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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Grateful for......

I know it’s been awhile since I last blogged—we have been super busy at Hope House! Sometimes so much is happening that while I may tell myself in the moment “blog this!” I completely forget by the time I get to my computer for some quiet time. One recurring business is the “new” Hope House we are hoping to build next year. Lots of time and energy, presentations and meetings have gone into this lately and I have been so excited at the progress being made. So imagine my distress when I hear some in leadership roles express that we may have to wait another year to actually do this. I can’t express my disappointment at this lack of energy—my soul feels wounded somehow, but I am putting my faith in the only sure thing I know—prayer. I am not giving up on a new Hope House next year and neither is God. In the meantime, I am also focusing my thoughts on the wonderful memories this place has given me. When I think of Hope House, this is what I think of:

·         Sunny spring and summer days like today---clients sitting out front, chatting while waiting for us to open. Staff bustling around, getting everything stocked and ready. Windows open and the sound of birds singing.

·         And conversely, cold, dark winter days, wind blowing and clients coming in shivering, grateful for the hot coffee and fresh cookies and warmth. It’s rewarding to offer warm hats, gloves and blankets during these times.

·         The sound of babies “talking”, toddlers running and moms chatting in our waiting room. When you peek out there, children are coloring, someone is reading a book to the kids and everyone has a cookie in their hand!

·         From my office, I often hear the staff offering to search for items that our clients are in need of, running upstairs and out to our shed to try to locate a blanket, some socks or a coat. Our staff have also been known to purchase something for a particular person that they know is in need of it.

·         The faces of the Assumption school children joyfully passing cans of food hand to hand from the church to our shed each year at Thanksgiving. Even when it is cold and windy, they smile and have fun with it.

·         The homeless men and women who have found a “family” here at Hope House. The few we worry most about—my adopted “sons”!! When they’re sick, when we haven’t seen them for a while—I worry, and pray and they always come back!

·         Then there is Christmas---the incredible generosity of the families, organizations and businesses that “adopt” a Hope House family and make a Christmas for them. I wish I could show everyone the eyes of the children who see the boxe(s) of gifts to take home!

·         Clients who connect here—we have one couple who met here and are now married! I love chatting with my clients, watching their children grow, celebrating their victories and praying for their sorrows.

·         My volunteers---I cannot say enough about the wonderful people who choose to spend time here each week, reaching out with such love and compassion! They are amazing and always step up when needed, serve with love and keep smiles on their faces. I love each and every one of them!

So, wounded soul aside, I will keep up the good fight, keep praying and keep enjoying the special blessing this place is in my life.

Thank you, God, for Hope House.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Please pray for one of our family

She is a small, quiet woman with a big smile and a friendly and gracious heart. Fridays are her preferred shopping day at Hope House, and she arrives early, rain or shine, to be one of the first in line. We open at noon and she is often on our front porch by 8am, sitting quietly with a good book or chatting with those others who have begun to come and join her for a Friday morning social time. Rules are important to “Sally”, and she polices the crowd that gathers closer to our open hours, making sure everyone knows their place in line and there is no cutting in line with Sally around! I have jokingly told her I am going to put her to work as a personal shopper for others, since she is so good at finding what they need and what would look good on them. Sally cares about others, shares her kindness and sweetness at will and is well loved here at Hope House. The occasional gift of her Asian food is a real treat to those who love sushi. Sally is a big part of our Hope House family, a beloved grandmother to many of our clients and a shining star in our universe.

My Fridays are marked by opening that front door at noon to Sally’s smiling face, helping to make the chaos of Friday more bearable. Two days ago, Sally was struck by a car while crossing a nearby street in the evening. She has suffered massive injuries and is in critical condition at the local hospital. My Friday is not the same, everything seems “off” and many of our staff and clients are distraught at the news. We are heartily praying for her and hope more than anything to see her smiling face at our door again in the future.

 Please pray for Sally.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's all about family

It’s a busy day for a Tuesday here at Hope House—a sign of the holidays fast approaching. I have been trying all morning to get a few minutes in front of my computer to write this blog, and here I am, 2 hours after I planned on doing it! Read on to see why this blog was important for me to put out there.

On a busy, standing room only day last week, with the front door staying open to handle the overflow of people, I came out to get my next client for intake and discovered it was “Jim”, a familiar face. Jim has advanced Parkinson’s and has a great amount of difficulty standing, walking and doing most anything, due to the constant tremors and jerking of his body. As I called his name, I found him in a chair by the window and after struggling for a minute, he asked me to go on to someone else while he tried to get his body to work. He often does this, and is usually able to come in  just a few minutes later. Sure enough, 3 clients later, he waved and indicated he was ready for the struggle. As I helped him to his feet, several other clients also reached out with assistance and cleared a path for him.

