Sixty Eastside volunteers will gather at Congregations for the Homeless in Bellevue to distribute sleeping bags, mats and winter care packages to homeless people as part of Sleepless in Seattle’s annual Big Give event on Nov. 19.
“Volunteers will be all over the area walking around and looking for homeless people (to give sleeping bags to),” Danielle Vrchota, Eastside team leader and Bothell resident, said.
From Bellevue, the Eastside volunteers will head out to various parks and other locations where homeless people might be located, including Rhododendron Park in Kenmore, The Park at Bothell Landing, Northshore YMCA, Kirkland Transit Center and Bridle Trails State Park in Kirkland.
In total in King County, 360 volunteers will gather at different areas to distribute 4,000 sleeping bags, mats and winter care packages as part of the Big Give from 2 to 8 p.m. Nov. 19. As of Oct. 31, the organization had raised nearly $15,000 of its $60,000 goal on generosity.com to purchase the sleeping bags and items for the winter care packages, which include socks, gloves and food. The mats were donated.
According to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, 4,505 people in the county are homeless, an increase of 19 percent from the 3,772 in 2015. According to the same data, 245 of those people are homeless on the Eastside.
If more than $60,000 is raised, Sleepless in Seattle will buy more items to distribute to the homeless, Christian Culbert, a volunteer leader and senior at International Community School in Kirkland, said. Additionally, any leftover items on Nov. 19 will be donated to other organizations to distribute.
Along with practical items to keep homeless people warm during the winter, the care packages include handwritten notes and/or drawings from volunteers to lift the recipients’ spirits.
“It’s not just about passing out sleeping bags and walking away — it’s about having a conversation, it’s about getting to know the people who live around us,” Vrchota said of the Big Give, which she’s been involved with since it started in 2014. “We have volunteers that get together a few nights before to put the care packages together and write notes … elementary schoolers have drawn pictures or written notes before as well.”
For more information, to donate or to volunteer, visit sleeplessinseattle.org. Volunteer registration began Oct. 10 and organizers suggested signing up as quickly as possible as there’s usually a waiting list to participate.
“The spots fill up pretty fast,” Culbert said.
Additionally, Vrchota encourages anyone on the Eastside who’s interested in the cause to find the Sleepless in Seattle Eastside Neighborhood Team on Facebook. “Residents can reach out and be a part of this year-round,” she said, adding people typically post information about homeless outreach opportunities outside of the Sleepless in Seattle campaign in the group.