For an unsheltered family, sleeping in a car or a tent, communication is one of the most important resources in finding permanent housing.
Without a way to contact caseworkers, schedule meetings or access information quickly, a family could be stalled in completing paperwork required to find a warm place to sleep and spend another night on the street. Mary’s Place, a nonprofit family shelter organization with a location in Kenmore, recently partnered with the Bothell Kenmore Chamber of Commerce to provide pre-paid cellphones to dozens of families.
“I can’t believe the generosity in the room,” said Linda Mitchell, chief communications officer at Mary’s Place who spoke at the auction. “We didn’t know at the time if it would be a success, [but] so many people were excited to participate.”
Every year, the chamber hosts its Fund-A-Need donation bids during the annual holiday auction. Each cell phone costs about $50 and during the holiday auction, attendees donated $7,975 to the cause, more than any prior auction.
“This was by far the most money we’ve ever made,” said Brittany Caldwell, executive director of the chamber. “It was nearly three times as much as the average.”
Caldwell clarified that there were many factors that made the 2018 auction unique, including a new location and a good crowd, but also mentioned Mitchell gave an “amazing” speech and did well highlighting the importance of the cause.
According to the letter, this money was used to purchase 67 cell phones for homeless families who may have otherwise slept outside during the recent snowstorms.
“We cannot thank you enough for your generous and lifesaving grant,” Mary’s Place officials wrote in a thank you letter. “Thanks to your funding, we were able to find and bring families in from the cold over the snowy, freezing week.”
Mary’s Place runs other annual donation campaigns but had never raised money specifically for cell phones. Over five campaigns, the nonprofit has raised about $9 million for its “No Child Sleeps Outside” cause.
Mary’s Place operates seven locations in King County, providing emergency shelter, employment and housing resources, hygiene and laundry service, case management, kids clubs, health services and food to more than 500 parents and children. Unfortunately, the shelters can’t always fit every family, so these cell phones provide an easy way to communicate the soonest vacancy.
The chamber has been supporting local businesses with its Fund-A-Need bids for over a decade, along with their annual auction. The selected business is chosen by the Board of Directors based on an application process.
“We have over 50 nonprofs in our chamber and we think its incredibly important to give back when we can,” Caldwell said.
The board was particularly interested in Mary’s Place for this year’s auction because of the work it does to not only provide housing, but support employment opportunities.
“It’s important for people to realize that its important to educate the community on the current situation,” Caldwell said. “Some people think unemployment and housing are problems in downtown Seattle only, so to hear it exists in the Northshore community, people are often surprised how close to home the problem is.”