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ACTS OF KINDNESS

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ACTS OF KINDNESS by Allyson Marrs


These members donate their time and effort into making the communities we live that much better. From big to small, no act of kindness should go unnoticed.

Members: Therese Andersen and Kim Stone
Cause: Baby Basics of Bellevue

Feature photoSince its founding in southern New Jersey in 1992, the Baby Basics (babybasicsnational.org) charity has donated more than 3 million diapers nationwide. The Bellevue branch, however, is still in its own diapers. Therese carried her work with the organization over from Michigan seven months ago.

"I was on the board of an affiliate group in Michigan and told a friend of mine several times about it and how it was such a great cause," Therese said. "One day she said to me, 'Are you ever going to start one here?'  So, I quit talking about it and got the ball rolling."

5 REFLECTIONSThe mission is simple: provide diapers to working, poor families, and offer a support network to help them cope with life's challenges.

While Therese worked on the board in Michigan, she coordinated volunteers and organized socials for the families. "As a mother of three, I knew how difficult taking care of a newborn was, and I saw how meaningful the program was to these families," she said. She saw the need for the program in Bellevue, and with the help of Kim, another affiliate was born.

Now, the ladies are busy finding families and donations. Gathering supplies is not as simple as it may sound. The women are always busy finding referral agencies to bring new families on board, and recruiting and coordinating volunteers to help with the acquisition and distribution of supplies.

"We are fortunate to be part of such a giving community. I am constantly surprised at the generosity of the families in this area," Therese said.

Every penny donated goes directly to covering baby bottoms. "This is possible because of a community of volunteers and sponsors who graciously share their resources, time and talents," Kim said.

Both Kim and Therese dedicate their time as volunteers full-time, balancing this with being moms. "Both my husband and I have seen how our volunteer work has helped to shape our kids and us," Kim said. "Our sons are both compassionate and giving individuals. I hope my kids will become responsible and giving adults who will engage with their community in meaningful ways."

"My family?" Therese said. "They drive me nuts, but they keep me going, make me laugh and challenge me every day to become a better person."

But now the continuing challenge is to help other growing families with basic needs.
"There are a lot of babies needing diapers, and there are many ways to help," Therese said. Baby Basics is "helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community."

Get Involved: Email babybasicsbellevue@live.com or call 425-454-3084 x3205.

Feature photoMember: Kay Bowman
Cause: Overlake Hospital Medical Center Bandage Ball

A bit of fun can do a whole lot of good. As co-chairperson for Overlake Hospital Medical Center's Bandage Ball, Kay was involved with the 2012 event from the beginning. It's a night of generous support from the community to help the self-supporting medical facility keep doing what it does best: heal.

The money raised during the Ball supports the hospital's annual Fund in Need. During 2012, that included the development of the new NICU. "Overlake has more than met the needs of my family and friends," Kay said of her reasons for getting involved. "The community within Overlake is very special."

Once Kay learned that Overlake depends on donors and receives no tax or state support, she wanted to join the legions of members giving their time to the center. It wasn't long after joining the Bandage Ball Committee that she was asked to co-chair, where she increased attendance numbers and was flooded with support.

5 REFLECTIONS"It was a pleasure to be in the company of so many women who were eager to join forces. My role as co-chair was one of ease and effort," Kay said. Part of her responsibilities during last year's event included facilitating and hosting meetings, and organizing outreach efforts. With the auction, volunteers needed to procure the items by meeting with community members directly.

"The NICU needed to be built, and I was confident our community would support the needs of our youngest, most vulnerable patients: our babies."

Between the marketing theme, the room layout, colors, decorations, guest list and menu, details created the event. After all of this, Kay was able to present with Overlake's President and CEO, Craig Hendrickson and share the room with more than 700 guests.

"Members need to know that Overlake Hospital and the community will benefit greatly with their involvement—at any level," Kay said.

When Kay's not giving her time to Overlake, she and her husband are working with their interior design consulting company, Bowman Designs. They have two teenage sons, who, Kay said, support her volunteering passion, specifically with Overlake.

"Volunteering has enormous impact on how our medical community serves the Eastside," she said. "We need each other."

Get Involved: Visit overlakehospital.org.

Feature photoMember: Libby Miller
Cause: Hooves with Heart at Holly Hill Farm

Teens working with animals to better their relationships with people—this is part of Hooves with Heart's overall focus. This nonprofit in Bothell is designed to use experiential learning to strengthen life skills for the youth in the Puget Sound who need it most.

