BELLINGHAM, Wash. — The Opportunity Council announced today that it is not renewing a long-term kitchen lease with the Firs due to recent decisions made by the Firs management to fire a staff person based on sexual orientation.

An 18-year-old Firs staff member said he was terminated after being hired last month by the Firs to be a camp counselor.  The Firs, a non-denominational Christian organization, confirmed in a statement reported by The Bellingham Herald that this staff member was fired because of his sexual orientation.

“The Firs’ recent personnel actions are not compatible with our agency’s values,” said Greg Winter, Opportunity Council executive director. He said this action also does not align with non-discrimination clauses in the federal and state contracts that fund these Opportunity Council (OC) programs.

The OC is looking for another licensed commercial kitchen that can be operational by late August to provide meals for children in Head Start and Early Childhood Assistance and Education preschools throughout Whatcom County.

“During the school year, we produce breakfast, lunch, and snacks daily for about 500 children,” said David Webster, director of OC’s early learning programs. He said OC staff transport prepared food to sites that include Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, and Kendall and the agency is seeking kitchen options throughout the county.

In addition to exploring kitchen options, the agency is looking at investing in equipment for meal preparation, which they acknowledge will be an unexpected expense.

“Added expenses will be a real challenge for us, but this is a ‘live-your-values’ moment,” said Winter.  “We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of everyone. This decision embodies that.”

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Distributed to Whatcom County media outlets