Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

L’Arche assistant pedals mile after mile to raise program funding

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 19, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Jim Olson, one of the non-residential assistants for Spokane’s L’Arche community, will be riding his bike to raise funds in support of the program for developmentally disabled adults. (IR photo)

Jim Olson taught special education students in Spokane’s District 81 public schools for 30 years.

Following retirement a few years ago, Olson noticed an item in the parish bulletin about Spokane’s L’Arche community, which is part of the 50-country network of L’Arche communities for developmentally disabled adults and their assistants. The result was that for more than a year now Jim Olson, who soon will turn 70, has been a non-live-in assistant at L’Arche Spokane, specifically at Trinity House, one of the two L’Arche homes in Spokane. The other home is Harvest House, and together the two places are home to 12 L’Arche core members and their assistants.

Canadian Jean Vanier, who founded L’Arche in France in 1964, observed: “We are all human. We are all vulnerable. We all need to love. From people with disabilities we can learn. We’re not just ‘liberating’ people from asylums. It is we who discover ... the blessing of having vulnerable people in our lives.”

L’Arche is the French word for “ark.”

Olson wears a second hat in Spokane’s L’Arche community.

“As an assistant, for over a year I have had the gift (of serving) at Trinity House in the L’Arche Spokane Community. It has been an amazing experience for me to share a part of my life in this very caring and enriching community. As an assistant, I became aware of the financial challenges this nonprofit faces and decided to take on the role of Chairman of Fundraising and Development for the community. The days I’m there I prepare the evening meal, and I started a garden, and I’m a general handyman around the place. I’m there for a lot more hours than I’m paid for. My wife is a retired nurse, and she’s very supportive. I wouldn’t be able to do this without her.”

Earlier this year, Olson hit on the idea of a fundraiser for L’Arche that he could do virtually all by himself. He decided to bicycle 200 miles along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in north Idaho, on Aug. 24 and 25 – 100 miles each day – and beforehand collect pledges and donations from people to support L’Arche Spokane. Olson’s goal is to raise $10,000, and he’s already been in training to the tune of about 1,500 miles.

He won’t be riding alone. His long-time friend from Yakima, Tom Clayton, will ride with him to raise funds for another non-profit, the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties. All the donations Olson collects, however, will go directly to L’Arche. Over the summer, so far, he has spoken at meetings of numerous service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, to promote his ride. “I’ve probably met more than 1,000 people over the summer,” he said.

Olson said, “I want to draw some attention to how full life can be as you grow older, if you just stay active and involved. We glorify youth and degrade aging. I feel just like a kid now that I’m approaching 70.”

To make a pledge or donation, “large or small,” contact Olson at (509) 924-2136 or by email at Pledges and donations may also be mailed directly to: L’Arche Spokane Office, 703 E. Nora, Spokane, WA 99207. To learn more about L’Arche Spokane and L’Arche USA visit the website:

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