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