Building strong communities is one of our major priorities at Seattle Parks and Recreation. Our 26 community centers help us achieve this goal by serving as the living rooms of our neighborhoods, a place to gather and create connections. Recently, the Delridge Community Center went above and beyond in showing us how our community centers are helping build strong communities across Seattle.
Following the Sept. 27 apartment fire at the Lam-Bow Apartment Complex in the Delridge neighborhood, the Delridge Community Center opened its doors to provide shelter to the displaced residents. With the help of the Red Cross, 30 people called the Delridge Community Center home for 11 days. The residents were all low-income families from diverse backgrounds, including immigrant families from Ethiopia and Somalia.
Immediately following the setup of the shelter, our staff was touched by the outpouring of support from the local community, which flooded the Center with donations of food, clothing, diapers and school supplies. “It was very overwhelming the amount of support, donations, phone calls and just love and appreciation we received during those 11 days that the families called Delridge home,” said Angie Ramirez, Delridge Community Center Coordinator.
These donations were critical, since several families had lost everything in the fire and only had the clothing they were wearing. Delridge staff worked around the clock to sort donations and coordinate laundry runs with a local church. Staff also helped transport kids to school, provide 24/7 coverage and security at the Center, clean and stock the building on a daily basis, provide comfort to residents and listen to their concerns and fears, offer recreation opportunities to children and teens, and open the computer lab so that those affected by the fire could do schoolwork or search for housing.
“After hearing their stories of losing everything they owned or how they worked hard to rebuild from their previous countries, it made me feel honored to be able to assist in giving them a welcoming temporary place to be with their families”, said Recreation Leader Jessica Zemke. “One father said to me, ‘What a difference I’m experiencing after a tragedy in the USA. So many people are here to help us right away. In my previous country there were disasters and war every day and we were on our own to rebuild our lives. I’m so thankful for the Red Cross and this Seattle community.’ That was very powerful to hear.”
We are happy to report that the Seattle Housing Authority was able to offer housing options to all the families staying in the shelter. We are grateful to the Red Cross and the Delridge community for their outpouring of support and donations, and for their understanding when regular community center programs had to be canceled to create room for the shelter. “I can’t imagine what these families are going through and I’m glad the West Seattle Community came together so quickly to give them some brightness in their stay with us,” said Recreation Leader Jessica Zemke. “I was told many times by the families how much they appreciated our care, thoughtfulness and having food and a place to stay while they figured out the next steps.”
We are also grateful to our staff for their unwavering support of the families and for putting in long days to make sure their needs were met. “I couldn’t be more proud of my staff,” said Community Center Coordinator Angie Ramirez. “Everybody wanted to help out in any way possible. As families got placed in a new home and left the center for the last time as a shelter, we received hugs, thank yous and nonverbal signs of appreciation from those who did not speak English. I am truly humbled and appreciated the opportunity to truly be a Community Center.”
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