Generation Inspiration brings Intergenerational Cultural Exchange to Kitsap Regional Library

Generation Inspiration sounds a bit like a 1960’s Motown soul group. Though this five-member team isn’t laying down soulful ballads on vinyl, the team does have a lot of soul.

At first glance, a police detective, a school teacher, an administrative assistant, a chemist, and an environmentalist appear to have little in common. One team member is a Bremerton native, one is an Air Force brat, two are Suquamish natives, and one was raised on a Minnesota farm. Looking only skin-deep, there are few similarities. But, one commonality brought them together, a drive to create positive change in their community. And there’s the soul.

Seeking ways to create positive social change, team members enrolled in Leadership Kitsap, a 10-month course designed to generate a diverse network of effective leaders educated in public policy issues and committed to public stewardship. Founded by the Kitsap Chambers of Commerce and the United Way of Kitsap County in 1993, Leadership Kitsap incorporated in 1993. The first Leadership Kitsap class with 13 members convened in September 1994 and graduated in June 1995. As of June 2017, Leadership Kitsap has graduated 553 servant leaders into the community and developed 93 community service projects throughout the county.

“At the heart of it, Leadership Kitsap helps participants acquire not only a fuller sense of critical issues affecting the community, but also the skills necessary to motivate and engage others in resolving them,” said Generation Inspiration member, Cami Apfelbeck, water resources specialist for the City of Bainbridge Island. “As part of our learning, we collaborate with community partners on a service project that reflects our core values and serves the causes nearest and dearest to our hearts.”

“The top core value of Generation Inspiration is family happiness which we see as a strong, close connectedness not only to the family into which we are born, but the community family in which we live,” says Cami.

The team pondered how to bring multi-generations and disparate groups in the community together to strengthen community family ties. As two of the team members are Suquamish tribal members, it was natural for the team to turn to the Suquamish People. Team member Denita Holmes is a cultural arts teacher at the Chief Kitsap Academy and a scholar in her own right of the Suquamish language, Lushootseed. Team member Danielle Morsette, a Marketing Administrative Assistant for Port Madison Enterprises, is an accomplished artist whose prints, woven blankets and other original textile artwork have been displayed in local, national and international galleries and museums.

Denita and Danielle, who act as cultural liaisons, approached their Tribal Elders with a proposal to share the Suquamish People’s history, culture, and art with the surrounding community. “It is important to share with the community who we are as Suquamish People,” said Danielle and Denita. “Shared positive experiences and learning from each other strengthens the relationship between the Suquamish Tribal Community and greater Kitsap.”

The team knew they needed to bring these generations and cultures together in a gathering place where people go to learn and share ideas, a place where differences are passionately embraced and celebrated. So, while Danielle and Denita consulted their Tribal Elders, team member Aaron Elton reached out to the Poulsbo Branch of Kitsap Regional Library.

“Branch Manager Sharon Lee, was immediately ecstatic about our proposal,” said Aaron, Bremerton Police Department’s investigations unit supervisor. “Both Kitsap Regional Library and the Suquamish People have been amazing community partners. This is a beautiful opportunity to bring people of all ages together for a rich cultural exchange.”

The Generation Inspiration program will launch with two events hosted at the Poulsbo branch, Suquamish Cultural Storytelling and Sharing on March 10 and Suquamish Art and Weaving on April 14. “In our recent community assessment, people from all over the county let us know they wanted enriching opportunities to connect and engage with others. A hunger was expressed for meaningful interactions between multiple generations and a hope to learn more about this place we call home,” says Sharon. “When Aaron approached me about working with Suquamish Elders and the Generation Inspiration team, I recognized it as a gift of the right fit.”

The intent of Leadership Kitsap community service projects is to establish new programs or expand upon existing programs to fill a need in the community. Community partners, like the Suquamish People and Kitsap Regional Library, sponsor and collaborate on program development and, ultimately, take ownership of the program ensuring long-term sustainability.

“We are creating a Kitsap community program, not a Leadership Kitsap program,” said Allison Phayre, the fifth and final member of Generation Inspiration. Allison is responsible for institutional research, planning, and effectiveness at Olympic College, and considers this project a natural extension of her interests. “Kitsap County is a small community, and it’s a privilege to facilitate the Suquamish People sharing their tight-knit, unique culture.”

Generation Inspiration hopes this successful launch will lead to further intergenerational and intercultural collaborations throughout the county.

— Column by Cami Apfelbeck

Generation Inspiration brings Intergenerational Cultural Exchange to Kitsap Regional Library