Monday, December 12, 2016

Peace on earth......

Greetings from Hope House on a snowy Monday morning! Wasn’t sure if we would be here today because our policy is to close if the Bellingham Public schools close. This morning the word was they were opening late, so I answered a couple of phone calls and emails from staff members in the affirmative and headed in. Since I have a 4 wheel drive SUV, it wasn’t a too bad trip in, but halfway here the radio informed me that the schools changed their mind and decided to close! Now what? Our staff knows the policy, but I knew some of them were also on their way, so I continued on.

Arriving to a snow filled parking lot, there was one client already patiently waiting, who actually offered to sweep our front porch and sidewalk. So I knew we had to make an effort to open! Incredibly, all of my staff showed up, we swept our walks again, turned on the Christmas music, filled the coffee pots and cookie basket and opened the door.

I truly did not expect many clients to brave the snow and ice, but when you are in need, you do what you have to; and when you are homeless, you appreciate being inside for a while! We stuffed their pockets with baggies full of donuts and cookies, dug out warm blankets and coats and just generally had a wonderful morning! The church reported we had many wrapped gifts from our Angel Tree in the sacristy to collect, and halfway through the morning, a wonderful gentleman arrived bearing gifts of bags of clean, folded, sized blankets—truly a Godshot!

With warmth flowing, music playing and people chatting, this turned into a wonderful and heartwarming Monday at Hope House. Truly a good lead up to the birth of our Savior—love and compassion flowing.

Hope House wishes you and yours a blessed and happy Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Food, diapers, pillows....and God.

This is a magical time of year at Hope House. Smiling faces, Christmas decorations, carols playing, lots and lots of wonderful donations coming in…….busy, crazy hectic, but warm and wonderful all at once! A few things:

As I sit here in my office, I hear one client say to another “what are truffles?” Yes, this is amusing, downright funny, to hear in this shabby old house full of used clothing and housewares. But the truth is that we had our wonderful Human Food Chain yesterday and we are flush with all kinds of food—including, apparently, chocolate truffles on our food shelf! The staff, parents and students of Assumption School gather canned food each year during November and on the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, form a human chain from the church to the shed where we store food behind Hope House. It is an awesome sight and leaves a lump in my throat every year—bright shining faces, often braving the rain and wind, spend an hour passing food hand to hand for those in need. We give Thanks for them!

Godshots—we have had them from the first day of being open 16 years ago, but lately we seem to be having them very frequently. A Godshot is a direct, divine intervention and/or answer to a need or prayer we have. Two weeks ago, we needed size 5 diapers for a client who was desperately in need and we were out. Just as I said we don’t have any, a donor came in the back door with a case of them. Godshot. Last week before we opened one morning, a volunteer and I were discussing how seldom we receive pillows for a donation when we get requests for them all the time. Literally, we very rarely receive pillows to distribute. This volunteer went to morning mass and came back after with two brand new pillows, still in their plastic, that had been left in our box at the church! Godshot. This happens so often that I could fill a book (maybe I will)—so often that one day years ago, I was standing in front of the small bookcase we have children’s books in, musing that we were low on books. The volunteer standing next to me silently slid sideways away from me. When I asked what she was doing, she said “any day now He will just start throwing them down to you!” The power of Godshots.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are busy; we are collecting gifts for our clients and distributing food, decorations and clothing at a crazy pace. Because of the need for space to store all the gifts being collected until our distribution date, we will be limiting donations after Thanksgiving to new items of clothing (socks and gloves are high priority!), new toys and gift items for all ages, food and Christmas decorations. We will continue collecting used clothing and housewares after the first of the year. Thank you for your understanding!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation”—may we be His hands on earth and the visible face of Him who loves us all!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Strong Women

“A raccoon ate my Cheetos, “she said with a frown on her adorable 4 year old face.  Her mother sighed and told me she never wanted to go camping again in her whole life. She and her 2 girls had been homeless all summer and living in a tent, and the raccoon was the least of it—one night when they went to bed, they found a snake in the older daughter’s pillow case! (I’m snake phobic, so I would have been gone at that point!). Luckily, by the time they were visiting us at Hope House, the Opportunity Council had them staying in a motel and was finding them a more permanent place to live.  I was so impressed with the way this mother made things OK for her daughters when they most assuredly weren’t OK—a really great mom!

The homeless issue is hot in the news right now, and I will admit that  I am often frustrated with the lack of ambition some of our chronically homeless have. I am equally as frustrated with the lack of mental health resources for those who are homeless because they don’t “live in this world”, and who battle private demons every day.  But the above situation illustrates the silent epidemic of families/women/children that are also homeless. Lack of family support, absent fathers, abusive husbands, interrupted education—whatever the cause, these women and their children are couch surfing with friends, sleeping in tents and cars, motels if they’re lucky; and trying to keep their children in school and safe and fed. A tall order, but these strong women are working hard for their lives. We are proud at Hope House to help in any way we can and wish we could help more!

