by Therapeutic Childcare Specialist, Martha Buchta-Spevack

During the past 4+ years, the first location of our King County Emergency Sanctuary (on a tree-lined residential street in Beacon Hill) has welcomed almost 1,000 children. On a few occasions, a child has stayed with us at the Sanctuary more than once. The typical stay has been 5 days, but we’ve had a few children for as few as 12 hours and once a sibling set of 3 stayed with us for 10 days. The oldest child we’ve served was 17-years-old, while our youngest child was 5 days old at placement. For that 5-day-old, and a few other newborn babies, the Sanctuary was the first house they entered after discharging from the hospital post-birth.

Our sweet, cozy house has served us well. It’s seen happy times such as Christmas mornings, building snow people on snow days, visits from the Tooth Fairy, and countless bowls of microwave popcorn topped with M&Ms during our nightly routine of movie time after baths and before bed.

Like any residence, it’s had occasional hiccups. The internet has gone down on more than one occasion. At a normal office, this means you might head to a coffee shop or maybe even home early. At the Sanctuary, a lack of internet means a lack of Netflix, which means staff and volunteer must be creative to come up with a new bedtime routine with extra books or even original songs and storytelling.

Most recently, our washing machine has been out of commission (a final farewell gift from our beloved house on Beacon Hill). At the Sanctuary, a broken washing machine doesn’t mean a break from laundry. As they always have and always will, the Sanctuary staff stepped up in big ways, taking laundry home to their personal machines when kids’ clothes needed to be washed for their next-day discharge, and coming in on their days off to take large loads to the laundromat. Big shout-out to the Clean Machine on MLK, and also to a recent guest who coined, pun intended, my new nickname, “the Laundry Lady”.

It’s exciting to move to a brand-new building! Everything will feel fresh, and hopefully we’ll go for years without needing to replace an appliance. I’m sure there will be some growing pains, because change is always hard – even if just a little bit, but soon we’ll all know where to find the size 10 girls’ pajamas and even more importantly, the coffee supplies.

The true essence of the Sanctuary isn’t in our physical building, it’s in the love and patience that staff and volunteers bring to each shift. It’s in the welcoming feeling we create for each child who walks through our doors, when we assure kids, “You are safe, adults will take care of you here, and while you’re at the Sanctuary, you get to be a kid.” Our amazing Sanctuary team will keep showing this warmth and love to every child we care for, because we are the heart that makes a house a home.

If you’d like to be part of helping kids at our Emergency Sanctuary feel safe, welcome, and important, considering joining us as a volunteer!