By Elizabeth Wang
Ballard resident Christine Craig recently received the volunteer involvement award by Wellspring Family Services for her outstanding willingness to aid homeless youth.
Photo courtesy Holli Dunn Photography.
Craig, 42, has four young children, three daughters and one son from ages five to 11, and still manages to find time to organize, coordinate and fundraise for Wellspring, a nonprofit that helps homeless families find places to live, teaches parents non-violent behaviors, provides counseling and many other services.
Wellspring’s Baby Boutique, located on site, is a free store for homeless families where items may be donated, from strollers to new socks. It has served over 3,400 children, according to Patricia Gray, Wellspring’s community relations manager. The Craig family supplies a lot of the donations.
“They’re really good about cleaning out their closets,” said Gray.
Craig was working with FareStart, a culinary job training placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals, when Lillian Hochstein, vice president of development and communication and long-time friend, recommended she help with Wellspring and its Movies for Morningsong event. This is a pajama-party movie night for parents and kids of all ages, benefiting the day-care center for homeless children.
“I thought, ‘I bet Christine would be really good at this,’” Hochstein said. “She has a good eye for all things marketing.”
That event turned out to be a huge success and Craig was asked to chair Movies for Morningsong again the following year. After that, Craig started helping with the Baby Boutique and the Holiday Toy Room, during which Wellspring turns one of its conference rooms into a huge toy shop where homeless parents may pick out a few items and games for their children.
Since Craig started in 2007, her volunteer work at Wellspring has had a “domino effect,” she explained. She started taking on bigger projects and worked on Kids Helping Kids, a coin drive project that encourages younger children to donate coins while learning about the issues.
Though Craig is praised for all the work she has done for Wellspring, what she’s really proud of is the impact her volunteer work has had on her own children. “I would say it was the introduction for my kids, getting them involved and compassionate,” Craig said. “They’re like mini ambassadors for Wellspring now.”
The two older daughters spread awareness at their elementary school, putting up posters and getting their classmates involved. Craig said they promote Wellspring events, like Kids Helping Kids, getting up in front of their classes to explain the coin-collecting cans and even organizing back-to-school drives, getting all their friends involved.
Craig said: “That’s kind of what the turning point was for them that they realize that these kids, they look like us. And I’m like, yeah they do. They could go to our school, their mom looks normal, like put together.”
This understanding is what pushes her daughters to continue the work that they do for homeless youth, and Craig is really proud of that.
“They pretty much mirror everything I do,” she said.
Like her daughters learning from their mother, Craig gets her inspiration from her grandmother.
“My grandmother, who’s about to turn 101, she’s a dynamo,” said Craig. “She taught in public school in Harlem. … and she taught the CCD [Confraternity of Christian Doctrine] Sunday program, until she was 87.”
While she may not be conscious of it, Craig models her grandmother. Craig grew up around people who are always doing and giving, so it’s not a surprise how much her role model rubbed off on her.
“That sort of model is just there whether you realize it or not,” said Craig.
Hochstein describes Craig’s character as a determined go-getter, a driving force. Her innovation when it comes to spreading awareness and gathering people to get involved is what sets her apart.
Hochstein said Craig even set up a sandwich bar in her neighborhood to get people to listen about new projects or events.
“We just love her energy. She has such passion for what she does, it inspires other people to join,” Hochstein said. “She just can’t say no.”
According to Craig, the only hard part about her work is trying to juggle her schedule. But even between her duties at Wellspring, being on the Social Innovation Committee for the Babson Seattle Alumni Group and volunteering at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Craig still manages to fit everything together. How does she do it?
“Lots of coffee,” said Craig. “It’s not hard. What is hard is finding time to carve out a few hours a week. After the first time, it’s easy. You enjoy it.”
Contributor Elizabeth Wang is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.