Hope in ample supply at Vine Maple Place fundraiser in Maple Valley

Elizabeth lost her job, her house and her car in 2010.

After five months of couch surfing with her son, who was then 3, Elizabeth found a safe place in Maple Valley to help her get back on track: Vine Maple Place.

She arrived in September 2010 and moved into a cozy apartment at Vine Maple Gardens, an eight-unit transitional housing development owned by Vine Maple Place, a private faith-based non-profit which began in Maple Valley in 2000.

Vine Maple Place provides transitional housing and services for homeless parents and their children.

While she was recovering from her triple whammy, Elizabeth discovered life had thrown another unexpected surprise at her.

“I found out a few weeks after I got here that I was pregnant with my daughter,” she said. “I didn’t like the situation I was in. I came here already in my head, I knew what I wanted to do, I had goals in place.”

Raising her son on her own, going through the pregnancy with her daughter, and then five days after moving into Gardens she started work on her associate’s degree at a school in Seattle, Elizabeth had take on quite a bit.

The support she got from the staff at Vine Maple Place made a huge difference.

“I was dealing with a lot of emotions there,” Elizabeth said. “I was going through counseling and strengthening my spiritual walk.”

She was referred to counselors — Elizabeth chose to see a Christian counselor — by Linda Peterson who was then serving as an advocate for VMP.

If she needed gas to get to school, Elizabeth said, the staff would provide her with gas gift cards.

When her son’s birthday came around and she needed a toy, she said, he didn’t go without.

Children who lived in other units at Gardens became not just friends, Elizabeth said, but extended family.

During an intensive period halfway through the school year, Elizabeth needed a laptop, and the staff of VMP were able to provide her one which had been donated.

“I found out that they were able to do those things thanks to volunteers,” she said. “They can’t do it without donations and the money people backed them up with.”

And as the Planting Seeds of Hope fundraiser approaches on Saturday, Elizabeth has transitioned out of Gardens, just the kind of success story Executive Director Colleen Starr loves to share with anyone who is looking to support the organization.

Planting Seeds of Hope began 11 years ago, Starr said, as an auction and brunch the day before Mother’s Day. It will be at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church this year and will likely sell out.

An event designed to allow women help women in the community, Starr said, it eventually became a brunch where clients in the program could tell their stories while connecting with supporters of the organization in an effort to build a community to create more success stories.

“It’s about making connections… finding different ways of being involved,” Starr said. “It’s an integral part of what we do, bringing the community together to support homeless families with kids. We’re just the conduit.”

Planting Seeds of Hope is one of two major fundraisers annually for VMP.

During the brunch supporters can learn more about other women — though VMP does help men, too — like Elizabeth who are learning about how to be better parents, how to take care of their money as well as going through school to acquire skills to become more marketable thus making it easier for them to take care of their families.

A year ago Elizabeth attended the event and she was the only client sitting at her table, “they kind of picked my brain a little, which was fine, because it was a very warm table.”

The whole thing changed her perspective, she said.

“It made me think, ‘Wow, it does take a lot to house us. How do they do it?,” she said. “Before they asked people to donate they had speakers and played the Vine Maple Place movie… and I saw all the women around me, how touched they were. They were seeing it’s a good thing. Vine Maple Place is all about love and serving families.”

Starr said the staff and volunteers at Vine Maple Place have four goals for clients: stable housing, education to increase employability, financial stability and life skills which ranges from parenting to healthy relationships to cooking.

“We feel like we’re a team, that the parents and the kids have certain things that they need to do in order to succeed,” Starr said. “The other thing that we really want to stress is that it really is a community effort.”

Not that long ago, Elizabeth landed a job and graduated to Safe Landings which is one of three off-site homes VMP provides assistance with for clients who have moved on, and soon she will walk across the stage in cap and gown to receive her associate’s degree.

Early on Elizabeth didn’t realize how much work goes into helping parents who have gone to VMP for help.

A particularly critical time was after she gave birth to her daughter via c-section. She was provided with meals, someone who would watch her son while she spent time with her newborn, and “they provided a mentor who worked with me and prayed for me.”

Now she is thankful for that help and ready to provide the same support to other parents in need as she has completed a 2-year degree in social work with plans to complete her bachelor’s degree then eventually earn her master’s.

“Not only do I have all this education, which is great, I have the experience of walking through it myself,” she said. “The way Vine Maple Place is structured… really molded me into the woman and mother and student that I am now.”


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