She closed her eyes for a precious moment of relaxation.
Her 11-year-old twins, Christopher and Christian, and 7-year-old Austin waited in the back of the crowded Cascade High School classroom.
The school campus was buzzing with people Wednesday during Project Homeless Connect, an annual event designed to bring a range of services to people who are homeless or need help. Edwards, 36, brought her puppy, Bella, to the free vet clinic for shots and a checkup.
She is in recovery and recently moved into a home in Lake Stevens through a housing program.
"There's a lot of places out there that can help you. You just need to find them," she said.
Wednesday's event was a one-stop shop for people seeking resources on housing, transportation, medical care and many other services.
The day was sponsored by the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County, a partnership between agencies, nonprofits and businesses working to meet the need for low-income housing.
About 1,000 people attended last year, and at least the same number was expected this year. People got free haircuts, pedicures, dental and eye exams, clothes, backpacks and children's books. A healthy lunch was served in the school's cafeteria, where kids and adult volunteers scrambled to serve a steady stream of customers.
Anna Isquirisigza, 41, and Martha Toliver, 48, both of Everett, came early to get in line for the medical and dental appointments.
"I'm just here to make sure I take care of my health," Isquirisigza said. "There's a competition to get these services, so I really wanted to take advantage of them here."
Isquirisigza is in recovery and enrolled at the Edmonds Community College to become a chemical dependency counselor.
Toliver is living at a low-income housing complex for single women with children and is on track to get her own place soon.
She smiled as she waited her turn for an eye exam room.
"This is such a blessing," she said. "I'm just so happy, you don't even know it."
The exams were provided by specialists from the international group Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.
State law forbids organizations from giving out used prescription glasses, so optometrists were providing vouchers to local optical stores instead.
The group was expecting to help about 200 people Wednesday, said volunteer Carole Rich of Redmond. Volunteers also were planning a trip to Mexico in September to serve 2,500 people.
After getting an exam, Toliver got a pair of reading glasses and sunglasses, both courtesy of a longtime program of the Lions Club.
The Lions serve their communities in many different ways but have a strong focus on vision, said Art Ruben from the Everett Central Lions Club.
"Our first lady member was Helen Keller. She challenged us to be knights of the blind," he said.
In the meantime, event volunteer Carmen Harris was fielding people's questions outside. She was helping out through her church, Christian Faith Center in Everett.
Harris wasn't always on the giving end: She was homeless for six months in 2009.
"You don't want to tell anyone that you are homeless," she said. "But don't think you don't deserve what life has to bring to you. And most importantly, don't think it's permanent."
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; firstname.lastname@example.org
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