LYNNWOOD — They walked the red carpet, each one escorted into the Embassy Suites hotel Monday morning on the arm of a well-dressed man. The glamour would come later. For their entrance, the women wore jeans and sweatshirts, tank tops and tennis shoes.
“I’ve never done this before,” said Arlington’s Bonita Moore as her volunteer escort, in a crisp white shirt and black tie, guided her into the lobby. Later, the 57-year-old Moore said of her grand entrance, “I felt like I was on cloud nine.”
Moore was among 75 women being pampered, honored and helped at the annual Queen, It’s a New Day event. Founded by Judy Hoff and presented by the nonprofit Hoff Foundation, the program held Monday and Tuesday at the Lynnwood hotel begins with makeovers.
The goal is to build upon that cloud-nine feeling to further help women who have struggled with homelessness, substance abuse, domestic violence and other hardships. A day of beauty is followed by Tuesday’s focus on long-term transformation, with talks on leadership and life skills.
The hotel atrium was transformed into a hair, makeup and nail salon in advance of Monday’s gala dinner, when the program’s “queens” would wear donated formal gowns for their special night — complete with a rose ceremony.
“It’s kind of a new start,” said Angelyn Broman, 23, who is in recovery after chemical dependency treatment at Everett’s Evergreen Manor. Broman, of Everett, had a big smile as stylist Peter McGinnis snipped her blonde hair into a professional-looking bob. “If you’re having trouble with drug use or alcohol, get the help,” Broman said. “Being clean and sober is so much better than hiding.”
Cherie Vandegrift also was having her shoulder-length hair trimmed. The 49-year-old now lives at Hope Place, a transitional housing complex operated by the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle.
After a year in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, Vandegrift recently marked another big achievement. On Aug. 9, she summited Mount Rainier as part of a Union Gospel Mission climb team. “We trained a long time,” said Vandegrift, who counts divorce and depression as contributors to her battle with addiction.
Hoff, a counselor and pastor, has helped women through faith-based programs for years. In 2001, her Life Changes Ministries “Queen” program was a one-day makeover and luncheon at a Marysville church. By 2008, Hoff was heading the Life Changes Ministry Church in Everett and overseeing a transitional housing facility.
Hoff said Monday that Queen participants must have been clean and sober for 30 days, and involved in some type of helping or recovery program. The Hoff Foundation now runs Esther’s Place, a day center for homeless women and children housed at Everett’s First Presbyterian Church.
Help at Esther’s Place includes breakfast and lunch, clothing, life-skills classes, support groups and worship. Along with the two-day Queen event, which includes an overnight hotel stay, the foundation helps a dozen women every other month through its “mini-Queen” events.
Not everyone helped at a Queen event is homeless or battling addiction. Moore, the Arlington woman, works as a care giver. She learned about the Queen program when she took her client to Esther’s Place.
Kassandra Kloss, 28, is staying at Friendship House in Mount Vernon, which provides emergency shelter and transitional housing. “I was in a domestic violence situation,” said Kloss, who was having her feet washed by volunteers.
Some of the men who served as escorts also washed women’s feet before others gave them pedicures.
“I have two daughters. By being able to serve, we’re showing our unconditional love for these ladies,” said Kevin Heuser, a volunteer from Everett’s New Life Church.
Sean Gasperetti, part of the New Life Church staff, noted the biblical story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. “For a lot of these women, this could be a launch point in their lives,” Gasperetti said as he volunteered Monday. “There is very little that separates them from ourselves.”
One volunteer was in uniform. Cmdr. Pat Slack of the Snohomish Regional Drug &Gang Task Force is a law enforcement liaison with the Hand Up Project, which works in partnership with the Hoff Foundation. Slack was among the women’s escorts Monday.
Each “queen” also was assisted by a volunteer “queen’s lady.” Tammi Berto, who shares her Snohomish home with her husband of more than 30 years, felt called to that role.
“I feel so blessed,” Berto said. “It’s time for me to start helping other women.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Queen, It’s a New Day is a two-day program for women in transitional housing or recovery programs that includes makeovers, life-skills classes and other support. It is offered by the nonprofit Hoff Foundation. Information: www.hofffoundation.org/