Working together to provide a safe haven for all: A conversation with Mary’s Place
King County-based nonprofit continues to support families on their journey out of homelessness
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on the lives of individuals, families and organizations. Nonprofits are among those hit hardest, forced to cancel or shift critical fundraising events and navigate limitations to volunteer programs—all while supporting those who often face the greatest need.
Today, we continue our series highlighting the resilient nonprofits that are on the front lines, supporting our community—nonprofits like King County-based Mary’s Place, an organization that provides safe, inclusive shelter and services to support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.
Regence BlueShield’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Celicia Yeoman, recently spoke with Linda Mitchell, chief communications officer for Mary’s Place, to learn how the organization has remained resilient in a time of immense uncertainty; and how Mary’s Place never wavered from its mission to support Washingtonians in need.
Celicia Yeoman: This is an incredibly difficult time, especially for the individuals and organizations that are on the front lines. Where have you most felt COVID-19 impact your operations and programs? Have you had to adapt?
Linda Mitchell: We are working harder than ever before to support families experiencing homelessness. This includes implementing hand washing, health assessments, and increased cleaning and disinfecting at our shelters. We are continuing to serve hundreds of meals, create distance learning opportunities through our Kids Club, and support families as they navigate job loss and disappointment as housing goals become more challenging.
To provide safe spaces for our families, we have closed some of our smaller, congregate shelters.
Just at the start of this pandemic, our new family center shelter opened in downtown Seattle, providing four floors of private rooms and large common spaces; keeping us from having to return any family to homelessness. In the next few weeks, we will open another family center in the Central District of Seattle. Once a senior care center, this space will provide 46 private rooms and bathrooms, featuring an industrial kitchen, large common spaces, and fenced outdoor space for kids to play. The facility will also include wings that can safely be used to self-isolate or quarantine residents if needed.
COVID-19’s impact has been felt strongly throughout Mary's Place, but we are so proud of our incredible frontline staff. They’ve been putting themselves at risk to be here every day, making sure our families are comforted and have what they need to continue their journey out of homelessness.
CY: Your tireless effort to support our community during this time is appreciated. What is your organization’s largest need right now?
LM: We unfortunately had to close our donation drop-off locations and put a temporary hold on our volunteer program, due to COVID-19. We are working on remote volunteer opportunities to teach classes, host game nights and tutor kids. We’re open to creative ideas! Those who are interested can email us to learn more about how they can help.
Groups and organizations are sponsoring meals for our families, neighbors are making face coverings of all sizes for our families and staff, and we are accepting items from our Amazon wish list that are mailed or shipped. We need lots of diapers, medicines, twin sheets and blankets for our new shelter!
CY: You just recently hosted your dream BIG luncheon, virtually this year. How did it go?
LM: To keep everyone safe and healthy, we knew we needed to rethink our 900+ luncheon fundraising event. We moved quickly to reimagine the event as a live-streamed, TV-style format and got to work!
While we were unable to welcome our friends and neighbors in person, the virtual event was so much fun! Our families shared their courageous stories, our staff talked about how their work has been impacted by COVID-19, and we even took our luncheon guests on a virtual tour of our new shelter location. Five-year-old Angelica showed us her new bedroom, and there were lots of surprise guests!
In a very brief window of time, we worked together to create this experience for our supporters to enjoy from the safety of their own homes. We were able to involve our staff and engage our guests in new ways. Everyone had a great time developing the luncheon program, and we hope our guests enjoyed watching it.
Thanks to the generosity of our community, and amazing sponsors like Regence BlueShield, we met an Amazon match of $1 million and raised a total of $2,376,557 to keep our doors open. These resources will support our staff on our frontlines and provide a safe space for families to land now, and in the months to come.