Julia Francis remembers a grandmother and her granddaughter walking toward her during Care Day in Bothell.
“We ran out of desk guides and I stepped in to help,” Francis said. “This grandmother and her granddaughter, who was probably around 3 years old, asked where the shoes were.”
Francis directed them toward the shoes. She said the granddaughter quickly found a pair of pink sparkly shoes.
“The little girl was beaming,” Francis said. “She jumped up and said, ‘Grandma, I’ve never had new shoes before!’ and I was almost in tears. Then she asked me if I would take a picture with her and her new sparkly pink shoes. I will never forget that.”
Francis said this is just one of hundreds of stories she’s witnessed throughout the last five years of Care Day.
Francis is one of the original founders of Care Day, a day devoted to connecting neighbors in the Northshore area with immediate access to the services and resources they need.
Started in 2014 by a small group out of Northshore Community Church, Care Day serves to connect people in need with local service providers and agencies. Tim King is also one of Care Day’s founders.
“We were reading this book, ‘The Hole in Our Gospel,’ by Richard Stearns and it basically talks about how God cares about poor people and we should too,” King said. “The book calls you to do something about it and we knew we needed to do something.”
After learning there was a homeless student and family population in the Northshore area, King said he was shocked.
“I had no idea there were so many,” he said. “We just don’t see families sleeping on the streets — I didn’t think we had a problem.”
King did more research and learned that there are many Eastside families who struggle.
“We have a two-tier economy. We have a lot of families living on the edge of homelessness,” he said. “The rent rises and they can’t afford it and they get pushed out of the area. But then they can’t afford to move out of the area because you have to provide first and last months’ rent. They can’t afford to move or stay…they get stuck.”
Care Day began with a handful of service providers and served about 150-200 people.
Each year has brought more providers and more people. This year Care Day was held on June 28 and brought about 76 service providers and served more than 800 people.
Some of this year’s services included medical/dental care, transportation, family, children and youth aid, employment support and training, groceries and food banks, haircuts and hygiene supplies, housing and legal and financial services.
“Our goal is to help others in the most lovingly, supportive way we can,” King said. “We also want to tighten and enhance our community’s services. And, educate the community on this issue…these aren’t just people who are homeless on the streets of Seattle, these are our neighbors.”
Gin Ernster is a leadership and English teacher at Skyview Middle School. She has volunteered each year for Care Day.
“I’ve always had a heart for servant leadership. I think we’re called to help people,” she said. “Care Day is gets right to the people in need.”
Ernster said it warms her heart to see so many people come and get the help that they need, and that Care Day can offer that help.
“It’s really a blessing to be a part of this,” she said. “There’s so much humility in community…I want the people here to feel the love of Christ and know that they are worthy of love.”
Sandy Hayes, Northshore School District board president, said she comes to Care Day every year.
“This is definitely the biggest year yet,” she said. “It’s great, but it’s also sad — it’s great because Care Day has grown to help more and more people, but it’s sad there’s so many people in our community in need.”
Hayes said it’s easy to think that there aren’t families in need on the Eastside.
“It’s easy to think this doesn’t exist,” she said. “These are our people, these are our families and students.”
Among Care Day’s many services, Vanessa Rivera came to receive a dental check-up and a haircut.
“I’m glad they help people,” she said. “There’s so many who don’t have access to dental, medical and other things.”
Rivera said this was her second year attending Care Day.
“The people are so helpful and nice,” she said. “I want other people to know about what they do.”
Andrya Rytter, owner of Level Seven Salon in Bothell, smiled as she cut Rivera’s hair.
“Care Day is really fun and I learn a lot,” she said. “I’m happy to be here. The community has been so good to me and I think this is the least I can do.”
Rytter said this was her third year participating in Care Day.
“I think things like health care should be a right, not a privilege and even a simple haircut can make you feel so much better,” she said. “I look forward to coming every year.”
To learn more about Care Day, visit www.careday.net.