Who’s Who: Carol Schillios, founder of Edmonds-based Fabric of Life

Across the street from Carol Schillios’ shop in Edmonds, a group of men wearing coats and scarves sat outside a Starbucks. They warmed their hands on paper coffee cups and talked about how temperatures are usually warmer in November.

They didn’t know the meaning of cold.

Cold happens when the wind comes whipping off the water and over the rooftops at 2 a.m. Cold happens when your duct-tape-fortified tent leaks and you spend the night dodging icy drips of rain while you sleep.

Cold has been a big part of Schillios’ life for months.

The founder of the Edmonds-based Fabric of Life Foundation took up residence on the rooftop of her Main Street store in late July. Her idea was simple: She would move back to her house after 1 million people donated a dollar to Fabric of Life and pledged to do one good deed to help humanity.

After nearly four months — and $100,000 raised for her foundation — Schillios is coming down from the roof.

“It has been a remarkable journey,” said Schillios earlier this week. “It will be 113 days when I come down (today).”

She didn’t reach her original goal but still has $100,000 to invest in her foundation’s work overseas, including a school in Mali where Fabric of Life teaches young women job skills. The students’ wares are sold in the Edmonds store.

One morning this week, Schillios shivered as she set about opening up the shop for business. She confessed to being tired. The tarp blew off her rooftop-camp the night before, she explained.

When Schillios went up on the roof in July, temperatures were in the 90s. Back then, the breeze off the nearby water felt soothing. But then that breeze turned into gusts.

“I don’t think I was fully prepared for what the whole experience was going to be like,” she said. “I sometimes like to go into things without a preconceived notion, and then it helps you grow.”

She added: “I’ve been through the heat of the summer, the rain of the fall, and now the winds. It hailed up there, and it’s been lightening and thundering most recently.”

Schillios’ dwelling looks like a mound of blue and gray tarps from the outside. Inside, there’s a small tent for sleeping, a table piled with books and craft projects, and Elliott — Schillios’ elderly but loyal cat.

Wool socks have become her favorite pieces of clothing, Schllios said: “My new mantra is, ‘buy wool socks for the homeless.’”

Knowing that she can come down from the roof and return to her warm home any time she wants is a sobering thought, she said.

“I will be coming off this roof,” she said. “The homeless won’t … I think everyone should live in a tent so they really get to experience what that feels like.”

Schllios will come down from the roof this afternoon. A celebration is planned at the Fabric of Life store at 523 Main Street in Edmonds at 2 p.m.

African drummers will perform, and the Edmonds Fire Department will lift Schillios down as part of a training exercise.

And after that?

“I think I’m going to book myself at the Olympus Spa,” Schillios said.

Read Amy Rolph’s small-business blog at www.heraldnet.com/TheStorefront. Contact her at 425-339-3029 or arolph@heraldnet.com.

Find out more

Interested in a tour of Carol Schillios’s rooftop camp? Go to http://tiny.cc/9ezJ9 for Amy Rolph’s video interview. And go to www.upontheroofwithcarol.org for more about her activism project.

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