Looking back on Lend a Hoping Hand 2023
Right now, north and east King County are the most expensive regions in Washington, according to the Self-Sufficiency Standard by UW’s Center for Women’s Welfare. As household costs continue to soar, it’s become increasingly difficult for thousands of our neighbors to make ends meet. The winter season can be especially tough for folks. During what should be a time of warmth and togetherness for all, many struggle to meet their essential needs while also preserving their cherished traditions.
Each year, Hopelink’s Lend a Hoping Hand campaign works to bridge this gap, ensuring families have access to warmth, safe shelter, food that’s both nutritious and culturally relevant, as well as other programs to support them in developing stability. This year’s campaign raised over $1.47 million in donations and over 49,000 pounds of food thanks to an enthusiastic community who heeded the call – with every cent and pound directly benefiting Hopelink services.
Impact in Action
Beyond the numbers are countless stories of real-life impact from our neighbors, like this one shared by an anonymous client of our Family Development program who was able to find safe shelter:
“My case manager would give me daily updates so I wouldn’t lose hope. She understood the importance of just pure and simple hope. Even when there weren’t any updates, she would still update me to just let me know I hadn’t been forgotten. She coordinated with my new apartment complex, and I officially have my own apartment. They covered all the move-in fees and a good portion of my rent, so I can get to a point of true independence.”
Another neighbor was able to keep warm with support from Hopelink’s Energy Assistance program:
“Because of Hopelink, my water wasn’t turned off and I’m staying warm this winter. Sometimes people need a little help to get caught up after falling behind for any number of unforeseeable circumstances. For now, I no longer wake up every morning with the dread of my lights or water getting shut off.”
Stocking the Shelves
The Food Assistance program also shared the unique impact the campaign had on Hopelink Food Markets. Amanda Lopez-Castanon, Director of Food programs said, “Many of our donors asked what items would be best to donate and we mentioned baking items. We definitely saw a large amount of flour, oil, spices, and sugar come in during this time. Many clients showed their excitement and enthusiasm about baking for their families during the holidays.”
Several of these items were provided by the over 125 food and fund drives our community started this year – a record-breaking number of participants! We were amazed by how intentionally people engaged with their drives this year, like the Bothell Family Co-Operative Pre-School who stopped by our Kirkland warehouse to drop off a whopping 504 pounds of food and 80 pounds of diapers. Raquel from the Co-Operative Pre-School shared, “It was a wonderful experience for us and the kids! We look forward to continuing the work with Hopelink.”
Meanwhile, the staff at Growing Tree and Treehouse daycares collected close to 500 new and gently used books and delivered them to our Kirkland Food Market for families and children to enjoy! With the pressure of providing holiday gifts, thoughtful donations like this make a significant difference for many families.
As Amanda mentioned, baking with our loved ones is a cherished tradition in countless households this time of year, but these popular baking ingredients may be unaffordable for many of our neighbors. Thanks to all who donated these items, families were not only able to obtain grocery staples at our Markets, but also had access to holiday favorites like pie crusts, pumpkin, cookie kits, and more to celebrate the season.
It Takes a Village
As the Markets brimmed with the hustle and bustle of families preparing for the holidays, our community showed up in full force, volunteering to support the increased demand and spread a little holiday cheer while at it.
“I have been volunteering at Hopelink for more than a year and have been able to experience two end-of-year holiday seasons. I especially appreciate the November to December holiday time. Shoppers are more excited than usual to visit the Food Market. At the Sno-Valley Market, the beautifully decorated holiday tree and peppermint candy canes at the check-in station help make the Market more inviting. I enjoy providing food and friendship to shoppers all year long, but the year-end holiday season is especially gratifying.”
– Paul Gauvin
(Sno-Valley Food Volunteer)
Bridging the Gaps
Outside of the Markets, over 4,000 gift cards were issued to active clients with children. An expensive time of the year for everyone, unrestricted funds donated this time of year support our goal of providing as many gift cards as possible for our neighbors so they can purchase holiday gifts or other needs and not have to forgo other necessities.
Both the Energy Assistance and Financial Assistance program teams stayed busy throughout the season, working with our neighbors to offset utility costs and bridge the gap during financial emergencies.
“We’ve seen a 55% increase in emergency financial assistance requests over the past 12 months,” said Cindy Donahue, Financial Resiliency Program Senior Manager. “The COVID-era ‘bridge’ proclamation ended in October 2021, which resulted in huge numbers of clients with pay or vacate notices and significant rent increases. Two years later, we continue to see this escalation.”
With rising costs of living in the region and other contributing systemic factors, many of our neighbors may live on fixed incomes or paycheck to paycheck. This means that one small crisis can quickly snowball and threaten a family’s stability, Cindy explained.
“The funds our program receives from donors 100% helps bridge these gaps so we can support more families and individuals,” she continued. “The funding we receive from donors allows us to provide a bridge of support so they can attain and maintain housing stability.”
The Work Continues
Since its inception over ten years ago, the aim of the Lend a Hoping Hand campaign has been to ensure families don’t go without food, warmth, or shelter during the most challenging times of the year.
“Through the campaign, we learned that the needs of our client community not only changed – but also grew,” said Josalyn Ford, Hopelink Vice President of Development. “This shift created an opportunity for us to lean into learning from our client community on how to better position our messaging to speak on their behalf – and in doing so – raise both awareness and funds to meet their needs more directly. Regardless of how our families celebrate the holiday season, it’s with the community by their side that they don’t have to worry about choosing between honoring their traditions and keeping food on their table or their houses warm during the winter months.”
We want to thank our community of donors, volunteers, schools, places of faith, first responders, and businesses for leaning in to meet these rising challenges alongside us. And, as the needs of our community are tremendous and on-going, we hope you continue to support this important work. Learn about the many ways to take action here.