Looking to share your bounty this holiday season? Below are some of my favorite Seattle-area organizations who can use your time, household items, toys, and more to help improve the lives of homeless and low-income families in our area. You might also check out these tips on how to make the most of charitable giving.
Northwest Harvest’s mission is to end hunger in Washington. They partner with 375 food pantries, meal programs, and high-need schools across the state to provide nutritious food and promote good health for those in need. You can help by volunteering at the Cherry Street Food Bank in Seattle (children in 3rd grade or older are welcome to volunteer with you!). You can also host a virtual food drive or make a cash/vehicle donation.
Mary’s Place helps homeless women, children and families from the greater King County area. With a list of families that has double this year, the need for help is higher than ever. You or your organization might consider supporting their giving tree (donations due by December 7th) or joining in the Brooks Holiday Fun Run on December 1st benefiting the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign. You can also volunteer your time, donate wishlist items, or share your used clothing, blankets, and coats.
Hopelink provides critical services to homeless and low-income families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities on north and east King County. You can help by donating food or grocery gift cards to their food bank, contributing unwrapped toys to their holiday gift room, or volunteering to help with their holiday giving events.
Each night in Seattle, 700-1,000 young people are homeless and most were traumatized before they reached the streets. YouthCare builds confidence and self-sufficiency for homeless youth by providing a continuum of care that includes outreach, basic services, emergency shelter, housing, counseling, education, and employment training. Lend a hand by volunteering, hosting a drive, or hiring a YouthCare graduate.
Did you know less than 50% of Washington state youth in foster care graduate from high school? Treehouse seeks to level the playing field by providing academic and other essential support foster kids need to graduate at the same rate as their peers, with a plan for their future. You can help by volunteering, hosting a drive or donating to their holiday program.
With a mission to help people in need of immediate food assistance, the Emergency Feeding Program partners with 240 local agencies to distribute 50,000 bags of quality, nutritional food and ensure that no one will go hungry tonight. You can help by donating these most needed foods or making a cash contribution.
Eastside Baby Corner was founded by a local pediatric nurse concerned about the large numbers of babies in her practice who began life without basic essentials like adequate food, clothing, beds, or safety equipment. Today Eastside Baby Corner’s location in Issaquah, Northshore and Bremerton collect, purchase, and distribute essential care items such as formula, diapers, carseats, warm coats, school supplies, and more for babies and children in need. You can help out by volunteering, donating, or organizing a drive.
Since 1947, The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has distributed 548 million toys to 251 million children in need. Consider helping out this year by donating a new toy, volunteering, or asking your organization to become a toy drop site.
Every year, nearly 40% of our country’s food ends up in landfills, while millions go hungry. Food Lifeline attempts to solve both problems by rescuing millions of pounds of surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants. They then deliver this healthy and nutritious food to more than 300 food banks, shelters and meal programs across Western Washington–providing 97,000 meals every day. You can help by volunteering (opportunities are available for kids as young as 6, too!), donating funds or hosting a food drive.
Wellspring helps low-income and vulnerable individuals, children and families in Seattle and King County address issues such as mental health, family homelessness, early learning, basic needs, and domestic violence intervention. Each year they help thousands of children and families break cycles of instability, homelessness, and adversity to achieve positive, permanent change. You can help by donating to their Giving Together holiday campaign or getting your children involved in the Kids Helping Kids youth philanthropy program.
Founded and run by a group of philanthropic women over 100 years ago, Seattle Children’s mission is to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. You can help their patients by donating a new toy or gift card, volunteering, contributing funds, or supporting one of its guilds (such as the Project Kids Cancer Cure Guild).
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Spring cleaning – a centuries’ long tradition welcoming warmer weather and longer spans of daylight – has morphed into slang for a major cleaning or organizing project applicable at any time of year. So whether you are tackling a deep clean in the living room, or organizing the heck out of your child’s Lego collection, it can be said you are spring cleaning!
