Support Network: Journeys

Dorinda Otto and Jean Harris share how they and their church have been supporting and serving women experiencing homelessness at The Sophia Way.

Dorinda Otto

My journey with the Support Network began in 2007, when I started working with Angeline’s Eastside Women’s Center (AEWC) in Bellevue that was then administered by the YWCA. From time to time, a group of friends and I would provide dinner when needed. Later that same year, our church, Cross of Christ Lutheran, committed (and continues to do) to providing one lunch a month.

In 2012, the day center (Sophia’s Place) moved to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on Bellevue Way and was managed by The Sophia Way. There we helped the women feel like more of a community by hosting a Community Brunch every few months, which I enjoyed being a part of, sorting clothes and setting up a shopping area.

There are so many different ways we engage with and support The Sophia Way. When the Amazon Wish List came out, I encouraged our group to provide new plastic table cloths for the new facility. Our quilters provide quilts for the overnight shelter each year. One year there was a need for drivers to deliver the holiday gifts to the women and I signed up, making about 15 deliveries in my area in Bellevue. In the summer, the Support Network always holds a BBQ dinner and I helped with that for the first few years. This July I coordinated my first BBQ, supported by a generous group of volunteers, and it was very rewarding to see the women enjoy a special meal cooked outdoors.

Our church hosted the Emergency Shelter in October and November 2018, and we were able to provide blanket laundering services for the women (free of charge!) — a practice that has now been adopted instead of  a Sophia Way staff or volunteer washing 120 blankets every two weeks. We also provided a church host every night to assist the women.

As a board member of our church, I attend the Support Network meetings each month to learn how we can further support the mission of the Sophia Way and keep our congregation informed of needs through our weekly bulletin and seasonal newsletter.

For the past few years, I have been a table captain at The Sophia Way annual luncheon fundraiser, and my husband and I contributed to the building of the new Kirkland shelter. I am looking forward to the next chapter for The Sophia Way and intend to be part of it in anyway I can. Thank you for giving me a way to walk my faith.

Jean Harris

I don’t remember how I first heard about the movement that became The Sophia Way. I was my church’s representative at the Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council and attended the first meeting in which members of the faith community discussed an evening shelter for women experiencing homelessness.

At that meeting, we learned that while there was a day center where women could find shelter, there was no place for them to shelter at night and they were sleeping on the street or if they were fortunate, riding on buses. The day shelter was at the Bellevue First Congregational Church and they were planning to add showers and laundry facilities.

My church, Aldersgate United Methodist, as well as many others made a contribution to that effort. The plan was to be able to sleep 12 women and give them sleeping mats and lightweight sleeping bags that were washable. I remember a member of my church drove to Cabelo’s because they were having a sale and bought 12 sleeping bags. The churches were also asked to provide two meals a month and my church members provided the meals on the first Tuesday and Wednesday. We continue to serve a meal on the first Tuesday of every month at Sophia’s Place.

When the Emergency Shelter started, we provided space for women to sleep during the winter. We also served an evening meal and breakfast for them. Many other churches also hosted the shelter so that during the coldest months, women who could not find space at Bellevue First Congregational Church had a warm space to sleep and a meal.

As The Sophia Way has grown, we continued to support and donate to their programs – when they moved to St Luke’s Lutheran Church and more recently we donated to building the new shelter in Kirkland.

All of this has been because of the Support Network. It is a wonderful vehicle for people with a passion for The Sophia Way’s mission of ending homelessness for women.