A perfect fit

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Photo by JOSH MCDONALD International Service Learning Executive Director Jonathan Birnbaum and U.S. Director Diannah Fields-Brown show off their comfy new digs at their office in Kellogg.

KELLOGG — International Service Learning in Kellogg is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is looking for residents of their new home to celebrate with them.

The organization, which set its roots in the Silver Valley late last year, has been a welcome addition to the revitalization of the Uptown Kellogg area.

International Service Learning is a non-governmental organization providing experiential learning opportunities in health care, education, ecology and community development, while offering sustainable aid in developing communities.

ISL was founded in 1994, by Michael Birnbaum, a Lutheran minister who relocated his family to Costa Rica for a year-long language school.

Rev. Birnbaum saw an opportunity to help people in need by developing ISL as a humanitarian entrepreneurial endeavor where volunteers pay program fees that provide the operating budget for humanitarian outreach. Turnkey programs are completely planned and developed by ISL with the intent of matching volunteer interest with the needs of a partner community or organization globally.

ISL works primarily in the medical fields (due to great need for that globally) and offers programs in nursing, physical therapy, dental, optometry, chiropractic and veterinary practice, but also provides opportunities in areas such as ecology, education and sports.

ISL operates in Belize, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Tanzania — providing opportunities for volunteers, both students and professionals, interested in gaining valuable experience in their chosen field while exploring another culture and assisting those in need.

ISL Executive Director Jonathan Birnbaum (Michael’s son) believes that the organization has finally found a home that will fit them well.

It was his vision that landed them in Kellogg.

“We were kind of a decentralized group,” Birnbaum said. “We had people in Kansas, Texas, Minnesota, Diannah [Fields-Brown] here in Kellogg, just all over. When I took over in 2013, I wanted to have a centralized place for us to work and be able to come together.”

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get it right on their first try.

“We had a space in downtown Spokane. It was great, in a bustling area, but we were lost in the shuffle,” Birnbaum said. “It didn’t fit who we are. We are a local, grassroots, involved in the community, big-impact organization, and we were not getting that in Spokane. We wanted an area where we could really get involved.”

Once they set their sights on Kellogg, it didn’t take long for them to find a space that suited them well and the city’s community seems to be an almost perfect fit for their culture.

“Kellogg is such a beautiful place with friendly people and a highly skilled workforce. This area draws such an eclectic mix of people. We’re just so happy to be here,” Birnbaum said.

International Service Learning is located at 125 McKinley Ave., Kellogg. For more information, visit www.islonline.org.

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