By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
It’s been a cold winter in the Pacific Northwest. Although we’ve seen just a limited amount of snow so far, we recently braved an arctic front that dropped the temperature to single-digit degrees on several nights during a near two-week span this January. And while many of us experienced a number of troublesome annoyances that come with the cold weather, such as burst pipes, frozen windshields, and icy roadways, at the end of the day, we could count ourselves fortunate to have a warm home to reside at during the extreme cold.
Unfortunately, there were over a thousand unhoused locals who had to tough out the freezing temperatures in the streets, out in wilderness, and anywhere they could find shelter. According to Snohomish County’s 2023 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness, there was an 8.5 percent increase of unhoused citizens since 2022. The yearly count identified an additional 101 unhoused citizens, bringing the total count to 1,285, the highest it’s been in over a decade.
What started out as an idea to give back to their community during the holiday season has blossomed into a monthly donation drive organized by a local group known as the Tulalip Caring Warriors. After hosting two successful ‘warmth drives’ around Thanksgiving and Christmastime, the group decided to extend the season of giving for the foreseeable future.
The Tulalip Caring Warrior’s donation drives are for the community, by the community. Upon seeing the impact of their first drive, in which they delivered homecooked meals to the homeless population of Tulalip, Marysville, and Everett, the Caring Warriors expanded their donation drive to include warm winter wear and blankets for their holiday drive in December. The ladies reached out to their community, asking for donations of gently used scarves, hats, coats, blankets, gloves, and snacks.
They recevied heartwarming responses from the community as countless bags of clothes and several boxes of non-perishable foods, as well as numerous monetary donations, were collected for the group’s second donation drive. Over 100 unhoused individuals received blankets, warm clothing, winter care kits, and hot meal resulting from the community’s generous donations and the hard work put in by the Caring Warriors.
The successful donation drives inspired other Tulalip locals to join in on the Warrior’s give-back efforts. Consisting of both Tulalip tribal members and citizens, the group originally began with Angelica Trinidad, Kayla Joseph, Odessa Flores, Melissa Young, Kylee Sohappy, and Janae Zackuse, and now additional members include Mahayla Flores and Chena Joseph as well.
The distribution for their third donation drive took place on January 14. In the freezing cold, on a day that had a high of 33 degrees and a low of 12 degrees, the Tulalip Caring Warriors loaded up their vehicles with donations and freshly prepared meals and hit the streets of Tulalip and its surrounding municipalities to bring a little warmth to those most in need.
Tulalip Caring Warrior, Odessa Flores, stated “We united once again for our give back event, extending support to the unhoused community during this harsh winter. We served 100 unhoused community members in Snohomish County. We provided warm bags, distributed donations, and served stew with rolls and waters. Our group is expanding and growing in numbers. Together, we organized the generous donations from our community, recreating a heartfelt family recipe from Melissa Young’s mother, Evangelina McGill (Angie). Angie shared her homemade stew recipe, and we worked collaboratively to prepare it.”
She continued, “Due to dropping temperatures, we extended our efforts to locate individuals seeking cold shelters. The gratitude from those we encountered was overwhelming – appreciating not just a warm meal but also blankets and coats for the chilly nights. They also eagerly provided leads on where more donations and meals could make a difference.”
Over the years, we’ve heard time and time again from Tulalip artists that you must have a good mind and heart when conducting cultural, spiritual, or community work, and that it’s all about the energy you put into your craft or project. These traditional values and that cultural mentality seeped into the Tulalip Caring Warriors’ donation drives.
Now, of course one of the main highlights for the Caring Warriors is bringing smiles to those in need on distribution day. However, another major aspect of this work is the environment in which it’s conducted. Since the Tulalip Caring Warriors’ foundation was originally built on a close-knit friendship, the ever-growing group puts in a vast amount of good vibes and love into their work. And in the weeks of preparation leading up into distribution day, you can bet that Caring Warriors are having a blast, filling the room up with laughter each and every time they gather to discuss planning efforts, sort through donations, and cook meals on a large scale for their monthly events.
Tulalip Caring Warrior Kayla Joseph shared a quote by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi Nation) from the book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’: “Wealth among traditional people is measured by having enough to give away”.
Said Kayla, “When asked why we do this, this [quote] sums it up completely. Having the ability to give back to those that are in need, in the best ways that we know how – food is a universal way of saying we care about you. Next month we are doing spaghetti, it’s my turn to bring the recipe. In between sorting the donations and cooking the meal, we got a few laps around the track to get in our daily steps. We work to build each other up in all ways of life.”
The Warriors also encourage youth participation and often recruit their own kids and young relatives to help out with the donation drives. Tulalip Caring Warrior Angelica Trinidad expressed, “I love this opportunity to teach my son about the importance of giving back, because we’re all struggling. In this day and age our economy sucks. We all have different battles and struggles. We don’t know what’s going on in people’s daily lives. I firmly believe that if you want to see change in the world, be the change you want to see. It’s awesome to be able to set that example for my son.”
The next distribution day will be held in mid-February. The Tulalip Caring Warriors are now accepting donations for their next drive until February 17. They are asking for your help to make this another successful drive for the unhoused citizens of our community. If you have any gently used warm winter gear you would like to donate, you can make your contribution at their new drop-off location at the Tulalip teen center.
The Caring Warriors are also taking donations for their next homecooked meal and are accepting snacks, spaghetti noodles, spaghetti sauce, rolls, and bottled waters. If you would like to take it a step further and donate your time and efforts to the cause, they would like to extend an invite for you to join their team. Please reach out to Odessa Flores at (425) 319-4868, or Angelica Trinidad at (425) 404-1211 for further details.