Working to comfort others | 2014 Kent Reporter Persons of the Year

One is reserved, detailed and quietly tenacious who has lived a stable life. The other describes herself as "quirky," someone who came from humble beginnings, who marches to the beat of her own drum.

‘Action twins’: Sally Goodgion

‘Action twins’: Sally Goodgion

One is reserved, detailed and quietly tenacious who has lived a stable life. The other describes herself as “quirky,” someone who came from humble beginnings, who marches to the beat of her own drum.

Different in appearance, upbringing and personalty, both Kent women are big-hearted, resourceful, faith-driven, humble and proud. Both are community leaders in their own way, determined to soothe the sorrow, the plight of others. Both raised strong families of their own and are now committed to helping struggling families of today.

Pat Gray and Sally Goodgion have more in common than they realize when it comes to extending a compassionate hand, especially when it means helping the less fortunate who live life on the edge, who toil in the streets of Kent.

“I think that it should be intolerable for each one of us to allow someone to live outside and sleep under a bridge,” said Gray, chairperson of the KentHOPE Executive Board. KentHOPE (Homelessness Partnership Effort), a faith-based grassroots organization, is committed to reducing the homeless problem. “It’s part of our responsibility.”

“I absolutely agree,” said Goodgion, director of Willow’s Place, a weekly community- and business-coordinated effort that feeds and warms the homeless and hungry. She also provides a safe haven through her volunteer-supported Chick’s Place.

The Kent Reporter’s 2014 Persons of the Year vow to continue their work – to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry and connect the forgotten to a goodwill network that support a needy community. It is who they are, their mission of the moment, their purpose in life.

Gray, a retired music teacher, and Goodgion, a local businesswoman, are frequently praised by many in the community who volunteer their time, expertise and resources to helping others.

“Sally Goodgion and Pat Gray are two special, busy women,” said Leslie Kae Hamada, a community and KentHOPE volunteer, outreach leader and executive director of the Kent East Hill Kids Boxing Club. “They saw community members in grave need experiencing homelessness and needing shelter and food. And they did not just talk about these problems. They rolled up their sleeves and made things happen to better their lives. They communicated to all their friends and individuals to organize to partner to help.

“They are real people of faith. Faith without action is just great poetry,” Hamada added. “Sally and Pat are the action twins.”

Added Marvin Eckfeldt, a retired minister and former chair of the Kent Human Services Commission: “Pat and Sally reach out to those in need in our community because of their deep personal faith commitment. They are passionate about what they do; and they do it, and inspire others because of their own personal caring. They serve from a ‘good heart.'”

Making an impact

Gray and KentHOPE leaders have made an impact. While the nonprofit organization’s ultimate goal is to establish a 24-hour shelter for the homeless in the city, KentHOPE celebrated the opening of a day shelter for homeless women and children in November 2013. With the support of the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and other agencies, volunteers run the center, which sees as many as 30 women a day for food, companionship and services.

The center, Gray said, helped more than 60 women find jobs and helped more than 50 women and their children ease into stable housing.

What it cannot provide for the homeless, resilient KentHOPE has coordinated help through a network of local groups and parishes to provide overnight shelter.

“We’re really proud of that accomplishment,” Gray said. “We’ve engaged 250 volunteers who provide three meals a day. … People come in to teach classes, like job skills and life skills.”

KentHOPE and its partners remain undaunted in their bid to provide a full-service, around-the-clock center for the homeless. Four proposed locations in Kent have been turned away by the city and business community, which have expressed support for the general idea, just not on the chosen locations.

“We’ve made some inroads and we’re very proud of that,” Gray said of KentHOPE’s quest. “But we’ve been very frustrated along the way.

“No, I don’t think we’re any closer,” she added. “We’re closer in support from the community. I think they know what we stand for now and what we want.”

That support was evidenced by KentHOPE’s recent fundraising banquet. It attracted about 400 people and raised more than $71,000 for the organization’s services. The King County Council chipped in with a $5,000 contribution.

“We feel we are riding a wave of momentum,” Gray said. “It is critical right now to turn that momentum into our vision, which is a 24/7 resource center for homeless men and women.”

A dependable place

Since its informal beginnings four years ago, Willow’s Place has found partners to help move indoors, find a more permanent location, and serve up to 120 individuals on any given Thursday night. Under Goodgion’s watch, the Board of Willows Place has been instrumental in engaging local restaurants, businesses and religious, civic and service organizations. Participants in Willows Place set up and clean up, cook, serve and distribute donations each week.

“We see the hardcore (homeless),” Goodgion said. “We’ve maintained the same (amount of those served), and I hope we don’t grow. … I want to be out of business.”

But Goodgion stays in business, refusing to turn away the homeless and the hungry. She also has opened her home as a host to students studying abroad since 1987. In the past 26 years she has hosted more than 40 exchange students, ranging from the sons and daughters of affluent families to Bangladeshi teenagers from villages without running water.

“Some of them become just like my children,” she said.

Goodgion’s willingness to host students came out of foster care for children. When her last foster child left her home, she slowed down and started hosting exchange students.

She is a mentor and teacher, allowing students the opportunity to learn about American life. In return, she learns much about what life is like in their country.

“It’s kept me young. That’s because you’re having to look through younger eyes when you’re living with them,” Goodgion said.

Friends and partners

Goodgion and Gray occasionally bump into each other, exchange ideas and ways to advance their work. They met several years ago through their association with the South King County Homeless Advocacy Group.

“Anything she’s doing, I’m all for it,” said Goodgion, who hopes a 24/7 shelter can become a reality soon. “This girl (Gray) doesn’t give up. That’s what I admire about her. She looks at the bigger picture.”

Gray continues to challenge the Kent community to do more for the less fortunate. More education and advocacy are needed, she said, to help people better understand the situation and those victimized.

“We need to have those conversations,” Gray insisted.

The ability to extend a helping hand is what it’s all about, and what keeps both women active in the community.

“Pat and Sally demonstrate their love for people who are homeless or hurting by giving of themselves and rallying others in our community to join in building relationships to transform people to better lives,” said Dave Mitchell, chief operating officer of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. “They are persistent and tenacious in their efforts.

“Pat and Sally go about their tasks with humility – doing things that raise awareness to the needs and bringing in resources,” Mitchell added. “They prefer any recognition go to their organizations, KentHOPE and Willow’s Place, rather than to themselves.

“It is a privilege to know and serve alongside Pat and Sally.”

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