Friday, June 8, 2018

Sew Kind! The Gift is in the Giving

A quilt is a special gift, one that can spread comfort to those in need. Just take a look around our own community and think, ‘who needs a quilt?’ Homeless shelters, women’s shelters and hospitals are a great place to start.

United Way of Pierce County has been procuring items for individuals and families in need in our community for many years and there are a number of local businesses and donors who have contributed. 

However, few of the donations are as personal as the gift of homemade quilts pieced together by two secret sewing angels, who have taken their passion in pursuit of providing comfort.

As you can imagine, it takes time, effort and money to make these quilted blankets.  However, the quilting duo (who chose not share their names) think everyone deserves sweet comfort, especially members of our community who may be forgotten or overlooked.

The women are members of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tacoma where their church sponsors a group called ‘Sew Kindness.’ 

“We have been members of this sewing group for approximately twelve years.  In the beginning, our group was quite large but now there are just a few of us left.  The church generously donates a space to meet, set up and work each week.  They also provide us with an area to store all of our sewing supplies.”

For the past several years, they have applied for and received grants through the Thrivent Financial Group, which is a Lutheran financial and insurance company based in Minnesota. They receive these grants through a special program they call Thrivent Action Team Projects. These monetary stipends assist in accomplishing community-based project goals and objectives. 

“We feel very blessed to be able to receive these funds to pay for supplies and materials for our quilting group.  Although we have no knowledge of who receives our blankets, we know that through United Way of Pierce County’s Gifts In Kind program,  they are being distributed to deserving families in need.”

According to Phyllis Roepke, Sr. Associate, Gifts In Kind, United Way of Pierce County, “There is just nothing that compares to the comfort of a handmade quilt that has been pieced together with love.”

On a related note, we are sad that Phyllis will be retiring in June after more than 10 years with United Way, but we are so happy that she will be pursuing personal dreams. Phyllis has made a herculean effort in acquiring donations from companies that include the Men’s Wearhouse, IKEA, Bed, Bath and Beyond and other regional businesses as well as member organizations like churches and women’s groups and of course, local families.

Pete Grignon, CFO, United Way of Pierce County noted, “Phyllis brings joy and enthusiasm to the job that is hard to replace. She has organized our annual holiday toy and book drive as well as getting beautiful professional attire that boosts job seekers’ confidence. She will be missed and never forgotten.” 

If you or someone you know would like to make a gift of new or unused clothing, office furniture, home furnishings, appliances, toys, bedding and toiletries, please contact us at 253-597-7485.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Community-Minded Students Inspire Others through Leadership

Willie Stewart became a pioneer in 1970 when he was named to lead Lincoln High School and he became the Tacoma School District’s first African American principal. He made a name for himself by setting the standard for success by living his true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before. His leadership in the Pierce County community is truly inspiring.
Willie Stewart and his friend, Karl Anderson, co-founded the Willie Stewart Community Service Scholarship 19 years ago to honor the commitment and dedication of students across Pierce County who give back to their community.

On May 31, United Way of Pierce County was proud to commemorate Willie Stewart’s contributions to Pierce County, during an awards ceremony. The scholarship ceremony recognized 19 high school seniors who have given back to their community, locally and globally, through volunteer service.

Stewart noted in his remarks that after he served in the Army and later became Superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, he realized the importance of serving your community. He wanted to find a way to recognize the hard working students who dedicate their time and energy to community service.

“There is no other place I would rather be than right here honoring these youth who give us hope and who deserve to be recognized.”-- Willie Stewart.

Hats off to: Reese Anselmi, Rimpal Bajwa, Kelsey Bell, Aaron Crook, Callisa DeHut, Alyssa Gries, Samantha Griffith, Madeline Lambert, Michelina Luong, Sidney Mueller, Lina Park, Kelly Phan, Angel Reddy, Mackenzie Richards, Eve Robinson, Alexis Tisby, Spencer Wesenberg, Hannah Wisti and Caroline Yi.

One recipient said she was 'delighted to receive the scholarship in the first place and it also helps to relieve some of the financial burden on me and my family.'  All students and families shared that they were both honored and glad to meet Mr. Stewart.  

One parent noted that this scholarship is a unique opportunity to show appreciation for the efforts of these students to engage with the community, beyond participating in their school activities and ‘I hope it continues so my younger daughter can apply.’

It's impressive today to see so many young people taking charge to lead positive change. We salute the fine young people who accepted the Willie Stewart award and we are eager to hear how they will choose to use servant leadership to improve conditions for others.