Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

The ask, year two December 17, 2010

Filed under: Support Seattle Works — seattleworks @ 6:52 pm

 Brought to you by this year’s volunteer of the year.  He’s continually earning his title.  Take it away ace Thomas:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The short: I ask you to support Seattle Works by giving $25 today. The link is  

If you need some convincing or want to read about me crying, then read on.

    The long: This is my second annual request for my friends and family to support Seattle Works.  This is part of the Seattle Works “21 Fun” campaign that marks Seattle Works’s 21st anniversary.  As many of you know from listening to me babble on incessantly, Seattle Works is a non-profit organization that strives to engage folk in their community. Seattle Works does so by providing volunteer and leadership opportunities to engage citizens and develop emerging community leaders. Seattle Works, in addition to the tremendous number of volunteer hours directly coordinated, has alums in civic organizations all over the Seattle area. It truly is helping to build the next generation of civic leaders in Seattle.

    While that is all well and good, it is only a small part of why I ask you contribute today. Seattle Works has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of many of the people that have been involved with the organization. Seattle Works has given me the opportunity to meet great friends, deepen relationships with those that I already knew, and become part of a vibrant community of people who care about the place in which they live. As a side benefit, I have been able to help others through work at parks, schools, food banks, child care centers, and homeless shelters.

    As an example of one the projects that our volunteer team has done this year, we participated in a project coordinated by Seattle Works’s HandsOn Leadership program. In that program, participants learn to plan, fund, and execute volunteer projects in their communities. Our project was located at the Hamlin-Robinson School on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Hamlin-Robinson is a school that serves students with dyslexia and related language difficulties. We painted new play areas, revived landscaping around the school, and cleaned throughout the facility.  After the project, one of the Seattle Works board members used photos taken by our team (many or all of which were taken by Jesse Stanley) to create the following 3 minute video:

I just watched it again and I would be lying if I told you that I had dry eyes at the end of that.  It was a great day and I am so happy that I got to be part of it.

Look, Seattle Works does great things. It means a ton to me. It means a ton to the people that it serves. 
Please help the work continue.
I realize $25 is not insignificant but, just think, now you don’t have to buy me that Shake Weight for Christmas. The link again:

Thanks for reading and for giving,



Team Happy Hours at the North Helpline Food Bank December 21, 2009

Filed under: Team Works,Volunteer — seattleworks @ 7:20 pm

This month my team and I volunteered at the North Helpline Food Bank. This was actually one of the first projects where we interacted with people who directly benefited from the services being provided (most times the organization is closed on the day we are there, or we are helping organize/clean up behind the scenes). It was very rewarding to have the opportunity to talk with the people coming to the food bank.

It was an eye opener to see how many people come through the food bank line in even just one shift and to think that this might be the only place they are getting food for the week. I was glad to see that the food bank was able to hand out fresh fruits and vegetables because that is so important and I know some food banks aren’t able to do so due to storage/food spoilage etc.

The highlight of the day was when a little 4 year-old boy named Cody, who was going through the line with his mom and sister, jumped up on the table to give me a big hug and tell me that he loved me. This was after knowing him for all of 45 seconds, but it was so heartfelt and definitely put a smile on my face. I can’t wait to have a chance to go help out at the food bank again and was glad to hear that they are moving to a new location in January that is much much larger and will allow them to help even more people on a weekly basis.

– Cameron, Team Happy Hours

From TW.Q4.2009-Team Works

Volunteer Perspective: August Team Works August 25, 2009

Filed under: Team Works,Volunteer — seattleworks @ 4:52 pm

Each month Team Works volunteers focus on a specific community issue. August = education. In addition to volunteer projects, teams were challenged to collect school supplies for Stuff the Bus and to send a childhood school picture.

A number of teams collected items for the cause, and we got one adorable photo: Celeste is on the first row, third from the left.


 And here are some perspectives from team Little Lebowski’s Urban Achievers about their project at Cleveland High School:

“Project Mulch – We mulched plant beds, shoveled mulch and moved mounds of mulch from places that had too much to places that did not. It was hard, physical labour and the end result was real/ visible – very gratifying in every respect.”  -Akshat

“Last Saturday, my volunteer team participated in gardening the Cleveland High School in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. This was by far the most demanding task I have volunteered for. According to Seattle School District coordinator, Gretchen DeDecker, we moved 30 yards of mulch.

The school is a historic building which reminded me of my previous schools in Turkey. Working in the school yard kept taking me back to my childhood when I was in high school; not the working part but the part when I spent the class breaks playing soccer outside the classroom or simply doing everything that I don’t do today. It’s amazing how 10 minute break felt like hours back then.”    -Mehmet Ali

Sound like fun? Registration for the latest round of Team Works opens Wed 8/24!


From the field: working up a sweat in the Andes December 12, 2008

Filed under: Service Trips — seattleworks @ 6:01 pm

Greetings, my name is Thomas Buford and I have the privilege of telling you about a trip to Chinchero, Peru, that I shared with fourteen extraordinary people.  The trip, which lasted twelve days during November 2008, was a partnership between Crooked Trails, Seattle Works, and the Young Professionals International Network.  I have volunteered with Seattle Works programs for a couple of years and was made aware of this trip through the Seattle Works newsletter.  After discussing the trip with my wife, Laura, we decided that joining this adventure was an incredible opportunity that could not be passed up.  In retrospect, that was a great decision.

On paper, the trip sounded amazing: travel to the town of Chinchero, stay with a host family there, and work on a boarding facility for children so that they could attend the school in Chinchero.  The children’s current school day looks like this: wake up, walk one to two hours to school, spend seven hours at school, walk one to two hours home, work on their families’ farms in the afternoon, and then to sleep.  Obviously, these are not ideal conditions for the education of a child.  Add into this mix that many of the children are orphans and that the children’s nutrition in their villages is meager, it becomes clear that learning would be very, very difficult.

Enter our host family (and the heros of this story) – Paulino, Vilma, Faustina, Maria, Raul, Roxana, Franklin, and Chaska.  Paulino and Vilma saw this situation and did not sit idly by the wayside.  Instead, they took a step that few would make – they proposed to build an addition onto their home.  The addition would contain a room where fifteen children could sleep, a library where they could study, a computer center where their education could be enhanced, and a kitchen where they could be nourished.  With the help of a few previous Crooked Trails trip members, the dream started to become reality.  When we arrived in Chinchero, the walls, built from adobe, and a roof, built from bamboo and thatch, had been constructed.  It was our task to build the floor.

As we began our work, it became clear that construction in Chinchero is a little different: first, there are no machines and, second, Chinchero sits approximately 12,500 feet above sea level.  So, as we started to shovel out what seems now to be an impossible amount of dirt, we from sea level started to breath…and sweat…and breath more…and sweat more.  Despite being folks that mostly work in offices, my cohorts on the trip adapted and excelled.  They removed countless wheelbarrows full of dirt up a steep hill, laid tons of rock that will serve as a foundation for the floor, and mixed, wheel barrowed, and laid a massive amount of concrete for the floor.  Despite being tired, oxygen starved, and really dirty (especially you, Freddy), they always stood ready to do more.  The memory of the work we did together is one that will last for a long, long time.

As important as the work was, the people involved in this trip are what made it special.  First, the people on the trip, including our guide Todd, were incredible.  It was great to live with these folks for two weeks.  Truly remarkable, they are.  Second, Paulino and Vilma and their family are truly inspiring.  Despite the great vision they have shown and the sacrifices they are making, the family is humble and kind, warm and welcoming.  They took us into their home, fed us, sheltered us, and made us feel like a part of their family.  Maria’s cooking was the perfect antidote to tired feet.  Vilma’s laugh immediately lights up all around her.  Raul, Roxana, and Franklin’s loving care for their three year old sister, Chaska, was truly amazing.  Words do no justice to the beauty of this family.

