By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Today and every day, we have a choice to turn toward each other.”
The 600 people in attendance turned toward not only each other but also WS Baby in a big way, raising more than $362,000, much-needed money as the organization continues to grow and to serve more areas of King County, some far from its White Center headquarters.
This was the first year for the event at the downtown Sheraton, after six years at the Hilton near Sea-Tac Airport (this year’s take more than doubles the giving of its first year in that venue, 2012). The Sheraton’s Grand Ballroom was filled with supporters who made it there despite the area road closures that led to a rare Sunday afternoon traffic jam. We were a bit late and missed recording the performance of “Oh The Places We’ll Grow” by Carlynn Newhouse:
Newhouse, a poet, activist, actor/performer, and MC, had just the night before won the Youth Speaks Seattle Grand Slam for the third time, and she set the stage for an inspiring story shortly thereafter by Woodland, whose many assistants for the tea included her own two westside (former) babies, McInnis and Phineas:
Woodland’s remarks, wrapped around a short video showing how WS Baby operates, are all in this clip – centered on the recent travel encounter that reminded her we need to mindfully turn toward each other:
Kids are ready to grow, to be all they can be – but those being raised by struggling families need our help, she reminded everyone, in ways big and small.
Woodland’s message was cited as inspiration by the CommuniTea’s spotlight speaker, Sheila Capestany, whose work for King County includes overseeing the work enabled by proceeds from the Best Starts for Kids levy:
Capestany spoke of how vital it is that the work for and with children and families not only leads to an “absence of bad outcomes,” but creates good outcomes, via “prevention, early intervention, chang(ing) policies and systems.” She talked about how overwhelming parenting can be, even when you have support – which she, a mother of three, had plenty of, with 78 members in her immediate family alone. She referred to WestSide Baby as an “essential partner” in the county’s work, and closed with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “… love is (ultimately) the only answer to mankind’s problems.”
WS Baby, teagoers were told, has received a Best Start for Kids grant for $375,000. Among the tea attendees, by the way, was the initiative’s champion (and West Seattleite) County Executive Dow Constantine, in our photo below with State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon:
Among the other elected officials at the CommuniTea, West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold:
Many attendees sported festive hats – here’s the table captained by, in the foreground, Amy Daly-Donovan:
Amid the levity were reminders that what WestSide Baby does is very serious business – and very hard work. Tens of thousands of children all around King County are served, and last week alone, Woodland said, 900 orders were filled – for diapers, clothing, equipment such as strollers and car seats, the basics needed to keep children safe, healthy, thriving. This short video included the story of one formerly homeless mom and how her family has been helped:
In struggling families, not having diapers for children can even mean that a parent doesn’t get to go to school or work – day care requires them.
The many other memorable moments of the afternoon ranged from emcee Ian Lindsay recalling how he had to leave last year’s CommuniTea early because his own child was about to be born, to the presentation of awards for dedicated volunteers/supporters, including Diana and Gary Chenkovich:
Here’s our video of the award announcements:
Along with what people donated to attend the tea, giving opportunities included buying $50 “baby cakes” creations by Avalon Glassworks, one of which was in a box with a necklace by Wyatt’s Jewelers (WSB sponsor) whose proprietors Kirk and Joni Keppler co-chaired this year’s tea. The necklace turned out to be in a box opened by the Kepplers’ son (and business namesake) Wyatt:
But the prize itself went to tablemate Michael. Then there were the “raise the paddle” donations:
Three people gave $10,000, two $5,000, twenty-nine $1,000, and on down the line, including a special $360 giving level, in recognition of a newborn baby needing 360 diapers in its first month of life. Each paddle bore the logo of longtime WS Baby supporter Ventana Construction (also a WSB sponsor), whose co-proprietor Anne Higuera was there with daughter Delilah:
Other WSB sponsors on the CommuniTea sponsor list include Budget Blinds and the YMCA; we were a media sponsor for the event. This year’s giving also included the opportunity to participate in a “tombola,” with prizes including a trip to Disneyland – though all in attendance would probably agree that the CommuniTea carried a priceless spirit of magic all its own.
WHAT’S NEXT: You can support WestSide Baby year-round (here’s how). Their upcoming events include the summertime Stuff the Bus diaper drive (watch for dates and locations) and this fall’s fundraising cocktail party on September 21st; WS Baby also is again a beneficiary of this year’s production of “The Mama-logues,” May 18-19 at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle.