Thursday, December 11, 2014

Feeling the Holiday love

December 11, 2014
In this edition

Happy six year anniversary!
Some thoughts as we step into our 7th year
How donating meals has made our family stronger
Reflections from a long-time meal donor
Cindy goes to the Nutcracker
A longtime wish fulfilled!
Feeling the Holiday love
A story of strong passion and melted hearts

As 2014 draws to a close, we celebrate the 6th year anniversary of the founding of The Sophia Way in December 2008. Thanks to your support and involvement during these action-packed first six
years, The Sophia Way has been able to help many women move forward on the pathway from homelessness to stable independent living. Your support has helped provide a home for many women who would otherwise be homeless.

The Sophia Way started its journey just as the great recession began in 2008. While our ability and resources to meet the needs of women who are homeless on the Eastside have grown in this time, so has the need. Our work is far from over. As a community, we would do well to ask the hard questions about a system that allows for homelessness in the first place and fails to provide necessary safety nets. Meanwhile, at The Sophia Way, we will continue to do everything in our power to provide the critical services that are needed until the day that no woman on the Eastside has to spend the night on the streets, cold and wet, or in her car or riding night owl buses.

We are pleased with the progress we've made this year to strengthen the agency's ability to serve. We are profoundly grateful to all our partners who have collaborated and contributed in so many ways to our success. We are honored to have you on our side as we move forward together into 2015.
Best wishes for the holiday season and the new year,
Rae Levine
Interim Executive Director
How donating meals has made our family stronger
A longtime regular meal donor recounts how his family started donating meals to The Sophia Way programs and what it has meant for his family
A message from the Eastside Winter Shelters for Women, Men, and Families with Children : Food and Meals Are Needed for Clients
That was the headline in the January 13th, 2012 Kirkland Neighborhood E-Bulletin. I forwarded the email with this E-Bulletin to my family, "What do you think, would you like to help out?". The response came back loud and clear from all, and in one case in all caps, "LOVE TO HELP".
We had previously helped out at Hopelink, donating food and helping the Boy and Girl Scouts collect food donations. We have an annual family Holiday tradition of buying and donating food to Hopelink, helping hungry people in our community. Sophia Way felt like a good fit for us. We signed up for a few evenings' meals and went shopping for dinner. I remember the first time we donated, our son Harry was off at school so my wife Norizan and our daughter Aisha did most of the cooking while I helped with the shopping and packing food for delivery. It was fun and rewarding, knowing that we were going to help people in our community who needed help.
Frank, Norizan and their family
Our first night Norzian and I took the food to the women's shelter, which at the time was housed at the Salvation Army in Bellevue, behind the Cross Roads Mall. We got there at 8:00 early to find a very icy parking lot and one lone volunteer trying to unload mattresses from a van. Outside in the cold, near the entrance to the parking lot, was one woman in her mid 20s. We brought in the food and offered to help prepare the shelter. I carried in mattresses while Norizan helped inside. The woman who was outside in the cold moved closer and offered to help. I suggested that it would be warmer for her to help inside but she refused. I asked her why and she told me that the shelter did not accept clients until 8:30 but she really wanted to help so she pitched in and moved mattresses. This proud woman was a client. She was cold and hungry, but she was not helping to hurry things along, she was helping just because help was needed. She typified the wonderful people in our community, always ready to help, always looking out for others, and in this case also in need.
A couple of evenings later Aisha and I delivered food to the men's shelter, which at the time was located a few blocks east of the woman's shelter at St. Peter's United Methodist Church. This time the mattress where stored in a shed like storage unit and when we offered to help we were joined by the volunteers and another client who again just wanted to help.
After the first few times we delivered food we knew that we wanted to help Sophia Way so we signed up for more nights while the shelter operated that winter, until March 15th that year.
We signed up again fall 2013 and again in the fall of 2014. As we have done our small part we see clients progress and get back on their feet, and new people in need arrive; single men and women, and increasingly families. We have seen the shelter extend its operating period each year as well while serving more and more clients. Our whole family helps out with preparing and delivering food, including my new daughter in-law Lexi, and each time we receive more kindness and gratitude from clients and the staff than is warranted, and each time we are reaffirmed in the knowledge that we made the right choice to help The Sophia Way.
I know that the women and men are grateful for the food we prepare but what they might not know is that each evening that we deliver food, our family gets closer and stronger, just helping others just because help is needed. The nights we deliver food are truly the most rewarding parts of our week.
Cindy goes to the Nutcracker show
A longtime wish fulfilled!
Cindy wanted to see the Nutcracker since 2001. But life had other plans for her. She found herself couch-surfing for a while after she was forced to leave an abusive relationship. When she found out about The Sophia Way, she contacted us, and we were able to place her at Sophia's Place in July where she is now.
Once at the shelter, she immediately won the heart of the staff and other women. She often picks up other's chores and helps out in any way she can. Cindy never turns down a friend in need. She often buys small gifts for her friends when they are having an extra hard time. She never complains and always has a smile on her face. Oh, and did we say that she loves the Seahawks?

