Butterfly undergoes metamorphosis | Column

Many local residents will remember the Butterfly Thrift Store, a crowded but tidy shop that sold used and consigned household goods and clothing in downtown Bothell. During more than two decades of operation the Butterfly, which was staffed by volunteers and operated by the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Kenmore, distributed over $275,000 in small grants to local people with urgent needs. These ranged from paying the utility bill for families in danger of losing power, to helping get the last few dollars of rent together, to medical bills, gas or bus vouchers. Over 2,500 people were helped over rough spots by the “Butterfly Ladies”.

However, an aging volunteer staff and an unsolicited offer to purchase the property in late 2007 led to Redeemer’s decision to close the Butterfly and sell the property. Instead of treating the $300,000 profit as a windfall for the church, Redeemer’s parishioners were determined to place the entire sum into an outreach fund that would continue to carry out the mission of serving those in need. It was decided that, while efforts would be made to replenish the fund, they would not hold back, the money would be given away freely. This has now become the the Earley Outreach Fund, named in recognition of Gretchen and John Earley, leading lights of the Butterfly for its entire existence.

Over the next year Redeemer’s parishioners developed a process for grant application and funding that embodied their Christian values, a process that is short on forms and bureaucracy, and long on human interaction. Parish members, chosen at random, meet with prospective applicants and help them develop their proposals and assess ways in which the Church of the Redeemer can help- both through money grants and volunteer efforts. When fully formed, proposals are presented to the church as a whole, and ultimately decided on by the Vestry- the financial governing body in an Episcopal Parish.

Since 2009 a wide variety of projects have been supported by the fund. They include: buying books and volunteering for Page Ahead; helping with the Northshore YMCA ESL summer program; “Market Bucks”, a subsidy that allows low income residents to purchase fresh foods at the Lake Forest Park Farmer’s Market; paying for transportation and programs at Northshore Adult Day Health- when state funding was threatened; providing part of the funding for missionaries doing health work in Ethiopia; and taking the lead in the Homeless Foot Washing Project- an outreach that delivers a variety of aid- and lots of new socks- to the homeless in downtown Seattle.

In August, parishioners provided a summer day camp for the children of farm workers in Mount Vernon.  They attended tutoring programs (parishioners are involved in both designing programs and tutoring) that will help keep them from falling behind in school. Soon, a Redeemer funded volunteer will be heading off to Bolivia, where she will work with the group Mosoj Yan, helping girls and adolescents who are working the streets to recover and take control of their lives.

For a full listing of projects funded and information on donating to the Earley Outreach Fund, see Redeemer’s website: http://redeemer-kenmore.org/.


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