By Hailey Palmer, Puyallup Tribal News
Hundreds of needy Tacomans received assistance on Sunday when the annual Helping the Homeless event returned to the Puyallup Tribal Admin building.
Organized by Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller, the event was held for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, donations from community members were accepted and distributed to the homeless during the years the event was on hold.
“We have a great number of homeless individuals that are in need,” Miller said. “It’s cold out. We’re going to be going through rainstorms here and flooding, and this is just the time of year for giving.”
Vice Chairwoman Miller has been putting on this event for more than 14 years . “I think everybody sees the great need for it because so many homeless people are underneath our bridges,” she said, “and we’re hoping to give these people some opportunities and show them some resources out there.”
More than 80 volunteers showed up bright and early on Sunday morning to get things set up. Plastic bins were filled with crackers, fruit cups, canned food, tarps and clothing that were later handed out.
Hot dogs and marshmallows were roasted over fire pits, hot soup was served along and to-go bags of non-perishable items were given to those in need.
Most volunteers were adults, but Miller was also pleased to see children among those donating their time to the cause.
“This is a good learning experience for kids to learn that everybody’s not as fortunate as you,” Miller said. “There’s kids out there that don’t have a roof over their head or don’t have a Christmas like you.”
Miller said that more people reached out to donate or volunteer than in years past. “I’ve never had so many people call me and donate (everything) from knitted hats they made to socks,” she said. “Other people were like, ‘Can I make cookies? Can I make chicken soup? Can I do this? Can I do that?’ And it’s like, ‘Yes you can.’ It’s very welcomed from these individuals.”
Reentry Department and Community Family Services Director Mona Miller was among Sunday’s volunteers. She brought more than half of her staff to help out on a cold but thankfully dry December day. “Some of us have been right here where these folks have been: being homeless, out on the streets, suffering from mental health and drug addiction,” she said.
Vice Chairwoman Miller was also joined by fellow Puyallup Tribal Council members Annette Bryan, Anna Bean and Fred Dillon who all gave reasons for giving up a Sunday to help the community.
Tribal Council comments:
Sylvia Miller: “There’s so many people in many states that are in need, and we’re here today because we care. We want these people to know we care. Everybody that’s come here has volunteered, and everybody that’s here is in need. We’re here to make sure our community is taken care of in any way we can. The Puyallup people are very generous and caring individuals, and so we want to say thanks to the Puyallup Tribal Council for all that they do.”
Annette Bryan: “I know what it’s like to be homeless, and I know what it’s like to be hungry. I feel like people around us deserve to be treated like humans no matter what their situation is in life. The Puyallup Tribe is definitely generous and definitely welcoming, and it’s an honor to be able to serve the community in this way.”
Anna Bean: “This is what we do here at the Puyallup Tribe. We see a need and try to fulfill that. I’m grateful for years ago when Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller felt it in her heart to start an event like this. It’s grown and to see all the folks who have come out to help volunteer and help those folks in our community who are unable to help themselves at this time.”
Fred Dillon: “We’re here today to try and give back; give back a little bit to some of the less fortunate that are around that are homeless and need some help. We’re always known to be the generous and welcoming people of these lands here.”