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Church inspires growing community effort to feed school children

In January, the Homeless Advocacy Ministry at Northshore UCC in Woodinville began Totes-To-Go to feed some 182 children the Northshore School District identified as homeless.

“We were shocked, because we did not realize homelessness was so present in our backyards,” said Kristen Dickert, chair of the Homeless Advocacy Ministry.  “We felt compelled to respond.


Northshore UCC families helping pack food in backpacks are Sophia Dickert, Emery Armentrout, Elizabeth Wilson, Judy McGraw, Maiya Roelen, Liz Ellis, Piper Roelen and Matthew Dickert.
Photo provided by Kristen Dickert

“It’s an example of how becoming informed served as a call to action,” she said.

The church began a partnership with one school, filling backpacks with a two-day supply of food to be distributed Fridays for weekends, when to free school breakfasts and lunches are not available.

“It’s a simple idea that makes a difference,” she said.  “We felt that no child in our community should be hungry, ever.  It’s a way we can live out our commitment to compassionate justice.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report on food security says that when children are well fed and nourished, they are sick less, concentrate better, perform well in school, have fewer behavioral problems and are less anxious.

Principal Lew Dickert said that after a few months of distributing Totes-To-Go, he saw positive impact for students and families.  It opened relationships between the school and families. Attendance and classroom work  improved.

“The children realize how much we care about them as people,” he said. “They are more invested in what we ask them to do.”

The congregation brings food offerings on Sundays.  The food consists of items from the “Top 20” list of nutritious, non-perishable meal and snack items that can be prepared even if a family does not have access to cooking facilities.  On Sunday once a month after church, members pack the totes and deliver the month’s supply to their partner school. 

“The program is in a solid growth state now,” said Kristen Dickert, “expanding with district support by matching additional community partners—including other faith communities—with other schools in the district.  The goal is to support every identified homeless student.

The Woodinville Alliance and Woodinville Unitarian Universalist churches have joined in and are partnering with two other schools.

“As we talk about it in the community, it resonates,” Dickert said.  “The problem of homelessness, poverty and hunger are intertwined and overwhelming.  They can so easily cause us to feel hopeless in bringing about change.

Totes-To-Go offers a clear and easy pathway for people who want to make a difference to do so,” she explained.  “We make a difference, one child at a time.  We invite anyone and everyone who would like to help to join us.”

The Northshore UCC Homeless Advocacy Ministry’s mission is “to act as a source of advocacy, education and support on behalf of the homeless in our community.  We aim to provide direct assistance to those who are homeless in a variety of ways. We also strive to raise awareness on topics and issues that lead to and prolong homelessness, so that we can take steps to reduce its occurrence and duration.” 

In addition to Totes-To-Go, the ministry supports residents of Tent City 4, supports homeless women in Sophia Way, and promotes education and advocacy about homelessness, such as through the recent “Change the World: Grassroots Advocacy, Learn How Now” workshop sponsored by the Social Justice Ministries at Northshore UCC.  Participants learned how to advocate for LGBTQ issues, the environment and progressive Christian values, in addition to homelessness.

“Along with the direct service, it’s important for people to engage in the political process.  This workshop was designed to give people the tools to speak their passions effectively,” Dickert said.

The Homeless Advocacy Ministry also encourages members to participate in interfaith task forces and meetings to stay informed and active in broader efforts to understand and combat homelessness.  She recently shared the Northshore UCC Totes-To-Go story at the Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council.

“It’s criminal that in this wealthy nation some of us are living in great affluence and comfort, while others of us are living in poverty, hunger and homelessness.  The conditions that reduce some of us to the most primitive existence on the street are the same conditions that can reduce all of us to the most primitive existence on the street,” she said.

By better understanding these conditions, reaching out to our homeless brothers and sisters, and working together to build bridges of understanding and support, we can do the work God calls us to do and in so doing, transform ourselves, our communities and our world,” Dickert said.

“I believe people want less talk about God and more God,” she said.  “This church inspires me to find new ways to do the work God calls us to do.

“Growth of our church depends on our passion and energy for this kind of work, and our ability to reach out into our communities to practice what we preach,” she said.

For information, call 425-357-6878, email of visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © October 2011





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