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Faith Action Network’s Executive Director Bids Farewell After Decade of Leadership

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News Article by Mary Feusner | FāVS News

“I have been with FAN for 10 years, and it’s been one of the most rewarding and wonderful positions I’ve ever held,” said Faith Action Network Executive Director Elise DeGooyer, who recently announced her departure from the organization.

According to DeGooyer she is planning to take the summer to see what is calling her forward for the next five plus years.

“I think for me, as I move into retirement, I’d really like to dig deep on one or two specific things again,” said DeGooyer. 

DeGooyer’s Journey in Human Services

Freshly out of her teenage years she found her calling in human service work. For the past 40 years she has devoted her time to advocating for those experiencing hard times. 

“People shouldn’t be hungry and people should have a place to stay. There is a right to shelter and there is a right to food, I believe,” said DeGooyer. 

According to DeGooyer, during her undergraduate studies at Gonzaga University she discovered she was being called to respond to human needs. She began volunteering with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Through the program DeGooyer spent a year doing work in Washington D.C. 

“There were people sleeping on the streets, in our nation and the president during that time said being homeless was a choice”, said DeGooyer.

DeGooyer said, “That was the beginning of my process of doing direct services throughout my career.” 

From Campus to Community

After graduating with a bachelors degree at Gonzaga, DeGooyer got her masters at Maryknoll School of Theology. Soon after she began her career at the University of Washington School of Social Work, as program coordinator until 2004. 

DeGooyer spent four years as an administrator at Mary’s Place, a nonprofit organization that provides support for women and families looking for shelter. 

In 2008 DeGooyer became program manager at Northwest Harvest, where she spent the next five years. 

According to DeGooyer, she traveled the state working to help provide equitable access to nutritious food.

“I loved touring the state from big towns to small towns. Seeing the food banks and the community services that people provided,” said DeGooyer. 

Expanding FAN’s Reach

In 2014 DeGooyer filled the position of co-director at FAN, alongside Paul Benz. 

Jim CastroLang, board member at FAN said under DeGooyer’s leadership FAN was able to move into the 21st century in terms of not having to be rooted in one denominational leadership. Now there are spiritual and faith based individuals who can be a part of the organization without feeling as though they have to be a part of a certain church or denomination.

DeGooyer said that she learned a lot at Northwest Harvest and was able to transfer that knowledge to FAN as they worked to expand into a statewide program. 

According to DeGooyer, FAN’s most prominent areas of work include economic justice, criminal justice, climate care, hunger advocacy and housing/homelessness. 

“We are a non-profit, multi-faith advocacy group,” said CastroLang, “We say that policy is our love language.”

According to CatroLang members at FAN are trying to translate compassion and justice into good government policies. 

Policy Wins and Statewide Impact

DeGooyer said some of her most memorable work includes helping expand school meals and marching with members of different communities to show support against gun violence. Passing the Climate Commitment Act, which caps and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from large sources and industries in Washington. Along with passing the Capital Gains Tax to add a 7% tax on the sale of investments such as, stocks, bonds, and other tangible assets. 

“All these things are going to stick with me, they were really meaningful times,” said DeGooyer. 

According to DeGooyer, she is incredibly proud of the work she and others have done with regional organizers. 

“We are truly living our statewide vision of having staff on the ground in other places in our state,” said DeGooyer. 

Looking Ahead

Having regional managers makes a difference. There are some struggles that a person can only understand, on a deeper level, if they are living in that area or have strong connections with the community.

“I am ready to make room for new leadership. I am sad because I will miss the incredible people, but I know that all across our state there are very dedicated, faithful people who continue to work and preserve over years until things eventually get passed,” said DeGooyer. 

DeGooyer said she would also miss the variety of interactions with people from across the state. 

According to DeGooyer it is her hope that FAN continues to build relationships with faith communities and grow the variety of multi-faith traditions so that the organization can become the force for common good that they have always envisioned it could be. 

“Thank you for your strong leadership. Thank you for helping build a stable organization so that we can use it as a platform to have a vision of something even greater,” said CastroLang. 

Mary Feusner
Mary Feusner
Mary Feusner is a senior at Washington State University, pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism. Her passion for history and religions, which began when she was a child, along with a class taught by Tracy Simmons at WSU, led to her initial interest in religion journalism. Beyond writing, Mary has a love for reading and collecting fiction novels. She currently serves as a student ambassador for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at WSU. She is eager to gain experience in journalism and make meaningful contributions to the field. She is excited for the opportunity to learn from the dedicated journalists at FāVS News.

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