In a frigid warehouse at the Arlington Airport, volunteers from Hands Together, a coalition of faith-based and community service groups in Arlington, used paint and brushes to create a small army of gingerbread figures on Saturday morning.
Deena Jones, pastor of the Arlington United Church and a leader of the Hands Together group, explained that the whimsical cutouts were designed to help create awareness of the 125 or so students in the Arlington School District who are homeless.
“When we think of the homeless, many picture the adult men that we see around town,” said Jones. “But 126 students in our district are listed as homeless, so the problem definitely impacts families.”
Seattle University was awarded a grant from the Gates Foundation for advocacy and awareness of homelessness, which in turn made sub-grants to organizations like the Hands Together coalition under the Faith and Family Homelessness Project. Sub-awardees could apply for up to $10,000, and Hands Together received approximately $6,000.
In addition to the gingerbread kids display, which will be installed at Legion Park this Saturday, Hands Together plans a community forum to discuss homelessness on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at Arlington United Church. The final event under the grant project is the Voices Together Concert, planned for April 14 at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center.
Hands Together also worked with local cartoonist Steve Edwards to create a children’s activity book, which will be distributed during the Arlington Eagle Festival Feb. 1 and 2.
The coalition of churches and community volunteers has operated cold weather shelters and the Brown Bag Brigade sack lunch effort in Arlington for several years, and its members are painfully aware of the struggles of those without a safe place to live.
“Homelessness is real, and it’s right here in our community,” said Jones. “The question is, what are we going to do about it?”