Eastside Baby Corner and Their Impact on the Community

Eastside Baby Corner, a non-profit organization located in Issaquah, is one of the major contributors of basic necessities to expectant families and children on the Eastside.  Founded in 1990 by Karen Ridlon, a local pediatric nurse practitioner, the organization serves families with low incomes to assure every child can thrive by providing them with basic necessities they need.

Eastside Baby Corner partners with partner agencies to serve children birth to five and expectant families.  Each week, volunteers and staff from Eastside Baby Corner collect donations and purchase items to distribute to their partner agencies. The items range from diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, car seats, school supplies, furniture, birthday gifts, maternity clothes, etc.

In 2012, Imagine Housing formed a partnership with Eastside Baby Corner and since then we have received items weekly.  Parents and caregivers place orders through the Resident Support Specialists at their property and every Thursday we pick them up and distribute them to the residents.

We are fortunate to have two volunteers to our team, Kay Lynn and Joan through Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, who are picking up and delivering all of the items to the properties.  With their support the Resident Support Specialists are given more time to be present at our communities.

At the beginning of our partnership we were allowed to order a total of 20 items a week for the children across our Imagine Housing communities.  Due to such a high demand, we now receive 80 items weekly, being one of Eastside Baby Corner’s larger partnerships.  In 2013, Imagine Housing residents received 3,337 items, valuing $180,434.50.  In total, Eastside Baby Corner distributed 40,069 items, valuing $4,527,034.  This is a powerful visual demonstrating what an incredible impact they have on the Eastside communities they serve.

~Molly Statham, Resident Support Specialist, Andrew’s Glen

Seven Months: A Life Changing Experience

About seven months ago, I discovered Imagine Housing’s listing on volunteermatch.com. After contacting and meeting with Eric (Imagine Housing Resident Support Specialist), I began volunteering at Johnson Hill and Mine Hill’s after-school program. The kids there welcomed me with open arms. They were kind and filled with love.

As I got to know them more, my eyes were opened to completely new perspectives.  I learned to become more accepting and understanding of everyone I encounter, because I never know what they are going through. The kids I met are so strong.  Regardless of what challenges life throws them, they stand up, overcome obstacles, and decide to have a good day.

During the spring, I decided to host a fundraiser to help fund meals during Imagine Housing’s summer youth programs.  In the summer months, I became a Youth Programs Intern and helped run day camps for kids at the Highland Gardens, Johnson Hill, Mine Hill, and Andrew’s Arms communities.

The after-school and summer programs at the different sites has had such a huge impact on me. Every day, I looked forward to spending time with the kids. It was interesting to see how kids of such different ages interact so well with one another (of course, with a few bumps in the road).

Within just seven months, watching the kids grow, mature, and adapt to different situations has been amazing. To see how much joy, excitement, and energy they are filled with each and every day is inspiring. I love the youth programs and how positively they affect everyone involved with them.

I am also amazed by Imagine Housing. Seeing that their best interest is in the residents is wonderful. They are committed to adapting services to meet the needs of each resident. They have community dinners to bring together and strengthen communities. They work so hard to be able to provide people with dignified housing options, and there is so much diversity in these communities.

I look forward to seeing this nonprofit grow and expand, in building new locations and creating more programs and opportunities for residents.

~Mikahila Villani, Youth Programs Intern

Libraries going Above and Beyond

When I think of a library, I think of the great amount of information inside. I picture stacks of books, racks of magazines, and rows of people studying. I picture librarians, friendly but perhaps stereotypically mundane, shelving books and leading story time. Yet, in many cities, libraries and librarians are on the frontlines when it comes to supporting those facing homelessness.

After reading an article from amNewYork I have begun to see these institutions in a different light. In addition to the great amount of information inside, I see how people see libraries as a safe shelter for people who don’t have a place to call home. I see how librarians can be called on to serve those in need of more than just reading material.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 337 homeless people have been killed in hate crimes in the last 15 years. While this number should be zero, for now libraries can serve as a safe place to take refuge, use computers to seek resources and find employment.

After reading the article, I was curious about how the libraries in our area handle homeless that may be using them as shelter, so did a little research. In Pierce County, the library system website has an entire section dedicated to shelters and transitional housing, listing organizations, what they do and how to contact them. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find anything of the same type on the King County Library website, given the growing homeless population in King County, so I called the Bellevue Library to find out what services they provide. While they do not have any dedicated staff for homeless, they are a location that youth at risk or in need of shelter can come and make contact with someone who can help. The librarian I spoke to said they have two organizations they work with, Auburn Youth Resources  and Friends of Youth. While the library staff do not directly help or counsel the teen in need, they do sit with them until they contact services. To me, that puts them in a position of providing social services, going above and beyond my picture of a librarian.

