What began as seasonal assistance during the holidays has grown into a comprehensive effort, encompassing a range of initiatives to provide vital resources to our community members. From gift bags for women at Angeline's Day Center to backpacks filled with school supplies for children and teens, Epiphany Parish's contributions have evolved to cater to a broader group of YWCA program participants.
We heard from parishioner Sherilyn Peterson, one of Epiphany’s liaison’s, about the many ways Epiphany partners with our YWCA.
"I can’t remember how many years I have been a liaison between YWCA and Epiphany Parish," says Sherilyn. "I recall filling Thanksgiving baskets with my now 31-year-old son when he was about 3, so I’d guess around 30 years. When I started, we were mainly providing seasonal assistance (Thanksgiving and Christmas) to the 12 apartments across from YWCA’s Phillis Wheatley Branch, the closest YWCA facility to Epiphany Church."
These days, Epiphany Parish supports a broader group of YWCA program participants and offers different types of support — from seasonal gifts for YWCA housing residents to back-to-school supplies to apartment cleaning and more.
Epiphany’s seasonal giving for families living in YWCA’s housing and emergency shelter facilities has changed over the years. Originally, Christmas giving involved adopting families and shopping from a family wish list, wrapping the gifts, and delivering them to YWCA. At Thanksgiving, parishioners filled laundry baskets with food for Thanksgiving meals. That ended with the pandemic and gave way to YWCA’s preferred program of providing gift cards so that families can purchase their own items directly. Epiphany Parish has also provided gift bags for the women in Angeline's Day Center, which included items such as slippers, gloves, hats, scarves, and other necessities.
With the exception of a brief hiatus due to COVID, for the past few years, Epiphany has collected between 150 - 200 backpacks full of school supplies for children and teens living in YWCA housing. Led by parishioner Ann McCurdy, last year Epiphany provided 203 fully provisioned backpacks and $1,150 in Amazon gift cards so that families could buy supplies themselves. This year, YWCA has asked donors to switch entirely to gift cards to allow families to purchase their own items, with the goal of raising $10,000 for backpack gift cards.
Apartment cleaning and provisioning
For fifteen years, parishioner Ann Beck has led a crew of Epiphany volunteers who thoroughly clean vacated apartments in YWCA’s housing facilities. With gently used household items collected from Epiphany parishioners, they also bring in some furnishings, put sheets on the beds and towels in the bathroom, and stock the kitchen with a few basics, including some nonperishable grocery staples. During the pandemic, Ann did much of this work solo, but she has regathered a small team to do the work. In 2022 Ann’s team readied over 30 apartments.
Stocking our food bank
Epiphany has provided weekly deliveries of fresh produce for YWCA’s food bank since at least 2010. At the time, Nichelle Hilton, former YWCA Regional Resource Director and Epiphany parishioner, asked if the church could provide some fresh produce along with basic groceries she collected for residents at YWCA’s Yesler Terrace apartments. The increasing need for food assistance and the Yesler Terrace renewal several years ago prompted the food bank’s move to its present location behind YWCA’s Phillis Wheatley Branch.
Before the pandemic, the food bank served about 50 to 80 families. People lined up to “shop” for their needs when the doors opened at noon every Wednesday. The pandemic, of course, changed everything. The food bank now provides one or more bags of groceries to 315 families each week, bagged and delivered to their homes by a small army of heroic volunteers from Madrona and beyond, led by Megan Boyce-Jacobs, Food Bank Coordinator.
Purchased from the good people at MacPherson’s Fruit and Produce on Beacon Hill, Epiphany’s weekly gifts of fruit and vegetables supplement the produce available for the food bank from Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest.
"Our most recent delivery on July 19, for example, was 320 pounds of broccoli, 300 pounds of onions, and 280 pounds of bananas," says Epiphany’s liaison to the food bank, Holly Boone. "In the early years, weekly food costs ran to around $250–$350. Now, we try to stay within an average weekly budget of around $500, sometimes more or less. We started keeping more detailed records of produce orders at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020. Since that time, Epiphany has provided the food bank with almost $85,000 in produce." Holly usually delivers the produce to the food bank Wednesday mornings in her grandfather’s 1971 Chevy pickup truck.
Virtually all food bank produce costs are funded by parishioners’ donations to the Hunger Basket, an Epiphany institution. For many years, parishioners have dropped a few dollars in the small basket on their way to communion each Sunday.
Cash grants for special projects
With help from Epiphany’s annual Have-A-Heart fundraiser, which supports all of Epiphany's outreach efforts, Epiphany has provided cash gifts to fund programs like YWCA's Girls First (now called Femme2STEM), hygiene supplies for Angeline’s Day Center for Women, and special items for the food bank. In 2021, Epiphany bought a large commercial freezer and storage shed for the food bank and gave $2,500 for Angeline’s Day Center. With Epiphany’s $5,000 gift this year, the food bank purchased a motorized pallet jack, 2,000 pounds of rice, and infant formula.
Sherilyn says YWCA offers so many programs, anticipates the many needs of its program participants and successfully pulls in the community to augment its work. "It is gratifying to me to see how much care and respect YWCA has for its program participants, and how people’s lives are definitely changed by this assistance. I am also reminded by this work how many burdens are disproportionately borne by people of color, women, and refugee families. Our community at Epiphany is grateful to have such a readily available way to give back to our broader community."
Learn how you can help support women and families in our programs by visiting our in-kind giving page, or contact Lori Bugaj at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out how you can get started as a YWCA volunteer on our volunteer opportunities page.
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