BREMERTON — When Marthita May, former family services director and co-founder of Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center, stepped down from the role, Annika Turner, once an administrative assistant for KIAC’s family services, to step up and fill those shoes.
“She was a fantastic person in this position and had a great bond in this community,” Turner said of May. “(I want to) thank her for her many years of service, and they’re definitely big shoes to step into.”
Turner spent six months beginning January 2016 working with KIAC the first time around. She has also worked in legal services, equal housing, education and community and social services. Turner has a bachelor’s degree in international relations, a certificate in human needs and global resources, and is fluent in Spanish.
She has also studied abroad, completed an internship in Senegal, and lived in and taught English in Uruguay.
“It exposed me to people with different backgrounds and helped me understand perspectives from people who grew up outside of my context,” Turner said. “I heard perspectives from outside the United States and other people’s stories, and the role the U.S. plays abroad and how we affect other people’s lives.”
Turner said that growing up, she heard a lot about the potential negative affects immigration can have. Now, she knows the other side of the coin.
“Most of us who are descendants of anyone who [isn’t] native to North America, we all come from that background of moving to someone else’s home and making it our own,” Turner said.
“One thing I do want to be part of is creating more of a connection between the immigrant community and people from here,” Turner said. “I think that makes for a better community for everyone.”
KIAC has two branches. The legal side helps people apply for green cards or become citizens, reunite them with their families in the U.S., apply for asylum and more. Turner is now the director of family services, which is “more of a social services arm,” she said.
That branch has a drop-in center where people can bring “whatever issue they’re working on,” from medical bills to English language classes. She said they have a monthly free medical clinic and a quarterly dental clinic, classes to help people prepare for the citizenship test and more.
“We also go around together with the legal side (giving a) ‘know your rights’ presentation for anyone in the community,” Turner said. “People do have rights, even if they don’t have the same legal status. Also, we’re educating people that it’s important to still report crime. Local police departments are really great at dealing with a crime without bringing someone’s legal status unnecessarily into play.”
KIAC’s family services department also works with a committee of volunteers who are part of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or immigrant community to identify other programs or services they should consider in the future.
“I am looking forward to getting to know more immigrant families and connecting people in the community more,” Turner said. “I’m excited to do more outreach events and get the word out about KIAC.”
She said KIAC is “just a really good place with a lot of good-hearted people.”
KIAC is located in the Lighthouse Plaza, 3627 Wheaton Way, Bremerton. For more information, visit kitsapiac.org or call 360-616-0479. For Spanish, call 360-616-2722.