Hometown Heroes: West Hill Community Rallies Amidst Pandemic

  Community Interest

by Beth Hintz

We’re inspired and motivated by how the West Hill community has risen to the challenge of keeping neighbors safe and healthy during both the global pandemic of the COVID-19 virus and the virus of anti-Black racism, and the resulting racial justice uprising we are experiencing today for Black Lives Matter. Here are just a few examples of local heroes in our midst who are working tirelessly to support residents in Skyway.

#SkywayCares volunteers, including King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (far right) at Creston Point Apartments
#SkywayCares volunteers, including King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (far right) at Creston Point Apartments

#SkywayCares COVID-19 Support Efforts

Urban Family is providing care packs to families in Skyway-West Hill apartment complexes. Care packs include cleaning supplies, masks, toys and crafts for kids, beverages, and more. They are also providing rent and utility assistance, and service to families experiencing homelessness.

“The message of Skyway Cares is to let the people in our community know that we (people of Skyway) care about their health and well being, and that they are not alone. It’s also a reminder to all of us to take care of each other.”

Paul Patu, Urban Family Executive Director and Co-Founder
Renton Innovation Zone Partnership (RIZP) volunteers and staff (L to R: Christabel Fowler, Ryan Quigtar, Alexandra Brubaker, Julia Robertson) distribute items outside New Birth Ministries across from Skyway Library on May 16, 2020

Pop-up Food Pantries and COVID-19 Resources

The Renton Innovation Zone Partnership’s (RIZP) mission is to lead a relationship-based, data-informed collaborative network to advance racial equity and create healthy learning opportunities for all children throughout the Renton Innovation Zone (which includes unincorporated West Hill). In response to the COVID crisis, RIZP is teaming up with Somali Parent Education Board, Stand for Children, and Renton School District for a series of weekly pop-up food pantry events. 

“It’s important for our families to feel supported, especially during this unprecedented time. Before COVID-19 forced the stay at home order, many families in Skyway were already struggling to put food on the table. Now with many job cuts, school closures and restaurants closing, our families are experiencing an exponential need in food resources and essential basic needs. The Renton Innovation Zone Partnership (RIZP) and our partners, Somali Parents Education Board (SPEB), Stand for Children & the Renton School District have put our resources together to help families.” 

Ryan Quiqtar, RIZP Executive Director
Alesia Cannady teaches her granddaughter how to make a cloth mask with a sewing machine.

Grandma’s Hands Mask Project

Alesia Cannady (founder of Women United and the Angel of Hope Play Place) is leading a group of kinship caregivers (primarily grandparents caring for grandchildren) in sewing colorful cloth face masks for community members in need.

“The fire comes from deep in my heart to share my gifts and talents to the senior population of Seattle. Offering joy and unity to the lives of kinship caregivers who have spent their lives caring for others within their families. I desire to share this spark with my fellow grandmothers and spread a passion for giving to my community. Women United – Grandma’s Hand Face Mask Project encourages us to help one another and do our part to serve in a time of need during Covid 19 and beyond. I can sum it up in a few words: Protecting you, protects me, as we join together we protect our community.”

Alesia Cannady (founder of Women United)

Bryn Mawr United Methodist Church Rent and Utilities Fund

Bryn Mawr United Methodist Church has an emergency fund offering West Hill and Renton residents one-time financial assistance with rent or utilities. The church began the fund a few months before the pandemic after noticing more and more neighbors were dealing with unstable housing situations. 

To request assistance, contact Pastor Meredith Dodd (meredith@mohea.com, 206-772-0880).

“We know that giving someone that one-time financial assistance is sometimes enough to prevent homelessness. This fund is one way we can practice the greatest commandment: to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.” 

Pastor Meredith Dodd, Bryn Mawr UMC
Skyway VFW Post #9430 volunteers preparing free grab-and-go meals for the community

Skyway VFW Dine and Dash

Our local Skyway VFW Post 9430 has provided free “Dine and Dash / Car Hop Dinner To Go” dinners for local residents in light of these difficult and uncertain COVID times. Their mission is to care for Veterans and our community. These free meals have been open to everyone–Veterans, military, first responders, students, teachers, community, and families. 

“It is our way of showing support of our community, and for one meal, taking some stress off you and your family. Together we will get through these trying times.”

Chad Hassebroek, Skyway VFW Post #9430

Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle

During times of great difficulty and uncertainty, South Seattle Emerald works tirelessly to elevate and amplify the voice and experience of our community.

Board Vice President (and Skyway resident), Bridgette Hempstead, states that the Emerald exists: “For the community, by the community, to the community.” Led by Skyway resident Marcus Harrison Green, they produce local, equity-focused coverage of urgent news, including COVID-19 and the protests for racial justice that are taking place across our region through their website, social media, and communications. South Seattle Emerald speaks truth to power, calling out injustices and holding our local leaders accountable. 

Supporting Students and Families During COVID-19

The mission of Communities in Schools of Renton-Tukwila, which serves students and their families in unincorporated West Hill, is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Their COVID-response services include wellness check-ins to offer emotional support, home deliveries with grocery store gift cards and food, support for families to navigate resources and more. Through their Community Connector service, they have connected 1,094 families with community resources. Through their Emergency Fund they have provided $60,610 dollars worth of support for 334 families in the form of food, rent assistance, utilities, and cell phone bills. 

“As our community is trying to adjust to this pandemic, our focus is on historically marginalized communities likely to be disproportionately impacted. With the current economic crisis leaving many people without enough resources for food, housing, utilities, and other day-to-day essentials, our core values of equity, opportunity and collaboration are guiding our work.”

Jamie Green, Communities in Schools of Renton-Tukwila Executive Director

We would love to add to this list! Please share stories with us of other heroes you know about working in our unincorporated community.

Thank you to all who are working on the front lines to support our community! 

Like having a more engaged, informed and vibrant community? You can make a huge impact by joining your neighbors in giving $5 or more a month to the leanest, hardest working all-volunteer nonprofit in the neighborhood.