But life hasn't been easy for Cindy. She has been diligently looking for a job with the help of our case managers for quite some time now, but is having a hard time securing permanent employment. Right now, she cleans houses for a few local families.

Recently a we received a donation of three tickets to the Nutcracker show. As luck would have it, Cindy won them in the monthly drawing of the chore incentive program, where each resident gets one entry in the drawing for any extra chore they do at the shelter. Cindy was very excited about that and when we found out about her decade-long desire to see the Nutcracker, we were very excited for her as well! In her usual way of sharing her joy with others, Cindy invited two other residents from the shelter to join her. All of them are looking forward to the event!

We are so glad to be able to offer Cindy this experience, thanks to a generous donor. All her worries are still going to be there, but at least for one night, she gets to sit back and enjoy a great show that she wanted to attend for more than a decade.
Feeling the Holiday love
The warmth of our loving community has melted our heart!
Women at the shelter having fun decorating the Christmas tree
It was Thanksgiving day. Maggie and three other women spent many hours preparing a meal. This was, however, not for their families, but for the women at Sophia's Place. Volunteers from National Charity League, Lake Sammamish Chapter spent their Thanksgiving serving meals for women at our shelter. They sacrificed time with their family to serve others who don't have one or are not able to spend time with their families. They are doing it again, for Christmas -- serving special meals at the shelter.

They are not the only group. We are honored to have the support of many volunteers, individual donors, community organizations, and faith groups, who have come forward, in a big way, to make this Holiday Season special for all the women we serve. Many Holiday gifts are flowing in for the ladies from Assistance Legaue of the Eastside, Bellevue Yatch Club, City of Bellevue employees, Cross of Christ Lutheran Church, East Shore Unitarian Church, First Presbyterian Church, Girl Scout (Brownie troupe) from Bellevue, Grace Lutheran Church, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, PEO Chapter, Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Seastar restaurant, St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, St. Louise Parish, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic Church, St. Peter's United Methodist Church, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and many other individual donors. BelPres Handbell Choir and singing group "Learning to Fly" are performing songs for the women. Other churches including St. Peter's and Newport LDS have invited women from our program to their Holiday special events.

We are grateful for this wonderful show of support from our community. It means a LOT to all the women we support, gives them hope, and brightens up their Holidays. Thank you!
The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.

