Helping others help themselves is a year-round job

Frank Marchi reminded me of an ice cream bar.

A thin outer shell barely concealing the sweet inside.

He helps the down and out with a soft touch.

In these parts, needs far outweigh resources. Once a year, we publish a story called Ways to Give where dozens of organizations are invited to ask readers for specific help. It’s overwhelming. Groups like Arc of Snohomish County, Catholic Community Services, Crisis Respite, Housing Hope, food banks, Project Self-Sufficiency, EquiFriends, multiservice centers, basket bureaus and Source Child Center need food, clothing, toys, apartments and cash.

Traditionally at Christmastime, I assume most everyone donates something to a charity.

Who helps the needy year-round?

In Snohomish County, I see the issue as a connect-the-dots puzzle between organizations. A hit and miss conglomeration of assistance is dished here and there. There isn’t a master phone number in the Yellow Pages to call for housing, jobs, food and clothing.

Marchi, a store manager for St. Vincent de Paul Society of Snohomish County’s Everett store, said giving groups buddy up.

“The Snohomish County PUD will call here,” Marchi said. “For a $400 rent, we might ask the Salvation Army to pony up $100. We might pay $200, then ask the person to pay $50 and a church to pay $50.”

St. Vincent’s gives what it can, when it can. Some days it might be able to offer a motel voucher or warm clothing and a blanket. Someone might get money to keep the lights on or a bag of food.

Marchi said when someone calls for help, staff members visit the residence. Marchi, 66, assesses the entire situation.

“There are some real heartbreakers,” he said. “We went to a mobile home. It was dark, the lights were turned off, there was no water and no sanitation. They were cooking their last can of tomato soup on a borrowed Coleman stove.”

Marchi said at the visit, a 12-year-old boy asked, “Can you help us?”

Vincentiansc put the family in a motel for a week. The father found a maintenance job at a nearby hotel. Last year, the Society helped 16,137 folks. More than 250 volunteers worked more than 47,000 hours providing $435,480 in material assistance.

It’s never enough.

“We are a Band-Aid,” Marchi said. “After us, sometimes the next stop is DSHS or Housing Hope.”

He doesn’t have hard and fast rules for sharing the organization’s resources.

That day, he dealt with the following requests:

  • A California man, with hepatitis C, received a $20 voucher for Albertson’s and two nights at a motel.

  • A man needed clothes and a sleeping bag. He had just gotten out of jail and was working as a roofer, but his truck was broken into and his possessions stolen. He lived in the truck.

  • A man received $5 to pay for a night at the mission.

  • A woman arrived with a $72 power shut-off notice.

  • A man wanted a room with a phone to make calls to find a place to live.

  • A man arrived from Spokane to answer a summons. The case was tossed out of court, and the man needed a bus ticket home.

  • Three women, living at the women’s mission, came in needing clothing.

    That was just one morning at St. Vincent de Paul.

    Though rescue options may seem minor, St. Vincent’s has a major goal.

    “Our philosophy is to help them help themselves,” Marchi said. “We want them to accept responsibility. We come to a point, you ask yourself, when are we no longer helping them?”

    He said sometimes it’s hard to tell the needy from the greedy.

    There are lingering memories. A 385-pound man, dying of cancer, needed a gas voucher so his friend could drive him back and forth to the doctor. Marchi visited the man in Granite Falls, lying on a beat-up couch.

    “The house was a shambles,” Marchi said. “It gagged you.”

    DSHS got the man a hospital bed. Vincentians cleaned the house.

    Diane Johnson, who volunteers at the Everett store, went on home interviews with Marchi. On calls, she liked to leave a book called “Depending on God.”

    Marchi said Johnson taught him to give help and hugs.

    I asked Marchi if he had a soft spot.

    “For all of them,” he said.

    Talk to us

    > Give us your news tips.

    > Send us a letter to the editor.

    > More Herald contact information.

  • More in Local News

    Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

    Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

    Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

    In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

    Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

    This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

    Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
    4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

    Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

    A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

    The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

    Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

    Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

    Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

    A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

    High-capacity magazines at The Freedom Shoppe gun store, which was holding a sale in anticipation of new gun control measures, in New Milford, Conn., April 2, 2013. The store is liquidating their stock of weapons expected to be banned. Months after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders in the state on Monday announced what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. (Wendy Carlson/The New York Times)
    WA high court leaves ban in place for now on high-capacity ammo magazines

    Monday’s decision will keep the law in effect until the court hears arguments, possibly this fall, on the bill sponsored by an Edmonds senator.

    Firefighters respond to a 911 call Tuesday morning in Mill Creek. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
    Mill Creek house fire displaces 3

    Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 14100 block of 30th Avenue SE early Tuesday morning. No one was injured.

    Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

    In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

    Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

    Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

    Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

    Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.

    Support local journalism

    If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.