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Couple committed to building 'loving communities'

Society's heroes are frequently individuals with a keen interest in a particular field, combined with a strong desire to make a difference. Jake Fawcett and Connie Burk -- ParentMap's heroes for November -- clearly fit that mold. These residents of Seattle's Seward Park neighborhood are dedicated to community building, and inherent in this endeavor is their goal of improving the lives of those around them.

What is now part of their life philosophy initially sprung from the pair's involvement with anti-violence organizations: Jake works at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Connie is the Executive Director of the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse. Their vocations led them to look for ways in which they could affect change positively, both on the job and off.

The results now manifest themselves in many different ways, making it difficult to encapsulate in a few sentences what exactly makes them so special. Yet read on, and you'll see what led Laura Lipsky, a friend of the couple and Connie's former co-worker, to recommend them for a hero article:

Laura spoke of your "intentionality," or the deliberateness with which you conduct your lives.

C: Just doing [anti-violence] work for so long, it's been my experience that you have to think about how to build a life in a positive way, as opposed to just being in opposition to something. Rather than just being against violence, you need to be for building loving communities that can support equitable and loving relationships.

J: The connection between work and home is that we've learned [to be intentional] through the work we've done. We've learned to sit down and proactively think about what our philosophy is as a family.

Tell me about the community you have built for yourselves here in Seattle.

J: When [our son] Henson was born, we had people bringing us food four times a week for four weeks, without anyone repeating. Our friends organized it. It was really amazing. Our friends have this ethic of organizing and pitching in for one another.

And my mom was here when Henson was born. The week or so up to his birth, she was starting to get stressed out, just feeling a lot of what her experience had been (as a new mom), remembering being depressed and feeling alone and overwhelmed. And the day he was born, it just clicked. It sunk in that it wasn't the same for us, and that we were well supported. She just relaxed and was able to be so present with us. I'm glad she was here long enough before (the birth) for that to happen, to have it transform her experience as well.

C: The whole theme for us is that it's only possible through connections with other people. You can't do this in isolation.

Laura also mentioned that you contribute to a college scholarship fund.

J: We started a college fund for Henson, then we had the idea that we wanted to contribute to a scholarship fund for other kids in the neighborhood, and we found the MLK (Jr.) Scholarship Fund run out of the Mount Baker Community Center. (See related Hero story in July 2004 ParentMap.) It's a really strong belief we have, and something we wanted to communicate clearly to Henson, that part of what's going to build a good future for him is linked up with what opportunities the people around him have. (The fund) is for kids from several ZIP codes around here. It's not just for superstars; it's for kids who have a shot at going to college -- kids who would be able to go if their families had the money.

What about the fundraising dinner you held on Connie's birthday, to help with your friend's college expenses?

C: We have a friend who's been babysitting Henson all summer. We've known her since she was 5. She is the first kid in her generation to graduate from high school, and she was one of the top five African-American scholars at Garfield this year.

J: They were trying to get the last little bit of money together for her.

C: So we [set up] a restaurant: "Chateau La Maison de La Casa House". Her two cousins came over and were waiting tables. We had two tables set up. You could order the chicken or the vegan, and we raised about $500 for her.

J: We had it set up too so that people who aren't from around here could contribute on PayPal.

What are you most proud of?

J: I feel really proud of Henson. He's so adorable and he's so great and you get total credit for it, and it's not like you did anything to deserve it. He's just his own person.

C (Looking at Jake and Henson): I just think about what a good time we have. What a good life we have.

J: We really do have a nice time together.

C: We're like three peas in a pod.

Laura Fine Morrison is a Seattle writer and mother.

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