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The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County 

Friday, November 14, 2014

What happens at night

November 13, 2014

In this edition

What happens at night
A night shelter staff's experience at Sophia's Place
Barbara has a home to call her own
Finding home through life's ups and downs
Our most successful Luncheon ever!
What happens when a community comes together for a mission!
Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter Opening this weekend
A place for warmth, nourishment, and shelter

What happens at night 
Life at Sophia's Place through the eyes of a Night Shelter Staff 

When everyone prepares to go to bed at night, I start my work at Sophia's Place. I make sure that the needs of the women here are provided for throughout the night such as putting snacks out for the women that have a hard time sleeping and they use food to comfort them or just be there for someone to listen to them. We call it the grave shift. It is not easy work, but one that gives me a sense of fulfilment. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I'm helping to provide a safe, secure facility for the women at night and to have them tell me how they appreciate me being here.
I started working at The Sophia Way in November 2013. I was originally hired as an on-call shelter staff for the East Side Emergency Winter Shelter. I started working at Sophia's Place in February of this year as permanent overnight staff. I have recently started interning at the Day Center as well where I'm learning the daily operations of shelter management and the role of case management.
My background is in working with men, women, children and families experiencing homelessness. I'm currently a student at Seattle Central College, studying Social Services to obtain my Bachelor in the hopes of continued work with the homeless population as a Housing Case Manager.
As I serve breakfast to the women in the morning, I'm re-energized every day, to hear their stories of receiving housing, going to school, or getting a job. As I keep the facility clean, the storage room organized, and track referrals and donations, I know that by addressing the needs of each women, we are helping them find affordable housing and a stepping stone out of homelessness to to stable independent living.
Frances Tucker
Night Shelter Staff
Barbara has a home to call her own
Finding home through life's ups and downs

Barbara became homeless in 2011 due to family difficulties that lead to an eviction. Having no home of her own, she couch-surfed with friends and family members for many years. She didn't have a stable job and barely managed to get by. Her future was uncertain and difficulties seemed insurmountable.

Barbara came to our shelter in early 2014. One of her top
goals, when she met with our case managers here, was to be employed in the food service industry. Having a stable place to sleep at night helped her concentrate on acquiring the skills she needed for her job and also for job search. We helped her get a license that was required for her job. Being as industrious as she was, she was able to quickly learn all the skills she needed and found a job at a reputable hotel in Bellevue. The next priority was to find her a housing. With high rents and a serious lack of affordable housing options on the Eastside, finding a home, where she can pay the rent with her salary, was a challenge. We were able to use Rosco Housing Fund, a program funded by a generous donor, to subsidize her housing for the first 6 months. She signed the lease and was getting ready to move in a few weeks. Everything was going well as planned.

Life, however, often has a way of throwing curve-balls at us; to destabilize things, at least for a while, when we think everything is going well. There was an unexpected family emergency and Barbara was not able to go to work for a couple of days. She called her work and left them a message to let them know that she was not able to come. When she didn't hear back from them, she was very afraid. Barbara was not sure if she might lose her job. That was a scary thought for her. Her case manager encouraged her to do her due diligence to let her employer know about her emergency and reason for her sudden absence. She did. However, the uncertainly still hung heavy on her. Those two days were long and stressful. Finally she learned that her job was safe. She got back to work as soon as she was able to and things got back on track!

After almost 5 months at the shelter, Barbara moved out to her own apartment! We are very excited about her future. We are glad that we were able to walk alongside Barbara in her journey from homelessness to shelter, and now, to her own housing.
Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter opening this weekend
A place of warmth, nourishment and shelter for Women, Children, and Families
We got a little taste of winter in Seattle area this week. We are so glad that the Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter for Women, Children, & Families for the 2014-15 season is opening this Saturday, November 15th at the St. Peter's Church in Bellevue. From our last year's experience, we know the huge demand for such shelters, especially where families can stay together. This year the Emergency Shelter will be operated by Catholic Community Services. Dinner, breakfast, and sleeping mats will be provided. You can help provide meals for the shelter by signing up using the meals calendar.

Please spread the word. See the flyer below for more details. We want to make sure that anyone in need is able to access the services. Together we can make sure no one has to spend the night outside in the cold and rain this winter.

Our most successful Luncheon ever!
What happens when a community comes together for a cause
What a luncheon it was! We had close to 300 people show up for our Annual Benefit Luncheon on October 30th at The Red Lion Hotel and together we raised just more than $50,000 at the event! This is huge. It was our most successful luncheon ever. We are grateful for the wonderful show of support from our community. Thank you! This is a great boost to us and will help us continue to provide the critical services assisting women from homelessness to independence.

