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08.13.2020

Costly Repairs at 100-Year-Old Church Lead to Gift for Treehouse

By Trent Freeman, Marketing & Communications Director

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Six years ago, University Christian Church got some bad news that the church needed expensive seismic upgrades.

“It was going to be $11 million dollars to make that tower seismically sound. We figured the world could use $11 million a lot more,” said Deborah Shuman, a lifelong member of the congregation.

A plan was put in place to merge with another church, sell the building and use the money for nonprofits near and dear to the hearts of members. After more than 100 years at its current location in Seattle’s University District, the church merged with Lake City Christian Church to form Journey Christian Church.

Thanks to Deborah, Treehouse has received a $25,000 gift to support youth who have experienced foster care. The church’s existing endowment and the remaining funds from the sale will be used to form the University Christian Church Legacy Foundation.

“Everybody in the congregation has a right to make requests and have some portion of the money go to something they have a passion about,” Deborah said.

For her, Treehouse was an easy choice because of a multifaceted relationship that spans many years.

Deborah and her husband Lanny have 11 children ranging in age from 10 to 50. She has no biological kids, and many benefited from Treehouse’s services, from soccer and piano lessons to camps. She’s also nearing retirement after decades as a special education teacher in Seattle public schools and raves about Treehouse’s Educational Advocacy program as a “force to be reckoned with.”

“You have a Treehouse Education Advocate assigned to a kid in special education, and we sit up and take notice,” Deborah said. “You stay up a little later the night before to make sure your documents are in line. Even children with parents typically cannot advocate for their kids as clearly as Treehouse does.”

Education Advocates resolve difficult issues and remove barriers to school success for youth impacted by foster care in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade across Washington state in areas not served by our Graduation Success program.

Deborah’s first experience with Treehouse dates back to when she and Lanny had just gotten their license to be foster parents. They received a call asking them to come pick up a set of newborn twins.

“I thought it might be a joke. I mean we had nothing. I had a little box of baby stuff. But twins? That’s a lot,” Deborah said. “That was Thursday. By Tuesday, we had a twin stroller and everything we needed. Treehouse just stepped right up. Those kids had a pretty nice infancy because of Treehouse.”


Looking back, there is so much personal history for Deborah at University Christian Church. Her parents met there, and her grandparents were members.

“Our whole family were members from both sides of my family,” Deborah said. “It was really beautiful with stained glass windows and dark wood—very much a time piece and not at all modern.”

Members mortgaged their homes during the Great Depression to build the church. Now their legacy will live on at Treehouse and other organizations thanks to funding from the new foundation.

“We are able to support a lot more worthy causes than we were holding onto the building,” Deborah said. “It’s kind of sad, but we are excited about the needs we are able to do something about. It makes it worthwhile.”

You can leave a legacy, too. If you want to know more or have already included Treehouse in your plans, please contact Lindsay Davis at 206.267.5183 or lindsay.davis@treehouseforkids.org.

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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse. He is passionate about storytelling as a tool to drive positive change for youth impacted by foster care.


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