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Gifts of Hope Back-to-School Supply Giveaway Brings Aid and Builds Community

Gifts of Hope supports community members in need by connecting them to services, hosting supply giveaways, providing employment training and education workshops, and much more. Earlier this year, Gifts of Hope received a Neighborhood Matching Fund Small Sparks grant to support their Back-to-School Community Giveaway.

We recently connected with Founder & CEO Samona Burleson to see how this funding is helping them serve community. See highlights from that interview below:

Can you tell us a little bit about Gifts of Hope and your mission?

Gifts of Hope started back in 2015. It is our mission to make a difference in the community by connecting youth and families to resources and services they wouldn’t usually have access to. Our goal is to uplift and empower the community, and most of the communities we serve are BIPOC members. It’s as simple as talking to people, finding out their needs, and helping them! If we cannot assist, we refer them to other organizations that can. Then, we offer case management. We check-in and follow up to make sure that they have gotten assistance. At Gifts of Hope, we treat each client as a family member. We don’t judge them. We don’t look down upon anyone. We always treat them as if they are a king or a queen when they are in our presence. When people attend our events, they are received with open and welcoming arms.

How do you connect with people and build relationships with the community?

Back when we started, we would go door to door and just talk to people. This helped us discover their needs and determine what we could do to help. Then, inviting them to events. Our events are a way to bring the needed resources to people and are also just another opportunity to interact with individuals and further talk about what they need in the community, what their past needs were, and how we can help. All our events are free, and we work to meet people where they are. It is important to start on the same level, so people don’t feel judged, they feel secure in what they are saying, and know someone is there to help them. When we go out into certain neighborhoods, we take translators so we can authentically communicate with people. There is a woman we work with who is Somali and doesn’t speak English well. Her kids, who do speak some English, reached out to let me know that they needed help with certain things. So, I got a translator to come out with me to talk with her so I could understand what she needed and provide her that help. She did not obtain help because she couldn’t speak English and didn’t know where to go for help.

It all goes back to making people feel comfortable, and I feel like the community, especially the South end community, does feel comfortable because we do hear from them, and that communication has grown over the years.

How is your Neighborhood Matching Fund grant helping you serve community and advance your mission?

This grant is being used for our Back-to-School Community Giveaway event on August 21, which helps families who need a little assistance with back-to-school supplies and backpacks. It’s a great community event for people to come out and receive assistance, but also just to mingle and get to know folks who live in the neighborhood and the surrounding areas. When we first started this event five years ago, it was with just 12 kids. Last year, we had 1,500 people show up! The NMF grant has given me the ability to add so much more to the event. For example, providing food and entertainment for the families that come out. Some of our families are in tiny houses, some are in tent cities, and some are in low-income housing. Being able to provide food for everyone, activities for the kids, and having a DJ there playing music are all draws that bring people to the event and make our community feel special.

Because of this grant, I’m also able to pay to bring the Buffalo Soldiers to the event. So many kids don’t know who the Buffalo Soldiers are and aren’t taught that history in school. They will be doing a meet and greet with the kids in their uniforms, talking about their role in history, and providing free horse rides. We are so appreciative for these opportunities to introduce children to new things and give them an experience that they might not have without this event.

Why is an event like this so important for so many people?

An event like this is important because there are a lot of people who might be struggling financially and back to school is a time that can be really stressful for parents and for students. There are also folks who are embarrassed because they can’t afford to get their kids’ school clothes, or they don’t have enough to purchase back-to-school supplies. This is especially true for high schoolers. Our goal with this event is to relieve that stress by providing assistance and letting them know we’re here to support them and that they’re not alone in this walk. It truly takes a village to raise a child and we want to be that village. We want to walk with them and support them.

You can catch the Gifts of Hope Back-to-School Community Giveaway on August 21, from 12 – 5 p.m. at Smilow Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club (4520 Martin Luther King Jr Way S).

To learn more about Gifts of Hope and this event visit: