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'Stifle division'

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | November 10, 2021 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Nonprofit leaders on Tuesday called for unity to overcome COVID-19 conflicts.

“We need to stifle division,” said Jeanette Laster, executive director of the Human Rights Education Institute. “We need to come back together as a community and listen to each other and respect each other and bring kindness to the table.”

“Just stifle division,” she repeated.

About 100 people attended the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber's Upbeat Breakfast at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn.

Kevin Bailey, CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center, led a 30-minute discussion on the importance of collaboration between nonprofits and businesses.

The panel included Laster; Larry Riley, executive director, St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho; Mike Baker, chief executive officer, Heritage Health; Jeff Owens, attorney, Owens McCrea Linscott, PLLC; and, Mark Tucker, executive director, United Way of North Idaho.

Bailey said that due to COVID-19, rhetoric and division has increased in the area. He asked the panel to talk about one way the business community can help them as nonprofits.

“I would say the way that can happen is through leadership and conversations,” Tucker said. “Maybe it’s the business community, maybe it's the chamber. Maybe it's just businesses in general, coming together, having conversations.”

He said “demonizing the opposition” is not good.

“And the more it spirals, the worse it gets,” Tucker said. “And I think we've seen that the past year or so. And we certainly know that our legislators listen to the business community.”

Owens called for trust and accountability.

He said there's a growing mistrust in the community, including toward health care, "which is kind of a shocker. So how do you build trust?” he asked.

Owens said a nonprofit can build trust by focusing on value and service. He also spoke of the need to be candid and accountable.

“This is probably the hardest thing. As a lawyer, I see people struggle with accountability every day. It's as a business leader, as a nonprofit, sometimes it's easier to run away than to hold ourselves accountable,” he said.

“So I think if we can get to those three core fundamentals of trust and rebuild trust, then that's a start," he said. "And hopefully, that will get us back on the right page.”

Riley referred to March 25, 2020, when Gov. Brad Little issued an emergency declaration to remain at home.

“If you're homeless, how do you do that? You can't go home, you can't shelter in place; you got to find a place,” he said. “We didn't know what was going on with COVID as much as we do this year. But that was a real challenge."

Riley said many people take housing lightly, but it's critical.

“If nonessential businesses like libraries and restaurants are closed, how do you take care of yourself if you're homeless?" he asked.

Riley said as the community continues to deal with COVID challenges, it must remember those who don't have a voice.

He said those in the room have that by giving time and money.

“They really bridge it all together," Riley said.

Baker said there are people who want to tear things down because they don’t like them, and their actions are “destroying our community.”

Leaders must take a stand, he said.

“When you're a leader, your job is to build and support and inspire,” Baker said.

He said those who just want to say no and tear things down should, "get out of the way.

"That's not what it's all about. And we have had way too much of that.”

Baker said people in North Idaho show up every day at their business or nonprofit to make the world a little bit better.

“That's what this community is so incredible for," he said. "We're losing it and we can't, so don’t."