Recently City Year Seattle, with the help of Comcast’s Signature Service Sponsorship, teamed up to show Seattle all the work that a group of dedicated idealists can accomplish in a day. Corps members met at three different places:
- The Bailey-Boushay House, a place where patients living with AIDS and other terminal illnesses can reside comfortably while surrounded by extensive support and therapy of all natures
- The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, the only official gathering place for the 600 member tribe
- The Elizabeth Gregory Home, a transitional housing and day center for women
At the Bailey-Boushay House, we learned about the history and mission of the place prior to service, which greatly contributed to our motivation and work ethic. To maintain the aesthetic beauty and artistic nature of the Bailey-Boushay House, we worked within the gardens, removing invasive species and preserving general upkeep.
David Pavlik, the volunteer program manager, conducted tours of the facility for corps members, allowing us to view the different art mediums distributed throughout the building. Pavlik also emphasized the importance of the facility’s numerous volunteers and their valued efforts to keep spirits alive and well.
After reflecting on our work at the end of the day, we were motivated to create our own piece of art for the Bailey-Boushay House. Inspired by a memorial branch in the mediation room, we constructed a branch-based piece of our own for the volunteer room. We wanted volunteers to have a place to hang their memories of the BBH, to give them an outlet for remembrance and hope.
Meanwhile, other corps members were at the Duwamish Longhouse, which sits by the river of the same name and is squeezed in the valley between West Seattle and the rest of the city. The current Chair of the tribe, Ms. Cecile Hansen, told us of her people’s tumultuous history and the injustices they are still fighting to this day.The difficult ongoing fight for federal tribal recognition seemed to be at the forefront of her mind, but her strength and sense of hopefulness were inspiring. City Year Seattle corps members helped the Longhouse staff create a multi-tiered garden and lent a hand in sprucing up their grounds for the springtime.
At the end of the day, we talked about the tribe’s painful history and their perseverance in the face of so much adversity, as well as what it meant to have given our time and energy to their cause. Indeed, our own part may have been small, but the garden we planted can now be seen by all as they enter the place that Seattle’s first people call their own.
Our service always feels purposeful, but working at the Elizabeth Gregory Home was truly inspiring. The Elizabeth Gregory Home is a two-year program that graduates its women at the end with job training and greater potential for success, and provides transitional housing and individualized case management to single adult women who are trying to overcome overwhelming obstacles. In a question and answer session, we were told that nearly 60% of the women who go through EGH were victims of domestic abuse and made homeless after fleeing their difficult situations.
Corps members at the Elizabeth Gregory Home spent the morning cleaning and organizing the kitchen. We scrubbed down the walls, stove, and washing machine and organized all the drawers and spices, as well as took inventory and cleaned out the pantry. The women take great care of the home but with a permanent staff of only two, there just isn’t enough time to do certain housekeeping tasks. When we left that afternoon, the oven and walls sparkled, drawers that had once been crammed with randomly placed kitchen items organized, and about 100 pounds of expired pantry items composted. One corps member said, “It felt so great doing all those little housekeeping tasks. Those women have bigger obstacles to overcome – I’m glad we could help them out in that small way.”
Many thanks to Comcast for sponsoring our service and helping to make our work possible. View our gallery to see more pictures of our corps members in action!
Text and photos by Melissa Jensen, Roukiatou Aboubacar and Malia Makowski, City Year Seattle/King County corps members