So I was already tearing up over this situation, but get this—when I asked him if he had a walker or something to help him walk, he stated it was outside because he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I immediately shouted to the people on the porch and the stairs and asked if there was a walker out there. Before the words were out of my mouth, it was being passed overhead from hand to hand to Jim. Helping hands, clearing a path, bringing in his walker—our clients (no, they really are family members for us at Hope House) reached out with kindness to this elderly and frail man. I love our “family” here at Hope House. Whatever the dictionary says a family is—we have a new meaning here at Hope House.

You may think we are giving to our clients, but I can tell you, they give to us as well!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Counting my blessings.

It’s cold and gray outside today—the kind of northwest chill that goes to your bones. Though I am wearing a long sleeved shirt (it’s Seahawk Friday, so it is a Hawk shirt!), I am still chilled and just cannot get warm. All I really want is to be home in my warm and cozy living room with an afghan, a cup of tea and good book. The home my husband and I have created is a refuge and the center of our family life, and I love being there.

So as I shiver once again and grab my cooling cup of coffee, I head out to the waiting room to refill it. There I find people chatting about their tattoos, reading books to their children and just enjoying being in a warm, safe place. The coffee flows, the cookies and bananas are eaten and needs are met. We are passing out coats, hats, gloves and blankets at a dizzying pace. This is Hope House on an ordinary Friday afternoon in fall—a community of people, both helpers and those being helped, all hanging out together for a couple of hours.

While this warms my heart, I am acutely aware of the fact that many of our clients have no warm beds, no warm home, and no way to stay dry tonight—for them, it will be a long weekend. Even those of our clients who are in housing of some kind, often have little money to keep the heat on very long at this time of year. Everyone who comes in is cold and asking for blankets.

So what do we need? We need anything, clothing or blankets, that will help our clients keep warm. We need more emergency housing for families who are homeless. We need to help each other in this life. We need to always remember to count our blessings!

My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my home, my church, my friends……..

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The gift of community

She had no English, we had no Spanish—we were all frustrated in this interaction. While most days we have at least one staff person who speaks Spanish on duty, today we did not. My Spanish is limited, no matter how hard I try to improve upon it. I actually provide comic relief to my Latino clients on a regular basis!

At any rate, back to the story….our client needed help with her electric bill—her power had been turned off and between us, her, the power company—the communication was garbled at best.  I resorted to looking for a client who could help with translation and found one right away. This client was a longtime client who had come in with a friend to help her sign up for assistance. She immediately responded to my request for help and sat down next to the client needing energy help, and started translating for us.

Thanks to this client, we were able to help get the lights back on for this family. But the story doesn’t stop there—our translator and her friend took this Latina client under their wing, offering her a ride to the Power Company and then home with the goods she received from Hope House that day. A friendship was born—a circle of sharing was formed.

This is the gift we did not anticipate when we started Hope House 15 years ago (15 years—can you believe it!?). The gift of community that is the Hope House experience has no measurable outcomes to show grantors and donors, but the gift is very real to those who feel left out of the world sometimes. This is a place of belonging and acceptance where those who are marginalized out there find peace.

I think this was the gift God meant for Hope House to be all along!

Friday, July 24, 2015

We are family...

As I sit here in my office on this busy Friday afternoon, I hear the sounds of children playing, parents chatting, and laughter and gentle teasing. It sounds like a living room full of family—which it is! Our clients feel like this is a safe and warm place to come, to chat, and to have a cup of coffee and share stories and resources. In the summer, it is extra noisy because the kids are all out of school, hanging with their moms, looking through books and coloring at our coloring table. We love it!

This has been a busy summer, and this month has been particularly busy. We have had trouble keeping hygiene and cleaning supplies in stock. Yesterday, our three favorite items, (toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish soap) were completely depleted when we opened. As I did intake, I cringed each time someone said they needed one of these items, knowing they would have to settle for something else. Then, part way through the morning, as I stopped back in the kitchen for a coffee refill, I realized there was an odd assortment of all of these items on the shelf. The staff member in the kitchen told me that people had been bringing them all morning, 2 and 3 at a time, and she hadn’t run out yet!

This may seem strange to some, but I just chuckled, because this was just the most important member of our Hope House family at work, taking care of us. I like to picture Him in his carpenter mode, carrying an armful of supplies to us, while His Mother and Mother Theresa look on approvingly! I have no doubt that our modest little ministry here in the far corner of the Northwest is very much on their radar, because we have had too many examples of direct divine intervention over the years—we call them “Godshots”. On our wall you will find this saying “I work on the assumption that if you are doing God’s work, it is God’s business to take care of you”.  At Hope House, He certainly does!

We’re collecting school supplies…….hhmmmmm………Jesus?