homelessness or mental illness gives back to the company and community as a force for good."


During their first day of operation, MOD donated all pizza proceeds to us, totaling $5,292! 

We are so appreciative of this new addition to town. Go out and get yourself a pizza!

    Nov 29, 2018



A recent class offered by Washington Park neighborhood leaders on how to make tamales was such a huge success, the crowd overflowed a space at The Salvation Army outpost, 825 W. Alder St., said J. Andrew Rodriguez. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my three years as director of Commitment to Community. The gathering represents community engagement at its best,” Andrew added. C2C is with Blue Mountain Action Council.

“I think the neighborhood leaders are still stunned by the success of the event,” he added. Those same leaders are planning their annual Christmas party. Some dozen experts led the hands-on course on how to produce the Mexican delicacy. The experts fanned out to teaching tables in the packed space. About 35 community members of all ages participated while, unfortunately, another eight people were turned away for lack of room. 

The novices worked alongside the masters of all ages to practice and learn nuances of making masa, spreading it on a corn husk and wrapping it around the filling. Masa dough is made from corn flour and used to make tortillas and tamales. “It’ll take you a few tries,” hollered Annay Cardenas, who led the first part of the class. The 19-year-old will soon be attending Walla Walla Community College and hopes to become a travel nurse and explore other medical careers. “Walla Walla is a diverse community, and it was nice to see that people wanted to learn about the Mexican food culture,” she said. “It was amazing to see people try their best at making something new to them.”

Several methods are used to produce tamales, including abuela (grandmother) style, as coined by Deborah Peters. Her husband, Scott, was impressed with the class and appreciated “all the wonderful local experts who took time to share their expertise with us.” Various gradations of heat create good tamales. “Eyebrows raised in unison at tables when plates were brought out with spears of jalapeños to add to the filling,” Andrew said.

Because making tamales is time consuming, the expert cooks worked into the night the previous day to prepare several dozens ready to cook. During class, they prepared tamales — some spicy hot — that were cooked on the patio using a gas grill. The best part came at the culmination when attendees enjoyed cooked tamales fresh out of the steamer, Andrew said.

The class was a hit with attendees, many asking when the next class would be offered and suggesting instruction in making pozole (a traditional hominy soup or stew), enchiladas, chicken mole, tortillas and breakfast tacos. “Given the reaction, it’s a safe bet more Mexican cooking classes will be offered soon,” Andrew said. 

The success of the event was also due to the collaboration with Salvation Army Capts. Demetrio and Magda Villarreal, who graciously offered the neighborhood leaders the use of their facility’s demonstration kitchen, Andrew said

C2C works in Washington Park to build the capacity of residents to improve their neighborhood by developing their leadership skills and helping to expand their social capital. 

Published in the Union-Bulletin 11/14/18


When it came to fundraising for school children, Doubleback Winery found success in its library.


The Walla Walla winery raised $27,158 for the Blue Mountain Action Council’s Backpack Bridge Program by tapping a “Library of Wines For a Cause” benefit.


All of the money from the sale of wines is donated to the program that provides nonperishable meals to school children in need as they head home for the weekend.


Each standard Backpack Bridge bag provides four meals, stuffed discreetly in the student’s backpack, each Friday before the children head home for the weekend.


Doubleback’s contribution will fund 6,800 Friday packs and help expand the program to local middle schools.


The library wine fundraiser was sent out to the Drew Bledsoe-owned winery’s mailing list members. Those members had the chance to purchase the special wines throughout the week of Oct. 22.


“In our own community, we have witnessed and learned of the simple, yet so important, need for meals in the Walla Walla Valley,” stated winemaker and General Manager Josh McDaniel in the offer.


The weekend program got started last year as an extension of a food program that provided sustenance for students over holiday breaks. But the nonprofit BMAC discovered it wasn’t enough. The agency sought out funding for a more formalized weekend backpack program.


New funding is needed each year to provide food for the 292 elementary school children who access the program.


“Doubleback’s understanding of the need and resourceful fundraising will make a significant impact on our ability to continue this program for the 2019 school year,” said Tracy Parmer, who leads development and outreach for BMAC. “We’re so inspired by their generosity and dedication to feeding our future.”


Volunteer opportunities, including building and delivering backpacks, are available through the food bank.

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