The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.


STAY CONNECTED:    Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter
The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A lesson in living

October 9, 2014
In this edition

A lesson in living
Finding our humanity in difficult times
Nemo becomes a citizen
A Companion's story of walking alongside Nemo
Just three more weeks to our Luncheon
Three reasons you don't want to miss it!
Changing lives one woman at a time
Would you lend an ear?
A lesson in living
Finding our humanity in difficult times

On October 5th, 2009, I started my first overnight shift at the Sophia Way. Much has changed in the last five years. No longer is the Sophia Way servicing a small handful of clients with mats on the floor, transitioning from one weekend shelter host site to another every other month. In these five years I have seen Sophia Way grow to serve three times the number of clients in the shelter. We have moved from mats on the floor in a small room to a beautiful shelter where each women has her own safe space that she can call her own. We have also added to our programs such as taking on the Day Center. It was exciting for me to help open that program in April as the Day Center Manager. 

What keeps me at The Sophia Way, however, is not the growth, but what originally attracted me to this organization: seeing the humanity in the clients we serve and operating with the recognition that these are adult women who deserve dignity and respect.
I have now held every possible, past or present, direct service position at the Sophia Way, and feel I have a good understanding of the services we offer. I am proud of both the services we offer and the staff offering them, knowing that each of us bring compassion and dedication to our work in helping those in need.
I also marvel at our wonderful and numerous volunteers whose compassion and dedication is equally apparent. From the volunteers I met at our host sites where I started this work to the numerous volunteers I have the pleasure of interacting with in my many roles, each of them is a blessing to the Sophia Way.
Most of all, my interaction with clients is what inspires me. Each and every woman is going through immense struggle and stress which only she fully knows. Yet despite existing in such difficult times these women persevere, striving to achieve their goals and holding compassion and concern for others while doing so. This is a lesson in living that they teach me every day.
Karie Stearns
Case Manager and Pathways Coordinator
Nemo becomes a citizen
A Companion's story of celebrating some sweet moments with Nemo

This is a story from one of our Companion volunteers, Carolyn Moon. For more information about The Sophia Way companion program, visit:

When I first met my companion, Nemo, a Somali woman, she was no longer homeless, but living in an apartment, which The Sophia Way had helped her to obtain through Section 8, a federal housing program. She felt herself to be very lucky to have a job, because she was not a citizen, her English was poor, and she could not read or write. Her overriding concern was to get her citizenship. She knew she would have to pass a test but was almost in despair over how to do so.

So, not knowing how much time before her test date, we started working to cover all bases. First, we drilled on the civics & history questions. Then we worked on a vocabulary list for reading and writing. She studied for the test questions by listening to a tape, but the most difficult part was writing.

When she finally received a date for her exam, it fell at a time when I would be traveling out of state, and we were both terribly upset. But another companion, Ellen Rider, offered to fill in for me and take my friend to the USCIS and give her moral support. She passed! All three of us are so thrilled! My husband (at her request) and I took her to a Somali restaurant to celebrate, and both Ellen and I accompanied her to her swearing-in ceremony.

Proud Nemo after her swearing-in ceremony showing off her citizenship certificate. 
Nemo has taken the first step to a better life. Now she wants to continue learning to read and write, and I was able to find some excellent materials at a store for home schooling. Her next goal is to learn to use the internet and email. It is so exciting to share this journey with my new friend.
Just three more weeks to our Annual Benefit Luncheon
And three reasons why you don't want to miss it!

