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.”
Kathy Katzen, office manager at Loyal Heights Elementary School in northwest Seattle, saw a need during the coronavirus, and she helped deliver.
Literally, as she takes bags of groceries and gift cards every week to families of students in need.
“When school was in session, the kids (of families in need) would get a bag of food to take home over the weekend,” Katzen said. “When we stopped going to school because of COVID-19, we decided that that program could still be carried out. I knew a lot of families depended on that. It would just take a team of people to go to the food bank and deliver the food.”
Thanks to the generosity of students’ families, deliveries also contain gift cards, to stores such as Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Target. Katzen put out a note to the school community and said there were families who could use extra help, and she was overwhelmed by the response, with about 40 families pitching in.
“I have to say that I work in the most amazing community ever,” Katzen said. “They have wrapped their arms around us with gift cards and trying to help out as much as they can. It takes a village. It’s not just me. It’s other members of the staff. It’s just the community wanting to help out, and we have a very giving community.”
The number of families who receive deliveries varies each week, but averages about 22. Katzen delivers to about 15 of the families.
“It’s very rewarding,” Katzen said.
Katzen credited the school’s PTA for providing funds that have gone to gift cards. Money from the Alliance for Education and the Right Now Needs Fund also help pay for gift cards, as well as utility bills and rent. Katzen tries to match families in need with those funds.
“I also gather information on where our families can get help with things like rent and free internet,” Katzen said.
Katzen tries very hard to deflect any credit for what she has done, preferring to give it to others, including other staff members at the school. She likes to say it takes a village.
“The (school) building is compassionate,” she said. “We have compassionate families that go there, and we take care of our families, and I am happy to be a part of that. It takes a lot of people to support this, and I am not the only one. I am just the point person.”
It did not surprise Jody Fewell, a teacher at Loyal Heights, that Katzen is stepping up. Fewell said that is just routine for Katzen.
“She just has this infectious way of inspiring people to be better, and to do what we can to help others,” Fewell said. “That’s just who she is. Once we hear Kathy needs something, we’re all hands on board, because we know she comes from this really great place where she is always trying to help people. It’s pretty easy to want to help when Kathy is involved. She has these families in her heart, all the time. She is so above and beyond in everything she does.”
Said Katzen: “It’s just something I knew that I could do and take on and I feel blessed to be a part of it.”