MUKILTEO — There was something about a social media post that Shana Swift couldn’t ignore.
A few days after Thanksgiving 2016, a woman asked for help on the Mukilteo Moms Facebook page. Her husband had been injured at work, she was in school.
They weren’t destitute enough to qualify for traditional assistance programs. If they bought Christmas presents for their kids, they wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage.
“It bothered me,” Swift said. How many people are at that tipping point but don’t qualify for anything? she wondered.
Swift wanted to do something, but admits she didn’t know what she was getting into. She initially posted her idea to the Mukilteo Moms page. Later, it was named Mukilteo Love, with its own Facebook page.
Word of the group quickly spread. Other families asked for help.
“I posted to Mukilteo Moms and in a couple of days it was going,” Swift said. “It happened so fast.”
It was too early to be registered as a nonprofit. So as requests came in, the needs were posted and people volunteered to help.
By Christmas, children could make requests for specific gifts. “It was crazy, but at the last minute every gift had been purchased,” Swift said. “We pulled it off.”
In 2016, about 60 children who otherwise might not have Christmas gifts received three presents each.
Christmas wrapping paper had barely been put away when Swift began thinking about how the giving tradition could continue.
By January 2017 she described the ongoing need in a Facebook post. The city has almost no resources for homeless children and families, she wrote. “I know that if all us knew this, we would pull together and take care of these people.”
In March, there was a request for help for a family struggling to pay for increased rent and in need of food.
In the following months, there were similar requests.
By late October, there was news that the Christmas helping tradition would keep going.
Close to 70 people signed up to provide gifts. This past Christmas, each child received four gifts. Two families who received help the previous year made donations in 2017.
“It’s a giving community, basically,” Swift said of reaching their goal. “It’s not me.”
Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said she and Swift were Kamiak High School classmates.
“I think it’s a great example of the community coming together,” Gregerson said. “And I know she doesn’t want any attention for it, either.”
Swift has more goals this year, including getting nonprofit status for the group. Without it, she’s had to turn down cash donations.
“I’d like for it to be a year-round thing,” Swift said.
She said she’d also like to find a way to provide extras for kids living in economic hardship, such as music lessons or gear to participate in sports.
“Kids in families with those hardships probably need it as bad as anyone — maybe more,” she said.
“You start dreaming — so big.”