In early April, Amazon announced that it would donate an empty building, rent free, on its South Lake Union campus, an old Travelodge hotel, to Mary’s Place to use as a temporary emergency night shelter for homeless families until the building is scheduled for demolition in spring 2017. A VERY generous offer that included interior renovations and all utilities. The new Mary’s Place Guest Room shelter opened on April 18th and houses approximately 60 families, some with pets.
And the good news just keeps on coming! On Saturday morning Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, reached out to us with a One Day Match Challenge for donations received on May 3rd, the date of our Annual Spring Benefit Luncheon. Whether you are planning to attend the luncheon, or simply want to make a donation, Mr. Bezos will personally match any donation made to Mary’s Place on May 3rd up to a total of $1 million. So, with your generous donations and Mr. Bezos’ incredible match, Mary’s Place could raise up to $2 million in a single day!
Imagine how many more families we will be able to bring inside with two million dollars! Or how many more meals, showers, doctor’s visits – and housing and employment assistance we will be able provide, and how many more dreams of safety, stability and hope will come true!
Friends of Mary’s Place know how it breaks our hearts to have to turn families away at night when there is just no more room. So many of you have responded to the call when we’ve raised money to open new shelters – but the need continues to grow. We are excited to share that a recent gift from Amazon has doubled our capacity to bring families inside!
On April 18th we opened the doors to the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms, an old Travelodge hotel in downtown Seattle that Amazon has provided rent-free for one year and converted to shelter for 200 family members. Filling a need in the homeless community, the Guest Rooms will also accommodate extended families and families with pets.
In response to the civil state of emergency declaration on homelessness, Amazon reached out to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office to find out if their building could be used by Mary’s Place as an emergency family shelter. Construction on the facility isn’t scheduled until Spring of 2017, and Amazon saw a unique opportunity to partner with Mary’s Place to ensure that no child sleeps outside in our community.
Not only has Amazon gifted the building, but the company is also covering utilities and the costs of upgrading and converting the space. Hearing about the project, Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel donated hundreds of desks, chairs, and tables from the hotel to outfit each of the rooms.
We are so grateful to all the individuals and organizations that have made it possible to open this life saving shelter – Amazon, Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council and all our friends at the City of Seattle, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Kinzer Partners, Tom Kinzman, Perkins + Will, GLY Construction, Coughlin Porter Linden, and our amazing site search committee, led by Kris Richey Curtis.
Amazon has also partnered with Mary’s Place to provide an easy way to access our Wish List to donate supplies for the new shelter: www.amazon.com/marysplace.
Look for an information to the Guest Rooms Open House Celebration soon!
We distribute hundreds of diapers, bras, socks, and more every week. Your help filling our shelves will make a huge difference in the lives of moms, dads, and kids who are experiencing homelessness. Through the end of March, the items you donate from the Wish List will be shipped directly to Mary’s Place to help families on the road to housing stability.
And with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service, your order of essentials can arrive at Mary’s Place every week or month!
Thank you for making the journey out of homelessness a little easier for families in our community!
The person I thought was the love of my life called off our wedding one month before we were supposed to get married.
I’m trying to think of something funny to say about it, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m making super-gentle jokes, like “I’ll probably be ready to go on Tinder in about 15 years” and “Well, I didn’t faint today, so that’s a score.” Actually, you can’t really call those jokes. They’re basically my small way of showing my family and friends that I still kind of have a personality and I’m probably not going to kill myself.
Even though I’m not really in a jokey mood, I want to tell this story because I’d never heard anything like it. Weddings get cancelled — I get it — but not like this.
I thought my ex and I were happy together. We had known each other for 15 years and been in a serious relationship for the last three of them. We were engaged for a year, and we were going to get married six weeks from when he dumped me.
Invitations were out. Three weeks before he broke up with me, we bought wedding rings. Five days before he broke up with me, we met with our would-be wedding photographer. Three days before he broke up with me, we asked some of his family members to play music at our ceremony. On a Sunday, we opened our reply cards and sipped on champagne while talking about who was going to get the most drunk at our wedding.
That Wednesday, he walked into our apartment and told me we weren’t getting married.
I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who would have said of us, “Yeah, I could have seen that coming.” We were happy. At least, I was happy, and we looked happy on the outside. That’s all I can know.
You’re probably thinking that I’m delusional. I’m not. (I know, I know; that’s exactly what a delusional person would say. But really.) Of course we had issues. Every couple has issues. We argued about stupid things. We had our moments of tension. I also believed we had a beautiful, loving relationship that we were going to honor with marriage and bless with children.
He, obviously, had other plans.
It’s been six weeks since he called off our wedding. We were supposed to get married last Saturday. I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what happened. But I’ve come to realize that I will never know why a person I loved — and who loved me back — doesn’t want to marry me. All I know is that he doesn’t.
So what’s a girl to do?
Well, you’ve still gotta throw a party.