As we’re approaching the holidays, a time when we create wonderful memories with our own family, we have discussed with Grace and Julia the reality that not every family has the means to give gifts during this season. So my girls decided that we should inject some spring time into the upcoming holiday season and clean their rooms and donate toys and clothes with lots of life left in them to those who need them
When it came to their hefty stuffed animal collection, however, there was a bit of resistance. Grace and Julia have collected mountains of stuffed animals over the years. Each of these gently loved toys held special meaning for them. While the girls struggled at letting them go, the thought of a helping a child in need made the cleaning project go smoother.
I came across an organization that repurposes those stuffed animals to help those who are facing a traumatic experience. The Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (S.A.F.E) organization, a nonprofit which has a local chapter here in on the Eastside, collects and redistributes gently used stuffed animals for children in emergency situations. The cleaned toys are given to local police and fire departments, homeless shelters, church organizations and nonprofits benefitting children, who then give the toys to kids in need of some comfort during stressful situations.
Once we read about how our wonderful stuffed animal friends could really help kids in need, Grace and Julia became excited about sharing their stuffed toy collections. It was so important to my girls that the animals not be sold (even if the proceeds went to something charitable). The thought that their stuffed animals could make an impact on a child during a scary emergency situation made all the difference. As we packed up our bags we reminisced, laughing and talking about where each came from. We took pictures of the super special animals to cherish our memories of them. I have to tell you, it was a joyful, freeing experience for both Grace and Julia.
When we finished our cleaning tasks, we contacted our local chapter volunteer, "Beverly C" in Redmond, and she responded immediately with her address and instructions. When we dropped our bags off, the girls and I promptly received a wonderful email from Beverly thanking us for our donation. The whole experience was easy to implement and gave my girls the meaning they needed to let go of those special items to make space in their bedrooms. Both my girls and I recommended S.A.F.E to a number of our friends, who have since decided to make their own donations.
If you are facing a similar situation with your kids, because they do not want to let their stuffed animals go, sit down at the computer together and read about S.A.F.E. They have even put together a video to watch that explains how volunteers sort, clean and distribute the stuffed animals. The minute your children can picture being in a situation where it would be comforting to have a soft furry friend to hug, this cleaning chore becomes a win as opposed to a loss.
Another opportunity to do some major pre-holiday cleaning is right around the corner, and it will greatly benefit those in the Seattle area who cannot afford a bicycle. My office, Windermere Mercer Island, will be hosting a bike drive in our parking lot on Sunday, December 12th. We’re partnering with Bike Works, a local nonprofit that keeps bikes, bike parts and bike accessories out of the landfills while teaching youth and adults how to repair and maintain bicycles. With Bike Works kids can learn how to refurbish bikes and in the process earn their own bicycles through community service. Part of that community service involves repairing bikes to their prime working conditions for other children, who otherwise would not be able to afford a bike.
If you have bikes and bike parts, please bring them to my office located at 2737 77th Ave SE on Mercer Island during our bike drive on December 6th. Volunteers from Bike Works will be on hand from 12-3pm to collect the bikes and parts, to take back to their facility in Columbia City. The bikes that have seen better days will have all the usable parts removed from them and the rest of the bike responsibly recycled. Bikes in good condition will be given tune ups and refurbished to prime condition. They will be either given to low income youth through the UGottaGetABike and Kid Bike-O-Rama programs, to low income adults in need of a commuting bike through the Bikes-For-All, or sold at an affordable price at the BikeWorks bike shop. All proceeds from sales at the bike shop are used to support all the programs offered by Bike Works including sliding scale summer camps, Earn-A-Bike after school classes, adult repair classes and twice-a-month open shop time.
It feels so good to enter the holiday season with a clean, clutter free home – especially when you know the items you no longer need can be of great help to someone else. I’d love to hear from you about other local organizations that could benefit from our holiday inspired “spring” cleaning. Please share in the comment section!