There are many reasons why you don't want to miss this year's luncheon. But we heed our expert editor's advise and decided to give you only three!
First, we have Rex Hohlbein, Founding Executive Director of  Facing Homelessness, as our keynote speaker who will be sharing many inspiring stories behind some of the most beautiful faces he has captured in his Homeless in Seattle project. Did we also mention that Amy Walen, the Mayor of Kirkland, will be our emcee? You can read more about them on our event webpageSecondRed Lion Hotel, Bellevue is sponsoring this Luncheon for us, which means, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that 100% of your donations will benefit our programs assisting women from homelessness to independence. And finally, there is a beautiful energy when so many wonderful people like you come together for one cause. We promise, you will leave the Luncheon inspired.

We are very excited about how our Luncheon is shaping up and we can't wait to share that with you.

Luncheon 2014
Changing lives, one woman at a time
Sometimes all you need is for someone to listen to you

If you are inspired by Nemo's story, consider volunteering as a companion for one of our clients. Often, all it takes to make a difference in someone's life is to be available, accepting, and a good listener. As most of our companions would tell you, it is a life changing experience.WomanSpirit Center provides necessary training and guidance and our existing companions provide peer support. If you are interested, visit our Companion Program webpage or email us
The Sophia Way Companions with our Companion Coordinator Evelyn Wemhoff
The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.


STAY CONNECTED:    Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter
The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Going home

September 18, 2014

In this edition

Introducing Delilah VanCourt
Shelter Manager at Sophia's Place
Linda has a home to call her own
And how it came about
Eight women moving to independent housing
What you made possible!
Reserve your place for our Luncheon, Oct 30
Stories that bring us together
A Home for the Homeless
The difference you are making in the lives of women in need

Introducing Delilah VanCourt, Shelter Manager at Sophia's Place.

I have been enjoying my role as Shelter Manager at Sophia's Place since I began at the end of July. When I stepped into Sophia's Place, I was struck by the huge difference in feel from that of other shelters I have worked in, particularly in comparison to Seattle shelters. I like that the women have a cubicle to themselves and the personal touches offered such as donated homemade quilts on the beds, a welcome basket with necessities given at move-in (donated from a volunteer group), and a wide network of meal donors who provide a home cooked meal nightly set the program apart from others and set a welcoming tone.
I have a long work history of working on homelessness, including work with Compass Housing Alliance (CHA), Catholic Community Services (CCS), and Seattle Mental Health (SMH). After getting both my Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Social Work, for 15 years I have worked in various capacities including women's advocate, residential counselor, case manager, therapy facilitator, and so on. I live in Tukwila with my husband Charlie, 3 month old daughter Violet, and our orange tabby cat named Butterfinger.
I have a strong passion for providing services to homeless women and have always found this work most moving and rewarding. My beliefs include treating all people with dignity and in a way that empowers people to build upon their strengths to make the connections needed to be safe, content, and fulfilled. I appreciate that your support is providing much needed services on the Eastside and operating a beautiful shelter. I think that the team of case managers, the Interim ED, office staff, and shelter workers all provide a wide array of expertise and a willingness to work together towards fulfilling the mission of The Sophia Way. Since joining the team here, I have been continually impressed by the community contributions and volunteer efforts that serve the agency. I am excited to be a part of The Sophia Way during this time of re-definition and look forward to the work ahead.

Delilah VanCourt
Shelter Manager, Sophia's Place

Linda has a home to call her own
But that didn't come easy

To respect the privacy of our client, all identifiable information, including her name, has been changed for this story.

Linda had more than 4 episodes of experiencing homelessness in the past three years. The last one lasted for more than a year. That was a very long one year for Linda as she struggled to find stability. She was planning to rent a room from someone prior to coming to The Sophia Way. As luck would have it, that person turned abusive and she did not feel safe. She managed to sleep on couches until she entered our program.

While in our program, Linda received case management. She utilized many other services that we were able to provide. Finally, just a few weeks back, Linda was able to move from the shelter into her own apartment! She did a lot of the foot work on her own. She diligently made phone calls, rode the bus to many different appointments and never gave up. Her persistence paid off. She was very concerned that she would not have enough money for her very first month's rent. The Sophia Way was able to provide a check to her apartment to cover the remaining balance. She was so grateful! We also were able to provide her with towels, blankets, and a few other household goods, thanks to generous donors, to welcome her into her new apartment. We all wish her the very best!

