EVERETT — They talk about upcoming field trips and who will bring lunch. What the neighbors have been up to. Who needs a sitter.
They face the joys and challenges of all young families. They also live along Everett’s Casino Road, where many parents are trying to overcome multi-generational poverty.
Casino Road-area mothers gather for a weekly coffee hour where they can bring their little ones. The group started at Horizon Elementary and moved two years ago to the nearby nonprofit Hand In Hand.
The coffee hours can draw more than 40 moms, especially during the school year. Many have become part of an enthusiastic crew of volunteers. They help not just with events and programs but also by connecting other families with the resources available in south Everett.
Casino Road is among the city’s struggling neighborhoods. Schools, churches, nonprofits and law enforcement work together on social problems. There have been three shootings here since December, and two were gang-related, according to police. The majority of Horizon students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and about half are learning English.
Coffee hour is led by Angela Edwards, a Hand In Hand social worker. Silvia Chavez and Ruth Bermudez are among those who help as translators.
Chavez lives along 128th Street SW. She and some of the other moms don’t have extended family here. For them, coffee hour is like a reunion and therapy combined, she said.
“I came here and I found a family, ” she said. “… You can get ideas and people to talk to.”
She volunteered at a clothing drive, in addition to the translating.
“That way, they helped me and I can help them, to give back,” she said.
Most weeks, there is a presentation from a community organization. The focus might be health care, nutrition or immigrant rights. Topics last week were medical insurance, car seat safety and communicating with landlords. Someone had given Hand In Hand a box of dishes to distribute. One mother new to the group asked for help finding an apartment.
While all that was happening, a baby scooted around on the floor, a toddler munched on a doughnut and one little kid eyed another’s dragon mask.
Hand In Hand also coordinates field trips to museums, plays and the zoo. Not every family can afford to drive to Seattle for those childhood experiences, Bermudez said.
She has lived on Casino Road for about 18 years and started going to coffee hour three years ago. Back then, it would change locations, and sometimes be held in the offices of local apartment complexes. Through those meetings, Bermudez learned about opportunities to volunteer at Horizon, where her children go to school.
The volunteering led to her being hired part-time to work with parents, primarily Spanish speakers.
“I’ve seen coffee hour do a lot of great stuff for families in need,” she said.
It’s also good to see everyone, and all the friends help one another, Ladis Tafolla said. Some of the activities she learned about through coffee hour were a financial advice session, youth soccer and a Zumba dance class.
While everyone chatted, Edwards worked on a list of about a dozen women who needed child safety seats. She checked in with families who had volunteered to deliver the seats for those who had walked to coffee hour.
A few more names were crossed off the list.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @rikkiking.
Hand In Hand on E. Casino Road is a nondenominational Christian nonprofit with a mission of serving families and children in need. To get involved, contact 425-374-2461, email@example.com and www.handinhandkids.org.