The Thrive Community Fitness Help the Homeless event did more than provide food and clothing to Monroe residents in need. It offered dignity and hope, as helpers and recipients merged into a single community that cast aside differences and celebrated similarities.
Organized and planned by Thrive co-owner and general manger Shane Johnson and his girlfriend, Jonna Knecht, the event took place at Thrive Community Fitness in Monroe on Sunday, Dec. 18.
Johnson, Knecht and a team of volunteers from several local businesses and nonprofits welcomed more than 60 members of Monroe’s homeless community, handed out more than 200 pounds of food and provided 35 haircuts. The event offered numerous other provisions and services, including back massages, clothing, food, blankets, cellphones, shoes, personal hygiene items, showers and a freshly prepared hot meal.
Johnson said it exceeded expectations on multiple levels.
“I’ve never seen so many people come together for one cause in my whole life,” he said. “It was phenomenal.”
Johnson provided robust outreach to spread the word about the event. In addition to working with local nonprofits and business owners, he created a Facebook group, posted frequently on social media and received assistance from local law enforcement.
Monroe Police Officer Craig Robertson provided extensive support for the event, Johnson said, including taking him on a ride-along where the two contacted 25 members of the homeless community. In addition to attendance during the event, Robertson advocated for Johnson’s efforts at the department by talking about the event with other officers, distributing literature and sending a department-wide email.
Robertson said he viewed the event as an invaluable way of building community connections.
“We engage with the homeless community in a variety of ways,” Robertson said. “This was a great opportunity to build relationships through positive interactions.”
He provided a law enforcement presence during the event, blending in with the crowd in plain clothes. Johnson said he was grateful to the department for its support.
Numerous local nonprofit organizations joined in the effort, including Robert Smiley’s Hand Up Project and Monroe nonprofits Take the Next Step, Circle of Hope and Beck’s Place.
Beck’s Place founder Melanie Ryan provides support services to people and their pets, working with low-income and homeless individuals and families to help them better care for themselves and their animals. Her nonprofit delivers services through five core programs, providing pet food, basic-needs supplies, continued home-based care, veterinary services and foster boarding.
Beck’s Place client Christa Scanlon attended the event with her 2-year-old son Aaron, who bonded with Beck’s Place mascot Sugar. Ryan said Scanlon found a way to give back to Beck’s Place during the holiday season, even though she and her husband are currently struggling. Homeless, the family of three is living in an RV and operating a Christmas tree stand on Lewis Street.
“They have so much to worry about themselves, and she wanted to give back to Beck’s Place,” Ryan said. “So she offered $5 off Christmas trees if people brought in Beck’s Place donations.”
The event was supported by the Downtown Monroe Association and many other community volunteers, each playing an integral part, Johnson said. Monroe resident Erin Angus-Snapka put in more volunteer hours than anybody else. In addition to working during the event, she spent numerous hours at Thrive in the days before the event, helping to organize donations.
Johnson said her efforts were much appreciated.
Sam’s Cats and Dogs, Naturally donated pet food, and students from Master JI’s Taekwondo studio collected and packaged men’s and women’s hygiene items.
Snohomish County Fire District 7 firefighter Ray Sayah sent over a team of Explorers, who helped provide towels and hygiene items to guests interested in taking a shower.
The Snohomish County Fire District 7 Explorers program is made up of youth interested in pursuing a career in the fire service, who are encouraged to give back to their community.
Wesley Brian Salon owner Wesley Davidson provided several hair-cutting stations, donating haircuts with three other stylists. Yin and Yang Massage owner Richard Oliver donated his time providing a massage chair and free massages to guests.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Johnson said of the amount of volunteer support.
The Sky Valley Food Bank delivered 50 prepackaged bags of food that were distributed throughout the afternoon. A hot dinner was provided by Sahara Pizza Monroe owner Bridgette Tuttle, who cooked 25 dry pounds of pasta to prepare 80 spaghetti dinners. Buttery garlic twisty-bread was served as a side dish and bottled water was readily available. Hot coffee was a mainstay during the event.
Tuttle was thrilled with the way the community came together to support the cause.
“There’s very little that is more satisfying to me than watching the whole be greater than the sum of the parts,” Tuttle said. “This community amazes me.”
Tuttle crafted an impromptu dining area inside Thrive, allowing hungry community members to sit and enjoy their meals. Dinner guests penned notes of gratitude on the disposable table coverings thanking Johnson and the other volunteers for the event. “Thank you so much for tonite (sic)! It was so nice to meet others in similar situations,” read one of the notes.
The entire afternoon was an amazing display of heart, Tuttle said.
Due to the overwhelming success of the event, Johnson said he definitely plans to do it again in the future.
“I’d like to do it twice a year,” Johnson said. “Once in the summer and once in the winter.”
For more information about the event and to stay informed about future events, click here.