Finally, one event on this trip was so unpredictable and so incredible that I am still a little unsure that it actually happened.  The day before we were to leave Chinchero, Paulino and Vilma took us to a village where eight of the children currently live.  We expected a quiet walk around the village and then quickly back to Chinchero.  Instead, as we approach the village, we are met by a roadblock: residents of the village, holding an arch of foliage, are blocking the way.  We disembark the vehicles and are met by song and ceremonial dance.  They guide us to a nearby field where we find that we have been set as the guests of honor at a celebration.  Almost all members of the village have gathered to celebrate the receipt of seven milk cows, a gift from Crooked Trails donors and previous travelers.  While we definitely got some credit for that gift that we did not deserve, it does not change the truly awe-inspiring nature of that afternoon.

We feasted on potato soup and cuy (read as guinea pig), danced with our hosts, blessed the cows, played games with the children, enjoyed an incredible amount of fellowship with all involved, and, finally, long after the sun had disappeared, danced all the way back to our vehicles.  The colors, sounds, sights, and tastes of that day are something I struggle to comprehend.  I still cannot believe that was an experience that I was lucky enough to have.

Looking back at this trip, I think the best single word to describe this trip is unique.  The people on the trip, the guide from Crooked Trails, Paulino and Vilma and their family, the work we did, and the people we met: each of these things is unique.  They cannot be duplicated.  I cannot imagine a better experience and I am very thankful for my ability to participate in such an incredible trip.


New Orleans in July July 14, 2008

Filed under: Service Trips — seattleworks @ 5:48 pm

Posted by a volunteer who participated in our July volunteer trip in New Orleans.

You do not know what hot is until you swing a hammer with all your might for an hour in 90 degree heat and 60 percent humidity.  A person would have to be out of their mind to do this on their dime, for no pay, and with no hope of success.

We came down practically strangers to each other.  We joined a rag-tag operation that didn’t have money for shiny vans with logos, t-shirts, or swag.  We were refurbishing a three-story, 111 year-old school; a project that has no budget, no resources, and a deadline to be done by September when school starts.

It was nuts.

But on the first day, we all grabbed hammers and brushes and started doing what we could, with what we had.  And it was hot, insanely hot.

And at night we lamented our fate, laughed instead of cried, and got to making lemonade out of the hill of lemons we found.  The food tasted better.  The drinks were more refreshing.  You looked across the table and saw someone who knew your pain and was laughing with you.

It was New Orleans!  And we mixed our sweat with her soil, fed our blood to her mosquitos, and hopefully drank so much that those little leech-bastards flew right into the path of an oncoming bus.

But I digress.

In the lower 9th Ward, we saw a rural-looking area of sparse houses and fields of waist-high grass.  This used to be a dense neighborhood of shotgun houses, packed like sardines.  This neighborhood had the highest homeownership rate in the USA – over half – and for many, these houses were the only bastion they had against destitution and ruin.

It’s gone now.  The neighborhood where families had lived for generations without ever leaving New Orleans has been destroyed.  When the waters crested at 26 feet in the wake of the Katrina floods, anything less than two stories was submerged.  Houses floated up off their foundations, were crushed by currents, or just so damaged that the only way to rebuild was to gut them to the studs and start over.

I heard a cabbie in the French Quarter calling the citizens of the 9th Ward ‘lazy’, citing that “after Hurricane Betsy there was 8 feet of water in the 9th Ward, and that the people stayed, worked together, and were nearly back to normal in three months.”

People don’t leave New Orleans.  Betsy was 40 years ago.  The ‘lazy’ people he was talking about are the same ones that rebuilt the city in 1965 too.

But the people who lived here have been scattered across the country.  There are no neighbors to “work together” with.  The insurance companies will not be paying for replacement homes.

The neighbors then, have to come from somewhere else.


“I don’t know if you know this, but July is STILL SUMMER in Louisiana.”  This was the most common reaction I got when I told people I was headed down to work with Katrina Corp in New Orleans.  And, unfortunately, what they imagined was pretty much the way it was.

