The family of Dick’s Drive-In founder Dick Spady is building upon his “Change for Charity” boxes, bringing in millions of dollars for Mary’s Place, just by asking people to round up.
Before he died last January, Richard “Dick” Spady used to tell his grandchildren about his early days in Seattle — the time after the Korean War and before the Deluxe burger that would make his a household name.
Spady, who grew up poor, lived at the YMCA after the war. Didn’t have a house, or the money to even dream about one.
The experience inspired the “Change for Charity” boxes that sit at each window of his six restaurants — there for coins his customers won’t miss and that, over 25 years, have amassed $1.4 million for nonprofits aimed at helping the homeless.
No Child Sleeps Outside
Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants
Elliott Bay Brewery & Pub
For more information, visit nochildsleepsoutside.org
“He had a big emphasis on making sure people had a place to live,” his granddaughter, Jasmine Donovan, 30, said the other day. “And that once they did, there was no limit to their potential.”
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The family has built on Spady’s legacy by creating the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign — an effort that, in the last two years, has raised $750,000 for Mary’s Place, which operates two day centers and six crisis-response family shelters in Seattle.
In 2014, Donovan’s brother, Saul Spady, started a No Child crowdfunding campaign and brought in corporate sponsors.
This year, after the chain started accepting credit cards, Donovan — now the Dick’s Drive-In vice president — took the campaign lead by introducing an option where customers could round up their bill to the nearest dollar and donate the difference. (The practice will continue after the No Child campaign ends.)
“I started to wonder, ‘What if every restaurant did this?’ What could we accomplish if we gave them the option?’ ”
She presented the idea to the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, where she is on the leadership board. Ten restaurants have signed on so far, with more expected to join.
It’s a simple solution, Donovan said, for an overwhelming problem.
“These people can be helped with just money,” she said. “We can fix this problem if we raise enough money, right now.”
The No Child Sleeps Outside campaign got an even bigger boost this week, when Starbucks announced it would accept donations at its stores through December and match up to $1 million. In addition, The Starbucks Foundation and The Schultz Family Foundation have pledged $1 million each.
The coffee company joins Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser and Microsoft, which have all pledged between $25,000 and $250,000.
The money will primarily be used to expand shelter capacity, but also to help with client expenses such as rental assistance, car repairs and license renewals for those working in the trades — the small, yet expensive setbacks that get in the way of gaining stability and safety.
“It’s amazing,” Donovan said. “It’s going to make our dream a reality.”
Donovan grew up in Seattle, left to go to college in Michigan, then joined the Navy and became an instructor at its nuclear-power school in Charleston, S.C.
She came back three years ago to a very different hometown.
“It’s sad how out of control the homelessness has become,” she said. “The saddest is the children out there. These are people who have fallen on hard times, who have had medical emergencies, made bad choices.
“And they’re homeless in a city that is exploding,” she continued. “They hide. They are in the shadows. They are on the streets, but they are not in your face.”
Earlier this year, homelessness expert Barbara Poppe prepared a report for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. In it, she said that tent cities were not a solution — and no place for families with children.
“I find it horrifying you have children living in encampments and that is somehow acceptable to this community,” Poppe said at the time.
Mary’s Place seems a more safe and stable option: It builds community and offers resources, including getting children to school.
Donovan, who is on the Mary’s Place board, has taken the six Dick’s restaurant managers to the shelter so they would better understand the struggles of families without a place to call home.
“It’s impossible to high-five the kids and not feel like you’re doing something really important,” Donovan said. “They keep being kids, and they keep going to school, and the parents get the help and training they need.
“We want to save these kids,” she said. “We want to make sure they can be whatever they want to be.
“And none of them want to be homeless.”