The organization works with ages 6 to 21 and helps build basic life skills, increase self-esteem, cope with learning differences and seek assistance to help strengthen teamwork. "Hooves with Heart was born out of my recognition that teens are struggling with developing basic life skills such as communication, respect, responsibility, sense of purpose, value and compassion," Libby said.

Libby launched the pilot program in 2011, and since then, it's continued to grow; they've added more animals to the farm (chickens, and, coming soon, goats) and a garden. "Authentic connections to people and animals are being abandoned," Libby said, which is why she feels it's so important for youth to forge lasting and meaningful ones on the farm.

"Many youth who are participating in our programming have come from, or are facing, challenging life circumstances." Some of these challenges include drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues and criminal records.

With the help of author Leif Hallberg, who penned "Walking the Way of the Horse," the farm transitioned from a foundation model to a full-scale experiential learning organization in the winter of 2011. "This diverse environment provides an opportunity for youth to practice and hone the important life skills they learned from the horses," Libby said.

5 REFLECTIONSThe students learn how to be a part of daily life, specifically, the animals'. It's a lot of hard work, and it requires the kids to work together toward one goal, allowing them to discover personal talents and skills. They become a part of the habitat, learning about the various species, and basic equipment maintenance and repair.

This is not a mental health or physical therapy program (although there may be some benefits), but rather an educational center in a diverse environment.

For the future, Libby plans to build the herd of horses, add more animals and expand gardens, and increase the amount of educators on site, in order to serve more youth.

Much like it is for the youth, the farm is a sanctuary for the animals that have been abused or pushed into tough circumstances. Consequently, the students see their own lives mirrored in the animals', and in turn, they affect each other's lives.

Libby said that the farm's work with youth has increased the retention rate of kids staying off the streets, which, for her, is one of the greatest signs of success. "We give them a reason to get up in the morning. What they develop when they step foot on our farm is responsibility for themselves and their community."

Get Involved: Visit hooveswithheart.org.

Feature photoMember: Jolene Hoover
Cause: Peyton's Ranch and Comfort Critters

At six years old, Jolene's niece, Peyton, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. Her mobility became limited, and her life soon changed. Always an animal lover, Peyton found comfort with them during her diagnosis, but when she became confined to a stroller, her love of life dulled.

But after a friend gifted her with a rabbit she could hold in the stroller, her pain and anxiety seemed to ease. Watching the bunny, or petting it, provided much-needed distraction from lab tests and doctor visits.

Peyton was the inspiration behind the ranch, and the first beneficiary of its advantages. "Children facing life-threatening illnesses, like cancer, live with bodies that don't work the way they should or once did," Jolene said.

"We found that ultimately it was the animals and the children's interactions with them that provided the palliative effect of relieving their symptoms and improving their quality of life."

In April 2011, Jolene's sister Elizabeth Rudkin and her daughter Peyton created the ranch. Now, its mission is to bring comfort and smiles to children facing life-threatening illness through the love of animals, much like they did for Peyton.

"At Peyton's Ranch, the animal interaction is the therapy. Our focus is not on visiting hospitals and other facilities, but on providing an experience based on the unique needs and wishes of each child," Jolene said.

The volunteers at the ranch coordinate services with families and pediatric palliative care professionals to make each experience special for each child. It's an interactive therapy, meant to improve the quality of life for the children it serves.

5 REFLECTIONSJolene's focus is fundraising and planning events to keep these services possible, and this keeps her more than busy. She works with the Board of Directors and handles administrative duties, which vary from bookkeeping to marketing to insurance coverage and program research.

When Jolene finds a free moment, she spends it outdoors with her boxer, Chloe, or hiking, running and skiing, while balancing her job as a mortgage broker.

Because Peyton's Ranch is still new, Jolene said they are always seeking mentors, partners and funding to keep current programs running and to grow their operational abilities. Families facing childhood illness do not have to pay for the services at Peyton's Ranch, and it's important to Jolene and the volunteers that the service is hassle free because the families "have enough to worry about."

Jolene's and her sister's only concern is doing anything they can to put smiles on children's faces. "The animals Peyton always loved played a profound role in providing her comfort and improving her quality of life, which shaped our mission to help other children like her."

Get Involved: Visit peytonsranch.org. To refer a child, call 253-534-5617 or email info@peytonsranch.org.


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