December 18, 2018
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Organizers estimate about 500 homeless and less fortunate Spokane residents were served at the fifth annual Blessings Under the Bridge winter event Dec. 17. Volunteers doled out 9,024 pounds of food and clothing along with a gourmet hot breakfast.

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Comfortably numb for the holidays
12/21/2011 10:19:31 AM

By Kelly Kiki
Splash Guest Column

I feel comfortable. Yes, it may be 28 degrees and December, but as I walked around our fifth annual Blessings Under the Bridge event, which took place under the bridge of I-90 between Division and Browne, I was in awe of the 500-plus volunteers from all corners of Spokane who found themselves sharing more than just their time with the 500-plus homeless and less fortunate of Spokane.

I see a bit of the Yin and Yang in what takes place before, during and after our event(s). It is hard to determine who or whom is receiving the greatest blessing. Is it the homeless and less fortunate or is it the volunteers who give of their time to discover one of humanities greatest gifts: serving? I think Mike Kovac, co-founder of BUTB, says it best when he states that we are all homeless in our own way. We are just good at masking and covering up our own "poverty" better than others.

As a teacher at Central Valley High School, I love to watch our youth openly serve. Unlike adults, they carry fewer stereotypes about the homeless or even the poor in our community. Unlike adults, they are often more willing to roll up their sleeves and get beyond comfortable to serve, bless and love our poor. Days following, I am always moved to hear exciting, touching stories about their day, bridging the gap that separates with those who find their "living room" under the bridge with those blessed to find ours in the comfort of our own homes. 

I have now been involved with Blessing Under the Bridge for a little more than five years. As vice president of BUTB, my journey has been everything but comfortable. The hours, meetings, miles traveled and boxes loaded and unloaded keep us running about. At times, I feel like a human rolodex as I call upon connections to support BUTB's mission. Fortunately, with each phone call, I hear the same compassionate words: "We would love to help."

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'Tis the season to give, and give our community did. During our four-hour event on Saturday, we offered approximately 9,024 pounds of food and clothing to more than 500 in desperate need. Fifty-plus local businesses/organizations opened their hearts to help in their own special way. For example, Otis Grill, Franz Bakery and Twigs Bistro teamed to support the 500 sack lunches made for the event, which is part of our weekly program called Blessed Brown Bag. In addition, Executive chefs Josh, Valley Twigs, and Dan, South Hill Twigs, worked Friday night and Saturday morning with their crews to prepare a major part of the breakfast that was served. It was evident talking to both Twigs' chefs upon returning all supplies loaned how grateful their crews were to have had the chance to help those hungry and in need. 

Reflecting on my day, I recalled a conversation where I found myself in a passionate discussion with a young homeless man comparing Steeler Nation to Raider Nation. In our time together, he shared more than just his love for football. He told me how he used to play quarterback in high school, about the 20 foster homes he moved through, about the drugs and crime that stole his youth, and about his girlfriend that stepped in front of a shotgun blast that was meant for him. He shared not for any other reason than to show how some of the blast hit his right hand, his throwing hand and ended his football days. Even though his story was anything but comfortable, we were just a couple guys talking football.

He did ask one very bold, yet honest question, as he looked me straight in the eyes: "Why do you guys do all this?" The question really is not why, but rather why not. We are all neighbors; we all have a level of homelessness in us; we all deserve to celebrate hope, dignity and love. And we all, as one community, must share in the spirit of the holidays.

If you would like to share or partner with Blessings Under the Bridge, or to read more about our mission, please visit us at butb.net or on Facebook. Yes, BUTB has educated me in the comforts of life over the past few years. Interestingly, it doesn't always happen on my own couch but rather in the numb, December air under some bridge.

Kelly Kiki is vice president of Blessings Under the Bridge and a teacher at Central Valley High School.

How you can help
Join The Splash's "12 Dollars of Christmas" drive. For $12, donors can provide 10 brown bags each with deli meat and cheese, crackers, fresh bread, chips or crackers, a fruit cup, baked goods or sweets and a drink. And take this final opportunity to share your own "blessings" in The Splash on Dec. 29. For more information, click here.

Checks can be mailed to Blessings Under the Bridge at 1026 S. Wright Blvd, Liberty Lake, Wa. 99019.

Gently used and cleaned clothing items, winter apparel, toiltries, household items and food can be dropped off at the Blessings Under the Bridge HUB at 919 E. Trent Ave. in Spokane.

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