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

Proverbs 31:17

Monday, July 25, 2016


Every year for the last 14 years, the Annual Spirit of Hope Treasure Sale has been held on the first Saturday of each month in the Assumption Gym. This year, the gym floor has had some work done on it, so we are having to change our date to the 20th of August. Please mark your calendars--you don't want to miss this wonderful event! Our treasures include
  • Collectible dishes, statues, tea cups, etc.
  • Original art
  • Antique furniture 
  • Gardening supplies and art
  • Kitchen items such as small appliances and dish sets
  • Jewelry
  • Electronics
  • Linens and pillows
  • Toys
  • Sporting goods and men's "stuff"
There is literally something for everyone in the family--don't miss it, and if you have anything to donate to the sale, email Theresa Meurs.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pride in giving back.

Today, I am spotlighting a “guest” writer—one of our faithful volunteers, Ann Edmonds. Enjoy!

Cheri, On Friday, July 8, I witnessed several wide and beautiful smiles of satisfaction and pleasure. She is angular, south of Mexico. Each year, she comes. Each year she has another little one. This year too, she is pregnant. She and her children are quiet. They play. She shops carefully.

On Friday, she followed me outside to the shed. She asked if we could use food. Yes, I said, if it's not produce. She had rice, beans, canned foods. They were leaving for California and had no room to take the food.

 I must have looked stricken at her departure because she smiled and said she'd be back  next year, and with the new little one too.

I helped her carry the so heavy bags. Pregnant, compact, tough and strong, she grinned at me out in the parking lot. She took two to one of mine!

She filled out a receipt. She wrote proudly and confidently, it seemed to me. She seemed pleased to be giving Hope House something useful for other people.

I thought you might like that story, Cheri. It epitomizes for me the generosity and joy of the so called neediest among us. I smile as I remember her face.

Thank you, Ann, for sharing this moment of grace with us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I am a child of God (and so are you!)

Every morning at Hope House we gather in prayer before we open our doors. We pray for guidance, kindness and compassion and to be able to see the Christ in each person who comes through our doors. Not many “rules” are written in stone at Hope House, but the need for understanding that we are serving the body of Christ is of utmost importance. It is our guiding principle, and all who work here need to embrace that truth.

Last Sunday at Mass, Father Scott’s homily so perfectly fit this philosophy that I had to borrow it—hope he doesn’t mind! He told of standing in front of a class of middle school children and holding up a $20 bill. He asked who would want it, and of course they all raised their hands – who wouldn’t? It was worth $20, after all! He then tore the bill almost in half and asked them again—all still wanted it. He crumpled it up into a ball—still they raised their hands. After rubbing it in the dirt, crumpling it up and stepping on it, he asked again and they all still wanted it. When he asked why they still wanted it, the reply was—“it’s still worth $20!”
Of course, it was. So are we still worth everything to God, even when we are torn and dirty, damaged and crumpled—we are still His children, each and every one of us. Those of us with bad attitudes, dirty clothing, addictions, secret vices and anger/hatred in our heart are still His children and He doesn’t give up on us. During the homily, Father Scott asked us “Who are you to God?”  Surprisingly to me, a voice in my head immediately said “His beloved” and my eyes filled with tears. As I am His beloved, so are you and all the people you meet. May we always remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God.

“Each individual person has been created to love and to be loved:  Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian – doesn't  matter race, doesn't matter religion. Every single man, woman, child is the child of God, created in the image of God.”                                             Mother Theresa

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Of Mice and Princesses....

They were really cute—peeking around the corner of my office door with shy grins. One was wearing a dress with Elsa on it and a tiny tiara in her hair, and the other one had the biggest brown eyes and widest smile! Two adorable girls, about 6 years old, shopping with their moms, and having fun together. As they gazed at my bulletin board display of pictures of my grandchildren, one of them asked if all my grandchildren had the same clothing (we had a professional picture of them all together in matching clothes!). As I chuckled, the other one noticed the collection of stuffed and toy mice on the windowsill above my desk. There is an explanation for that, which I gave to them; Hope House is an old house, falling apart, with many holes and loose siding, etc. we have struggled over the last couple of years with a mouse problem, and I have waged a war on mice! It appears that, for now anyway, I have won, and as I explained all of this to them, they started looking around apprehensively. When I assured them there are no mice here now, the princess murmured “a little creepy” as she left with her mom.

This old house has many problems and we are holding on for our new one, patching and band aiding it as we go. In addition to mice, we have had fly infestations (this was Phil Corrigan’s personal battle, lol!), along with a squirrel issue.  When you come in to the empty house early in the morning and walk to the bottom of the stairs and see something furry run across the upper hall, it kind of makes you want to stay downstairs! Luckily, we found the entrances for them and blocked them. The last one we found was by accident, on a busy morning when we were open. The old fireplace in our waiting area was largely ignored for years, then one morning we heard a growling sound from that area. When we approached the fireplace, it grew louder and we could see a squirrel in it. Since it was not leaving, we decided to form a pathway by blocking everything off with chairs, ending at the front door, about 12 feet away. Keep in mind that we had clients in the house helping us! We then used a broom to get him out of the fireplace; with the hope he would follow the path out the door. Well, he had a mind of his own and wasn’t ready to leave, so he jumped over the chairs and headed deeper into Hope House, running past people’s legs and from room to room. Hysteria prevailed, along with tons of laughter. We finally cornered him in the kitchen (after he ran up one side and down the other of a staff member!), and got him out the back door to freedom. Whew!  To this day, I have never heard that much laughter at once in Hope House. It is one of my favorite memories.

So while we are looking forward to a new building, the wonderful memories made in this old one will last forever. J