We are also a part of this story of libraries helping the homeless. Imagine Housing partners with Friends of Youth on the eastside by providing 16 apartments at our Francis Village property in Kirkland for young adults 18-24 years old. Some of those could be youth that first found services at a library they went to because they knew it was a safe place. Once there, they could have been referred to Friends of Youth and ultimately led to housing at Francis Village, where they have a dedicated Friends of Youth employee that provides them with Supportive Services.

~Cindy Mckee, Accounting and Asset Management Associate

Sustaining Homes for Years to Come

Two months ago my husband and I made the decision to move. Armed with uncurbed enthusiasm common to most first-time homebuyers, we began our search for the perfect home. Like Monirul, we’ve struggled to find a place within our budget in the Eastside neighborhoods of our choice.  We’ve also experienced the disappointment of finding that an affordable home with a good location often means it’s in poor condition.

shutterstock_13636975Recently, we came across a charming Kirkland home that was not only in our price range, but also located just minutes away from both of our jobs. Though over 20 years old and obviously in need of a facelift, we saw that as a bonding opportunity (the kind where you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty).  My husband and I were already fighting over the paint colors and furniture layout, when the inspector told us that our future house had been badly neglected over the years.  The previous homeowner failed to change the defective siding installed in the ‘90s and the old, deteriorated roof needed to be replaced.  Along with other, smaller issues that begged for attention, the not-so-perfect-after-all home required a significant additional investment because the previous owners hadn’t monitored the home’s ongoing maintenance needs.

Our whole house-hunting experience, and our experience with this particular home, reminded me of the importance of the SUSTAIN component of our capital campaign and the work done by our Asset Management department and third-party property management company, FPI.  While Suzanne and FPI diligently monitor and address on-going property needs, major repairs are sometimes delayed due to insufficient cash reserves.  The $1.5 million revolving SUSTAIN fund would allow the completion of costly capital projects, such as roof, windows or siding replacement, and energy efficient upgrades.  It aims to preserve Imagine Housing’s existing communities, ensuring attractive, well maintained homes for years to come.

For a lot of people SUSTAIN remains in the shadows of the other two components of the Foundation for the Future Campaign.  It doesn’t touch our hearts the same way TRANSFORM’s resident stories do and it lacks the thrill of GROW and watching a new project take shape.  It’s easy to forget that all three components are vital in ensuring that residents have an affordable and high quality place to call home, both today and tomorrow.

~Marta Bazan, Accountant

Cultural Competency Committee

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had working at Imagine Housing has been as part of the Cultural Competency Committee (CCC.)  Imagine Housing formed the CCC last year and it is made up of Imagine Housing employees, Board members and staff from our property management company, FPI Management.  As a committee we identified the following goals for what we hope to achieve:

    • Identify, incorporate and live best practices in cultural competency
    • Diversify staff and Board
    • Deepen understanding of institutional racism and poverty
    • Develop a common language to discuss cultural competency
    • Conduct an external review of policies and practices and improve our policies and practices based on this review
    • Engage and reach out to a broader audience
    • Reduce barriers to people accessing our organization, including our leadership positions
    • Build awareness and valuing of the existing diversity among our staff and Board
    • Make improvements from a place of increased knowledge and awareness
    • Lead conversations and advocacy regarding poverty, oppression and homelessness in the broader community

A few months ago staff, property management and Board members viewed the RACE: ARE WE SO DIFFERENT? exhibit and participated in the workshops led by the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative.  We started out by examining our own beliefs about race, advantage and justice.  By understanding and acknowledging our own biases, we are able to be more intentional about treating people fairly going forward.  We saw historical and contemporary examples of institutional racism in the exhibit and we had the opportunity to look at our own organization to make sure we do not perpetuate institutional racism here.

We have made progress on many of the goals we set.  We have rewritten our job descriptions to make sure they focus on essential job functions and welcome all qualified applicants.  We have streamlined our job posting process and have broadened our posting locations.  We are using more diverse interview teams and an anti-bias training video to help make sure the interview process is fair and nondiscriminatory.  We are working on getting property management forms and paperwork translated into different languages and making sure our resident screening process is not discriminatory.

It is exciting to see the progress we have made in such a short time, yet there is still much work to be done.  Becoming culturally competent is an ongoing process and I am glad we as an organization are engaged and committed to this important work.

~Hester Winn, Office Manager and HR Administrator