But what they didn’t get to see was that it also allowed the best in people to come out.  Katrina Corp basically consists of two guys that came down from Michigan and dedicated their lives to helping heal the grieving city of New Orleans.  They get room, board, and $100/week.  They handle groups of a single volunteer, on up to 300.  If FEMA or Habitat or some other big name outfit gets stuck or can’t do something, Ray and Marshall jump into the breach.  And if nobody shows up to volunteer (like because it is the middle of July) no work gets done.

As a volunteer you get to see where your money is being spent: there’s the van, there’s the coolers and tools, and there’s the two guys that have been working on this school before you showed up and will be working on it after you leave.  Ray and Marshall are the epitome of volunteering and service; and for one ridiculously hot week in July, so were we.

When I look back on what we did without budget or t-shirts or fancy photo ops; but with only our backs, our hands, and our teamwork and desire, I have to believe in the impossible.  I was there and watched it happen.

To Alli, Ariel, Eleni, Karianne, Lee, Rebecca, Sarah, Stephanie, and Tammy:  You gave a damn and made a difference.  Thank you and it was an honor to serve beside you.  You are all heroes in my eyes.

To the rest, ‘impossible’ is still out there, but it’s not so sure of itself now.  Come down in October!


-Rian Booker


An experience I will never forget…

Filed under: Service Trips — seattleworks @ 5:34 pm

Posted by a volunteer who participated in our July volunteer trip in New Orleans.

The trip to New Orleans last week was amazing in so many ways. Good friends, good food, good fun and a great organization; much beyond what my expectations were. 

This was my second time to New Orleans. The first time was last April when I had travelled down to work with Habitat for Humanity. While Habitat was a great organization to work with, and I have volunteered with them in the past and will continue to in the future, I was saddened that I had not been made fully aware of all of the issues still surrounding Katrina. I am so grateful that we were able to work with Katrina Corps. Even though they are all volunteer and have only two “staff”, they are small, mighty and passionate, which made it one heck of a lot easier to get through the work days with 95 plus degree heat!

 I had my first REAL tour of the lower 9th ward this week. I had a spot driving tour the last time, and was able to see damage from a car. This time, I realized, this is real. I was both emotionally overwhelmed and numb at the same time because I kept thinking to myself, there is no way this is real. No way. Some things in New Orleans look like they did almost three years ago. Three years. Marshall took us into a house that he had gutted. He told us about when he gutted the upper bedroom. He noticed that two little girls shared the room, most likely sisters. All of their belongings including clothes, pictures, awards, posters, all gone due to the flooding. Not only that, but all of the memories that were created in that home came to an abrupt halt due to such a terrible tragedy. We then went to a church that was still in the condition it was the day that the water subsided. You could tell it had been ready for Sunday service. Music stands and silk flowers were out, but in extreme disarray. A thick layer of sludge covered everything, just as it had almost three years ago. I wondered where all of the members of the church had gone. What was their experience? Where are they now? 

Our work was very rewarding. We were refurbishing a school that had been hit by Hurricane Katrina itself (wind and rain mostly) and received minimal flooding compared to other places. Like many schools, the building has set vacant since the storm. It will be rented to various arts related non-profits for art classes to be held. We did a variety of tasks like ripping up flooring, removing nails, painting the theater (many of us learned how to work a 30 extension paint pole pretty good J), spraying for mold and assembling desks. The school is set to open in September- I am jealous of the team going down in October- you’ll get to see the final product!

One thing about Katrina Corps was that they gave us the WHOLE New Orleans experience. They felt, and I agree, that in order to fully understand what was lost, you must understand the full culture. And boy, did we get it! From swamp tours with a true southerner, to listening to local bands on Frenchman, to visiting bars for the locals and everything in between, we got to see how vibrant New Orleans really is! 

I couldn’t have had such a great experience without all of my team mates. This group was the best set of people that a girl would ever want to spend 24 hours a day for 7 days with J Big arm pumps goes out to all of you!! 

Rebecca 🙂