Ray and Keely Deck, Skookum House
Upstairs are rooms bathed in natural light from the windows, complete with colorfully quilted beds and bins of every sort of toy from soft dolls to plastic trucks. Downstairs is a welcoming kitchen table, wood worn from many little hands, clumsily participating in meals and craft times. There at the doorway to welcome visitors, volunteers, social workers, and most importantly, children, are Ray and Keely Deck.
The Decks are dedicated foster parents and social entrepreneurs who are passionate about repairing the foster care system. Ray founded Skookum Kids in 2015 as a non-profit organization that equips those already involved in foster care and educates those who are not.
The Skookum House is one major aspect of the organization. The warmly welcoming facility cares for children entering or transitioning in the foster care system. Ray and Keely, along with their staff and over 100 volunteers, are sure to have games, toys, and gifts for each child that walks through the door as their case managers work on finding a more permanent placement.
According to Ray Deck, before Skookum came along, the two main ways of participating in the foster care system were to donate pajamas to the mattress company, or become a foster parent, a commitment the Deck’s have found can be extremely frightening for people because of its misunderstood nature and undefined commitment length.
“You go from zero or sixty with nothing in between. Skookum Kids is all the steps in between. You can come volunteer, which is not an insignificant commitment, but it’s not so immersive as foster care. It’s kind of an intermediate step. Folks can have a meaningful impact in a way that’s safe and contained,” Ray said.
Ray acts as the founding director of Skookum, while Keely spends the days raising their own son, Lincoln, fostering other children in their home, and lending significant support to the Deck’s second endeavor, Perch and Play. Perch and Play was an already existing business that Skookum purchased in January to use as a hub for parents to relax and chat with one another in the café while their children are entertained by the indoor playground.
“The business needed some attention and love, and I have some of the skills that are required, but there were all kinds of things it needed that Keely was much better at than me,” Ray said.
The menu, in particular, has been a big project for Keely. In August, the café released a brand new menu, complete with salads, sweet treats, and an apparently much improved pizza crust recipe that Keely worked on for weeks.
“It’s a fun way to help Skookum that I’m able to do even with a baby on my back,” she said.
As effective as they are in their individual roles, this power couple truly embodies what it means to work as a team. “Keely never fails to demonstrate the appropriate amount of appreciation, concern, and thought. It doesn’t matter if she’s working on a new pizza recipe or changing a diaper, she’s applying the same degree of care.
If I’m away for a few days, and then come back, it’s often striking how thoughtfully and carefully things are done in her orbit and I think, ‘Oh right, that’s what I want to be like,’” Ray said. Likewise, Keely admires Ray’s determined spirit and encouraging attitude toward herself, and the rest of their team.
“One of the things that makes Ray a great leader is that he’s extremely skilled in empowering people and noticing what they’re good at. That plays out in Skookum, in our marriage and in fostering,” Keely said. The Decks highly encourage the community to get involved in whatever way they are able, whether that’s taking a volunteer shift at the Skookum House, or taking the dive to become a foster parent.
“A lot of people think foster parents have some special ability or super human patience or something like that. All it takes is a willingness to try and stick in it,” Ray said.
Channeling the steadfast passion and dedication this power couple displays certainly doesn’t hurt, either. To learn more about Skookum Kids and to find out ways to volunteer or donate, visit their website.