Buy a Christmas tree; help with homeless meal

Toby Partney loads  a Christmas tree for Nicole Baker and her daughter Kaybrein

Toby Partney loads a Christmas tree for Nicole Baker and her daughter Kaybrein

Anyone who buys a Christmas tree at a lot on 1637 W. Meeker S. in Kent will help support a weekly homeless dinner as well as plans for a new community center.

Kent small-business owner Brian Raynes, who spearheads a weekly Thursday evening homeless dinner, came up with the idea to sell Christmas trees to raise money. Proceeds from the sales will help buy food for the homeless dinner and raise funds for the proposed Hope Community Center.

The lot sits in front of a vacant building that the Rev. Jimmie James wants to convert into a community center. James serves as executive director of Holistic Opportunities for Personal Empowerment, also known as H.O.P.E., a nonprofit group that hopes to open the community center early next year.

The center initially will serve as a drop-in center for teens.

“A miracle will happen,” Raynes said during an interview Wednesday at the tree lot. “That place will get open.”

Volunteers will sell trees from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 24. Raynes plans to keep the lot open as late as midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

“Our goal is to sell 1,000 to 1,500 trees to raise money for the Hope Center and the homeless dinner,” Raynes said.

Customers can choose from among hundreds of Douglas and noble firs. Tree prices range from $20 to $80. Wreaths cost $19 and garland is sold for $25 for 25 feet.

Raynes started the weekly homeless dinner last year at the parking lot of the B & T auto detail shop he runs at 416 Railroad Avenue S. in downtown Kent.

An average of 70 to 80 people have attended recent dinners run by Raynes and a group of volunteers. Nearly 130 people attended a special Thanksgiving meal Nov. 28. Those who attended that meal also received backpacks with items such as a blanket, flashlight, batteries, hats, gloves and toothpaste.

“With the community support we’ve had for the homeless feed, it’s been doing really well,” Raynes said.

One local business donated tents to provide shelter to the homeless during the Thursday meal.

More volunteers are needed by Raynes to help with the sale of Christmas trees. He’s looking for people to hold signs along West Meeker Street for the lot.

After Christmas, Raynes will pick up trees for $5 to anyone who signs up for the service.

For more information, to volunteer or to make donations, call Raynes at 253-332-8010 or e-mail him at btpayitforward@aol.com.


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