Assistance League of the Eastside Holiday Home Tour - Interview with Cyndy Cross
April 6, 2018
With the holidays just around the corner we inevitably all start thinking about gifts, food, and family. With such a happy time of year quickly approaching (how is it almost Thanksgiving already?!) it is important to remember that this is also a season of giving.
Here at Windermere Kirkland we are passionate about helping organizations within the community year-round. One of those organizations is Assistance League of the Eastside, who has given $5,854,291 back to the community since their start in 1997. Each year this incredible organization puts on the Holiday Home Tour where participants can marvel at the beautiful holiday decorations in local homes, and this year our office will be one of the stops on the tour!
We wanted to shed some light and share more about what Assistance League of the Eastside does so we interviewed Cyndy Cross, Chair of the Holiday Home Tour!
1. Can you explain what Assistance League of the Eastside does?
Assistance League is an 89 year old organization with chapters around the country, we like to say it’s the best known secret. Our goal is to strengthen our community by making a positive difference in the lives of children and adults touched by hardship or violence. We serve Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell, and beyond. Our independent chapter here on the Eastside was established in 1997. Since then we have established four main philanthropic programs:
Operation School Bell -
This program helps families who cannot afford to buy their children new clothes at the start of the school year. We work with local school counselors who identify the families that are in this kind of need. And you would be surprised, there is a lot of poverty on the Eastside even though it is an affluent area. There are homeless children living in shelters or in cars with their parents. Our program helps to build students’ self esteem when they go to school with new clothes that they have selected. Each year we partner with a local retailer, we then purchase gift cards and our volunteers sign up for shopping nights. We spend time with the children and help them pick out their favorite items. This experience really makes a positive impact on these children. Since the start of this program we have clothed 50,146 students.
Assault Survivor Kits -
This program helps to restore dignity for assault survivors in hospitals throughout Washington. When a victim goes to the hospital after being assaulted, their clothing is normally taken as forensic evidence. After being released from the hospital, victims were often sent home in a paper hospital gown, adding to the trauma already experienced. We work with hospitals to provide comfy sweats, underwear, socks, and other personal care items. Although we don’t directly interact with the individuals receiving our survivor kits, the nurses and hospitals tell us that they provide comfort and security to victims at a time when it is most needed. Since the start of this program we have helped 24,190 assault survivors.
Starting Over Support -
When women and children flee from domestic violence they often will end up in a domestic violence shelter with few possessions. Our Starting Over Support program provides a comfortable transition for these survivors with baskets of basic household items. The basket itself is a laundry hamper filled with new sheets, towels, toiletries, warm slippers, and 80 necessary daily items. Although most shelters are secured to allow families to rebuild their lives in safety, we host holiday events like our Mother’s Day lunch and a Christmas celebration with fun activities, a photographer to take new family photos and a chance for the children to shop for gifts for Mom. It really is about giving hope and support to these families as they create new beginnings. Since the start of this program we have helped 8,201 domestic violence survivors.
Help For Homeless -
This is one of our newest programs as the number of women and children experiencing homelessness continues to grow in our community. We primarily work with a women’s shelter in Bellevue and a shelter serving women and children in Duvall. We provide welcome baskets filled with essentials for families entering shelters - sheets, towels, robes, slippers, personal care items, and things that we might take for granted in our daily lives - like a planner! Most of the women don’t have a computer, so we try to think of everything they might need as they transition from dependence to independence. We also host social events, like birthday parties for the kids and dinners and brunch for the women in shelter to create a sense of community. Since the start of this program we have helped 2,476 homeless people.
2. How do you raise money?
We are so grateful for the generous contributions from people like Mike Connolly and organizations like the Windermere Foundation. We rely on grants and in-kind sponsors that donate items for our programs. In addition to the ongoing support Mike and the Windermere team provides, he is opening his office as a stop on our Holiday Home Tour.
The Holiday Home Tour and our Spring Event, a dinner and auction, are our two major fundraising events. We are proud that 86% of all the money we raise goes directly to the people we serve. And the biggest way we make sure that the money is used for people in need is that every single person in this organization is a volunteer! We all roll up our sleeves and get the job done. It is really a team effort!
3. Tell us more about the Holiday Home Tour
So this is a really fun event that helps us not only raise awareness for our organization, but it gives the community a great way to get in the holiday spirit. This year’s tour is on Friday December 6th from 10am-7pm in Kirkland. Tickets cost $35. The tour consists of four beautiful homes and a Pop-Up Holiday Shop in Kirkland - all decorated to the nines for Christmas. And new this year: the Kirkland Windermere office art show featuring local artists from “Artist’s Outside The Box”! The walls will be hung with art as well as gifts that these artists have created. Everything is for purchase and a percentage of the proceeds go to our organization. So you can shop and make a difference for the community all at the same time!
Get your tickets here: https://www.aleastside.org/holidayevent
4. How does someone get involved?
As an all volunteer organization there are many ways someone can get involved. Go to our website https://www.aleastside.org/joinus to learn about our upcoming informational coffee.
5. And our last question, what is your favorite memory with the Assistance League?
Wow, that’s a great question! When I first got involved I joined the Help For Homeless committee since that was one area I knew the least about. Eager to learn more, I did not realize the impact this program would have on me. I had a misconception of what type of people became homeless. At a Chapter meeting, an elegant, articulate woman from a shelter we support spoke to us about her experience. She shared that she had been employed as a bus driver when she was in a car accident with an uninsured driver. Her injuries made her unable to work and she lost her job. This one unfortunate incident led her to miss one rent payment which made her “unrentable” ultimately making her homeless. She was devastated and sought help at a women’s shelter for 6 months. Through the resources at the shelter she was able to get re-employed and now works driving busses for a local tech company and is no longer homeless!
When she moved from the shelter to transitional housing, Assistance League of the Eastside hosted a holiday party for the women at the group home. When we asked her what we could do to make her time there feel more like home, she asked for a barbecue so the group could eat meals outside together. She told us how touched she was that we took the time to listen, asked what we could do for her and made it happen.
I was truly touched by this and it forever changed my perspective about homlessness, especially on the Eastside. It made me realize that it could really happen to anyone. So this is my favorite memory because we made a difference in someone’s life.
To learn more about the Assistance League and the impact they make visit, https://www.aleastside.org/ and be sure to buy your tickets for the Holiday Home Tour on Friday December 6th!
Our goal at Windermere Kirkland is to be a resource for the community. Aside from helping you buy or sell your home, our team is dedicated to adding value to our city. Every other Tuesday we will be posting a blog post highlighting different people, businesses, communities, and more throughout Kirkland. Stay tuned!