The day after my ex dropped the bomb that I was a bride-not-to-be, I realized that not only was my heart broken, but I was broke. My family had paid for what was supposed to be a beautiful, fun, 250-person wedding. We were out tens of thousands of nonrefundable dollars. (His family had also paid for a small portion of the wedding — they were out some cash, too.)
I spent the next few days trying to figure out how we were going to manage to not throw a bunch of money down a super-sad drain. (I also spent a fair amount of time crying and drawing in therapeutic coloring books, but that’s neither here nor there.) The venue we’d booked made it clear that just because we were planning to have a wedding that night didn’t mean we were contracted to have a wedding. We could do whatever we wanted with the venue. We’d paid; it was ours for the night. It was also too late to cancel the band; they were ours, too.
I’ve heard of cancelled weddings being turned into birthday parties, anniversary parties, “Yay, I’m Single Now” parties, but I didn’t want any of that. I didn’t have anything to celebrate. Still, I wanted someone to have a good night.
I started to think about who would appreciate a good party. My family and friends and I weren’t exactly in the mood to go wild, but I knew there were all sorts of people in the city who would love a night out.
My parents and I decided to donate the event to an organization in Seattle called Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter in Seattle that focuses on helping women and their children find permanent housing, employment, and hope for the future. (Mary’s Place is rad; if you live in the Seattle area and you’re looking for volunteer or donation opportunities, check out their website.)
Of course, I know that one night of dinner and dancing isn’t going to make a huge difference in these women’s lives. But hey, at least they got to get their hair done, eat some good food, and put on their dancing shoes. The event was my family’s small attempt to turn what’s been an awful situation for us into something positive for other people.
And I’ve gotta say, throwing the party has pushed me into a better state of mind. I don’t know how, exactly, but turning the would-be wedding into an event for women in transition has made me feel a little less desolate. It’s helped distract me from the fact that I’m a jilted bride, that a broken engagement will always be part of my life story. It’s taken me out of my head, which has not been a fun place to be. And as corny as it sounds, it’s made me feel like part of a sisterhood.
My mom attended the event. And between the two of us, she definitely should have been the one to go; she worked incredibly hard to plan the never-gonna-happen wedding, and she worked even harder to transition it into an entirely different event with just over a month left to go. She told me it was just as amazing as we wanted it to be. As soon as the band started playing, the kids rushed out onto the dance floor. My mom said the families had a blast.
And as for me? I didn’t go. If I were a badass, I’d have gone to the event that was supposed to be my wedding and danced my face off with a bunch of awesome women.
But I’m kind of a wimp, so I did the only thing I could think to do on that sad Saturday night: Xanax and chill.
Hey folks – the below is about an experience I had the last time I chaperoned a field trip at Oscar’s school. Homelessness is not theoretical or distant in my community; it is present, immediate, and heartbreakingly human. If you have the time/bandwidth/resources, please read, share if you like, and donate if you are able to do so – thank you!
The bus ride home from the field trip is long; the kids laugh and chat and hang out of their seats and point at the lights-flashing police car. As we come back into the city:
“Hey, I’m right down that street!” “See that brick wall, behind the corner store? That’s where I live!”
The boy in front of me turns to speak to just me:
“I don’t live anywhere. We live outside.”
And I want to ask him if he’s joking, trying to pull one over on the gullible adult as kids so love to do – then I notice that his pants are far too short and the corduroy is almost worn through.
I am thirty-nine years old.
I know thousands of words.
But I am lost at what to tell this child –
<oh God I’m so sorry>
<it’s going to be okay>
<I love you>
<This should not be happening to you>
All I can do is focus on being present. On not looking away. On holding my own discomfort to one side. On fully being with him, here, witnessing.
It feels like far too little.
It feels too close to nothing at all.
I smile at him, hope my eyes are shouting
<I love you>
<it’s going to be okay>
He smiles back.
“My mom tells me to have faith in God – help is on the way.”
And before he can see the worry in my eyes – I have no such faith – he turns back in his seat, to his friend pointing at the store we’re passing.
I wrap my arm around my own son, happy next to me on that long ride home. I squeeze him close and he has no idea why.
The distance between them is . . . paper thin, is tissue, is nothing at all.
I feel so lucky that it hurts, an ache in my chest and eyes as we pass our street, just blocks from home – our cozy, warm, safe home, full of food and toys and books. A pet fish and a balcony garden – such riches it is almost unbearable.
The distance between us is . . . sheer luck.
I look at the seat in front of me.
Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long – right?
Jolene was born with a rare genetic disorder called anhidrotic ectodermal dysphagia that results in baldness, nail deformation, and teeth erosion. Jolene’s mother, brother, and daughter all have the disorder and it has affected each of their lives. Jolene started losing her hair when she was in third grade. By the time she was 11, she was almost completely bald. By age 13, she had the limited number of teeth she had left pulled and was fitted for dentures.
