Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Stepping Up.”
Carrie Slavin was helping with a project to get food to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop a nagging thought.
Slavin, as part of the Assistance League of Seattle, was working on the organization’s campaign to provide grocery gift cards, but she said, “It was bugging me for weeks: What else can we do?”
The answer: “Family-to-Family Care Packages.”
A total of 325 packages, full of personal hygiene and cleaning supplies, were delivered to four high-need Seattle Public Schools last Friday and given to families in need.
Slavin, who lives in Laurelhurst, said she got the idea during a conference call with a Seattle Public Schools family support worker and the head of the local McKinney-Vento Program that helps support homeless youth.
“They said, ‘We are hearing a lot of people say that things are so tight, that any money we have, we have to spend on food,’ ” Slavin said. “But everyone needs things like toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo and other personal hygiene items, and the necessities that we need to keep our homes clean. So we talked to Seattle Public Schools and got a list approved of 15 items.”
Slavin and Theresa Roberts, president of the Assistance League of Seattle, teamed on the project. They sent a note to members and friends, asking that they put together a package from the list of approved items that included toilet paper, paper towels, antibacterial cleaning spray, soap, deodorant and face masks.
Slavin was overwhelmed by the response. The goal was to meet the school district’s request of 200, and that was easily exceeded in just a week. Slavin said about 200 people contributed to the project, with many people making several packages. Rhonda Smith-Banchero, a friend of Slavin’s, helped assemble and collect 100 packages.
“It was really successful in just a short amount of time,” Slavin said. “The schools were super grateful to receive them and we were just so overwhelmed by the response. We had a lot of people who wanted to help and didn’t know quite what to do. This was an easy way for people to also get their kids involved, to pick out things to put in the packages and to know that there was a family on the receiving end.”
It wasn’t the first time the Assistance League worked quickly to help during the pandemic. The group’s biggest program is providing clothing to more than 3,100 students in Seattle Public Schools, but Slavin said we “pivoted from that as soon as COVID hit and started raising money for an emergency program, so right out of the gate we tried to raise as much money as possible to start helping families.”
The aid took the form of grocery gift cards that were given to families in need with children in Seattle schools. Slavin said the Assistance League has given out $22,000 in grocery gift cards, with another $26,000 in gift cards set to go out soon.
Still, Slavin had that nagging thought of what else could be done, and is happy she found an answer.
“I was shocked at how much we accumulated, and it came together really quickly,” Slavin said. “We could not have pulled this off without our longstanding relationship with SPS family support workers and the McKinney-Vento Program, who are on the front lines with the students every day. They are absolute heroes and we feel grateful to have been able to help.”