That New Shoe Smell
“This is our fourth year of Care Day and we have always done a shoe drive,” Monette tells us. “Each year we would collect gently used shoes, take them home and wash them in our laundry rooms before the event. This year we got a grant from Eastside Community Aid and were able to buy brand new shoes for Care Day, so it smells like new shoes! (A much better smell).” Monette, one of the founding organizers, explains to Chris, Knathan, and I about the different ways they get donations for Care Day in Bothell. I couldn’t help but instantly think of this passage: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2.
Monette's message was poignant: to these guests, Jesus, smells like new shoes...sometimes He smells like fresh cut grass, a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, or the perfume your grandmother wore; however today, in Bothell, He smells like new shoes.
The Care Day event is impressive, to say the least. Nearly 70 booths ranging from the Beyond Project (which provided haircuts), the Rotary club serving a taco lunch, to mental health experts assisting with appointments. Homeless service providers – Mary’s Place, Cocoon House, Vision House, and Sophia Way were also present. Guests were walked through the process to ensure short lines as they navigate through a gym full of providers. “We waited less than one minute to get a family portrait taken,” one guest tells us, and pulled out a printed out 8” x 11” photo placed in a clear protective cover.
It is an intentional service to walk with the guests as often, when you are in need, you can expect to wait in long lines. It is rare that the services provided for free come with any sense of convenience. This is especially true in Bothell. “Service providers are located at central hubs, not near the county lines.” One of the organizers tells us, “We are able to get people here from both counties [King and Snohomish], at the same booth, so no matter what side of the line people fall on they can access services. It’s one stop shopping.” Tim King, one of the organizers mentioned he is thankful to be at Northshore Junior High, which places them in closer proximity to those in need and near a bus line. When they started four years ago, they were using a local high school, but access was a challenge.
It is hard to imagine this event started after a small group read the book The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. The group felt compelled to do something tangible with their faith. So in 2014 they launched Care Day and served 240 people. While in 2015 they served 420, last year they served more than 550 and were well prepared to serve 1,000 this year.
The organizers empower different groups to own each part of the Care Day event. A church may do a grocery drive, and then put together bags of groceries for guests to take home, and will volunteers to run that particular booth. A different group will take on hygiene bags, or do a diaper drive, and those individuals will own that part of the Care Day. It is clear that Care Day touches each individual involved, from volunteers, to service providers, to guests. It was great to witness what it looks like when people who love Jesus decide that sometimes the aroma of Christ smells like brand new pair of shoes.
UPDATED HIGHLIGHTS FROM CARE DAY 2017:
Care Day 2017 was great – the second year at Northshore Jr High, great service providers, so many volunteers and guests, so much needed help for our neighbors. Here are statistical tidbits of the day:
68 local service organizations
110 volunteers, from local churches and community groups
Guests were primarily (66%) from Bothell, Kirkland, Woodinville, and Kenmore (Northshore)
76% were new to Care Day
38% were disabled
31% were seeking work
32% of guests (61) were homeless; half were from Northshore
57% age 26-50, 30% age 51+
20% were families with children in Northshore and Lake Washington schools
Items provided included groceries, bike helmets, haircuts, shoes, family portraits, books, housing assistance, legal assistance, job searches, and a wide range of medical and family and youth services from 68 local service providers.