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Snohomish County moms combat youth homelessness from the kitchen

Volunteers pack snack bags for homeless students at a gathering organized by a non-profit helping homeless students in Edmonds. (courtesy Kim Gorney)

Homelessness continues to grow in our region and well beyond Seattle, even in places we consider more affluent.

As Seattle throws millions of dollars and exhausts all sorts of resources trying to tackle the problem, just up the road in Snohomish County, a group of women are making a big dent in the community’s homeless problem, all from their kitchens.

“I was shocked when I discovered how many homeless kids we had — 644 to date that attend schools in the Edmonds School District,” said Lake Forest Park resident Kim Gorney.

Her husband is a teacher in Edmonds, and she just couldn’t believe it. So she went down to the district and found out the startling truth, which is when she knew she had to do something.

RELATED: More than 11K homeless counted in King County

“Most of us are parents and we just can’t imagine that the child sitting next to our kids in school may be the one that doesn’t have anything to go home to eat,” Gorney said.

She learned that under federal law, kids get to stay in school wherever their families first became homeless, regardless of where they end up.

That can be shelters, tents, cars, transitional housing or other places; perhaps a couch somewhere. The law requires the district come pick them up wherever they are.

Gorney began talking to some of her friends and they formed a small nonprofit they call Washington Kids in Transition to help feed them.

“The kids are on the bus sometimes two hours a day,” Gorney said. “We designed a snack program with the Edmonds school bus drivers to provide food for the kids that may not have any food until the next day when they come back to school.”

The small group began recruiting volunteers. The response was overwhelming. Other parents, children, and businesses all began donating food and money and volunteering to pack snack bags for the hungry kids.

“The community has been absolutely amazing,” Gorney said. “Because nobody really knows about these kids. And I think that’s what we’ve been able to do, is raise awareness.”

They’re doing far more than just feeding children. She soon discovered homeless students have all sorts of other needs as well.

The group works with dedicated student advocates assigned to each Edmonds school. They help provide whatever is needed to keep children in school. That includes motel room vouchers, temporary financial assistance, toiletries, even an emergency closet where kids can get clothes, shoes, and supplies.

“I just did the numbers and we provided 42 black zip-up hoodies last year for high school students,” Gorney said. “So whatever it is the kids need.”

Now they’re launching a new program to help pay activities fees, buy musical instruments, anything to keep kids involved in sports, music, even robotics.

“I’m surprised by how fast we’ve grown,” she said. “We really were not expecting the support that we’ve gotten or to be able to offer the programs we’ve been able to offer just in this last year.”

All just because a couple of moms took it upon themselves to do something.

It’s a telling lesson that maybe you don’t need all that bureaucracy and millions of dollars to make a difference.

But they could certainly use more money and more hands. That’s why we’re proud to partner with the Seahawks and Carter Subaru in honoring Washington Kids in Transition as Bonneville Seattle’s charity of the month.

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