Eight women moving to independent housing
How August turned out to be an exceptional month for our clients

August was an exceptional month for us. A total of eight women in our program, people like Linda, from Sophia's Place and from Holly House, are moving out to independent housing! Five women received the word that they would be eligible for housing through Section 8, provided by King County Housing authority with federal funds. Another three women qualified for affordable housing and are moving out of our program as well.

We are thrilled and excited about the future of these women! As they move to independent housing from our program, we will be able to serve more women in need, through our shelters and transitional housing programs. Your support made this possible. Thank you!

Stories that bring us together
The Sophia Way Annual Benefit Luncheon on Thursday, Oct 30th

Registration is now up and running for our upcoming Annual Benefit Luncheon. We hope you are able to join us with your friends, family, and coworkers in support of our mission to assist women from homelessness to independence. Feel free to share the invite widely and register early to reserve your place! For more information about the Luncheon, visit our event page.

TSW Luncheon 2014 

The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.


STAY CONNECTED:    Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter
The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County

Friday, August 1, 2014

Introducing Rae Levine

July 29, 2014
Introducing Rae Levine
A Message from the Board

The Board of Directors of The Sophia Way is pleased to announce that Rae Levine has been appointed Interim Executive Director. Rae comes to The Sophia Way with more than 25 years experience in nonprofit leadership, management, and program delivery.
Rae takes the helm from Karina O'Malley, who stepped in from the Board in June to ensure continuity of services. We are deeply grateful to Karina for serving in this capacity and for her dedication to The Sophia Way.
With Rae's leadership over the next several months, The Sophia Way will continue providing shelter, tools, and guidance that women experiencing homelessness need to ensure sustainable changes in their lives. The Board has also asked Rae to conduct an organizational assessment, with assistance from Kim Loveall Price, a consultant who has worked extensively with Eastside housing and homeless organizations, to provide guidance on strengthening the organization and assist the Board in making important decisions about our future direction and leadership.

Please welcome Rae to The Sophia Way. You will be hearing from her in the coming weeks. You can reach her at or 425.463.6285 ext. 101. To learn more about her experience with nonprofit leadership transition and more -- visit:
Thank you for your ongoing support and involvement with our work. I can assure you that the Board of Directors, along with staff, is committed to the continued success of The Sophia Way.

Lynn Engel
Board Chair
The Sophia Way

Summer Movies in the Park
Enjoy a multiple-Oscar winning movie and support The Sophia Way

Mark your calendars for August 5th for a big movie night! Come and watch blockbuster movie Gravity, which won 7 Oscars in 2014, on a giant 40 foot inflatable screen. Bring your camp-chairs and picnic basket, enjoy free popcorn and spend a nice summer evening with your friends and family at the Bellevue Downtown park - all that while supporting The Sophia Way as the featured charity that evening.

The movie nights are sponsored by inome and Bellevue Parks and Community Services. We are proud to be one of their featured charities. Please visit us at out table next to the popcorns and say hello to our wonderful staff, volunteers and board members! We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Interested in Volunteering at The Sophia Way?
We are looking for volunteers for our front-desk
Our office, at the heart of downtown Bellevue, is a busy place, with phone calls coming in, clients arriving to meet with their case managers, community members bringing in donations for the shelter, and so on. There is often other help that we need in the office as well. We can always use some extra hands and minds. If this is something that you are interested in, please
email and we can get you more details. Time commitment is flexible -- you can commit for a few hours every week that works for you, preferably on a regular schedule.
Do you know that in 2013, we had more than 6000 hours of volunteer service provided by more than 300 volunteers? That is equivalent to having more than 3 full-time employees at The
Sophia Way year-round! We are grateful to have such generous volunteer support from our community. Thank you for your support.
The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.

STAY CONNECTED:    Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter
The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County