21st Annual Evening of Hope Gala and Auction - all funds benefiting Mary's Place

Saturday, Feb. 3 2018

Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

Mary's Place has been giving homeless women and their children safety and shelter since 1999.

At the Day Center, Lauren Santos and a team of volunteers bustle to put out a meal that sustains in more ways than one.

As Meg Broughton succinctly put it as she waited for lunch: "Food is love. Food is love. And I'd recommend Mary's Place to anyone."

Mae Campbell, also waiting for the family style lunch to be served, added: "It's just like sisterhood, come in, break bread together, at Mary's Place. It's really really nice."

These meals brought Lauren, a transgender woman, back from the brink. There was a time when she needed Mary's Place services.

"My life was a disaster I had some mental illness issues, I could barely get out of bed. It was really horrible actually," said Lauren.

Somebody suggested volunteering might help, so she got to work in the kitchen: working 25 hours a week turning food bank fare into hot meals for homeless women.

"That was everything I needed to do to get my life back on track. Right now I have nothing to complain about, everything is the way its supposed to be. Helping others is a great way to help yourself." Lauren said.

Much of the food Lauren prepares come from Northwest Harvest. According to Northwest Harvest Procurement Manager Mike Regis, many non-profits rely on this food bank.

"Someplace like Mary's Place, they'll let us know what they need, with their fruits, with their vegetables, with their protein products, and we'll deliver what they need every Thursday, we do that with a number of programs throughout the city and throughout the state."

Where others see dried beans and oatmeal -- Lauren sees vats of chili -- breakfast for 200 -- and the benefits of a hot, nutritious meal.

"In order to have a good life, people need to have good food. You can't have a good life without a good diet."

Back at Mary's Place, at 12:30 sharp, lunch is served...and sustenance happens.

"I was watching this video, it suggested you get 12 hugs a day to succeed." Lauren said.

"And this is a sea of hugs here."

For all of these women, this is food that truly fills them up.

"This kitchen is based on love. Which means you do the best you can with what you have. And as long as you put enough love into it it's gonna taste good," laughed Lauren, as she received yet another hug.

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