Jolene’s got her first office job at age 25 in an accounts payable department. She was qualified and well educated, but she never felt like she fit in. It was obvious that her co-workers didn’t feel comfortable with her appearance. Even though Jolene would often wear a wig to work, if the wig was wet from rain or washing, she sometime had to wear a headscarf. She noticed how people looked at her differently, and more and more employers would tell her that the head scarf was not work appropriate and insist that wear a wig. She was self-conscious and kept to herself. She didn’t have many work friends and felt isolated.
There were bright spots. There was one job, where she stayed for five years, where she was surrounded by a supportive and caring group of co-workers. She finally felt accepted, not judged, and confident in her work and life. It made such a difference!
Unfortunately, over the years, Jolene has come to realize how uncomfortable people are with her baldness. Her current wig is wearing out, losing hair, and looking tattered. She can’t afford to buy a new one. Jolene has found a new job and wants to make a good impression and fit in. She wonders if any of our generous and caring friends have a wig that they would donate to help her step confidently into this new page of her life?
UPDATE: January 29, 2016
Thanks to a generous donor (and several other generous offers!), Jolene has her wig and loves it!
For many homeless individuals and families, the holidays bring feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression and sadness. No place to go, no invitations to dinner, no holiday cards in the mail and no gifts under the tree. Not at Mary’s Place!
On Monday, December 21st, we hosted our annual Holly Jolly Holiday Party for the homeless individuals and families in Seattle. The party, which was held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, drew over 1,600 guests who visited the Santa Store, where kids selected and wrapped gifts for parents, and parents and grandparents selected gifts to give their children; carolers caroled; a DJ spun holiday music; kids (and adults) got pictures with Santa; children visited the Winter Wonderland Wardrobe and got new holiday outfits’ and, as requested by Mary’s Place families, there was lots of pizza, candy, and cookies (over 400 LARGE pizzas). And every guest received a gift card for a new pair of shoes!
Over 600 volunteers made the day possible, including special guest, Washington state’s First Lady, Trudi Inslee! More than 40 companies, organizations, and congregations sent volunteer teams to help with the party, including: PEMCO, Bank of America, Edelman Worldwide, evo, KPMG, Apple, The Gates Foundation, OAC Services, Parker Services, Vulcan, Inc., USI Kibble Prentice, Regence, Russell Investments, and Columbia Hospitality. Corporate sponsors for the party include Parker Services, OAC, and Bank of America.
Mary’s Place favorite, Sumiko, worked all year long to create hand made gift tags. This year she made over 6,000 gift and shoe tags for requested gifts for parents and children, and for community-funded shoe gift cards. More than 118 companies, organizations, and congregations (including Mayor Ed Murray’s office at the City of Seattle) set up Giving Trees to purchase items on gift tags for the party. Those organizations and individuals provided more than 8,000 gifts (over 2,000 toys) to fill the Santa Store!
Bob Mitchell, a resident at Bayview Retirement Community, makes wood block sets for our kids in his workshop in the basement at Bayview. The kids love them, especially because they come in personalized bags, and they recently got a chance to meet Bob when he made a trip to the Day Center. Thank you to Heather Graf and King 5 News for telling this wonderful story! Bob’s Blocks
“What you take with you when you leave that night and your mom tells you you’re not going to return to your home is really just your basic necessities,” said Mary’s Place Director, Marty Hartman. “Every kid wants that, they want something to have of their own, a favorite toy, something they can carry around. And Bob makes that possible.”
I saw the story about the north Seattle shelter on KING 5 last night. I am so so glad to see you are helping single fathers. There was a time only a few years ago, I had only $150 to feed my four young boys. I went from owning a home in an expensive neighborhood, to near homeless. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. When I looked for help, it just wasn’t there. Depressed, scared, lonely, I just prayed and prayed and cried for a few years.
A big obstacle for me was the shame I felt of being a man, and needing to ask for help. There seems to be very little emotional support and/or understanding for single fathers. My kids have a mother that only sees them three times a year, for six hours, by choice – and people still think there must be something wrong with me; that no mother could just leave her kids. But that is just not true.
Things are better for me now, but our society must give more attention to single fathers. We don’t grow up watching mothers with the idea that we may be mothers some day. We feel ashamed to ask for help. Single fathers are much more common than people know. It’s hard to meet a life partner in this circumstance, and people are less inclined to open their doors up to men in need. It’s a very lonely and scary place sometimes. Anyway, thank you for helping these men out.
Because of you, Mary’s Place is able to bring women, children and families inside to safety and community. Please Come Inside at one, or both locations to enjoy cookies and cocoa, meet our families, and let us say Thank You!
Monday, November 16, 2015 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
at Mary’s Place Day Center – 1830 9th Ave. Seattle
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
at Mary’s Place Family Center – 1155 N. 130th St. Seattle