Down in Kent, far from the hustling and bustling of Pioneer Square, on a street lined with warehouses, train tracks and shipping centers sits a lesser-known department of Seattle's Union Gospel Mission: the Distribution Center or the "DC" as it is more commonly known at the Mission. Inside the immense walls of this warehouse, are many tangible items that serve as lifelines for those in greatest need. From basic-needs items of water and food to clothes, socks, coats and even furniture, the Distribution Center is loaded with donated items to care for anyone in the Greater Seattle Region.
David Casey, Director of Gift in Kind at the DC, was kind enough to guide me on a tour of the massive DC and shared a little bit about a special event they host called Christmas Central: "For the holidays, the Mission supports roughly 260-270 families, which equates to about 800 kids (children at Hope Place and kids of dads at Riverton (Men's Recovery Program) and even partnerships with other organizations such as REST and after school programs), [whose parents] do not have the means right now to provide for their families. Everyone can get around a kid opening up a present on Christmas day. So, Christmas Central, the goal of it isn't to give gifts and presents, but to create a space of dignity where parents can actually pick out a gift for their child. We charge an [entry] fee of five dollars, so a parent can actually say they paid for this toy, rather than a stranger picking something out and wrapping it up. The parents can actually pick out what their kids like and wrap it themselves."
The DC essentially sets up a "shop" (or maybe a "shoppe"?), including wrapping stations, and presents to shop for, hot chocolate, treats and of course festive decorations. Right now they are hoping to get donations of 1000-2000 new gifts for children which can be purchased on their Amazon "Smile" page. This is an all-day event on December 16th. If you would like to purchase gifts for these families you can do so HERE.
Here's some other insights to the awesome things going down at the DC in Kent:
For the winter GIK provides 800 rescue blankets a week for search and rescue throughout King County
They have about 80 shoppers a month that come through GIK. Its UGM program, graduates and other non-profits
Last year GIK provided over 600,000 meals through shelters and 2,800 food baskets
This Thanksgiving GIK is handed out about 400 Turkeys through meals and food banks
David also shared some fantastic stories of redemption, including a wonderful story of a blind father whose house burned down tragically. Through his church he was connected to the DC and was able to furnish his new home. It is these kinds of stories that are daily happening down in Kent. If you or someone you know needs assistance or would like to volunteer the DC, please visit the Mission's Volunteer Hub.
-Nathan A. Ryan