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Fostering a culture of giving: Hampton Inn & Suites reaches out

  • Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer

On Oct. 22, a group from the Woodinville Hampton Inn & Suites and a group from the company’s corporate office in Arizona gathered to assemble amenity kits for residents of Camp Unity Eastside, a tent village that serves homeless residents on the Eastside.

The kits included laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, soap, scarves (which the Hampton Inn employees made themselves) and other items.

According to Christina Flohrs, the Woodinville Hampton Inn’s General Manager, the outreach is not just a one-time event.

Camp UnitySeveral Hampton Inn employees gathered last week to serve a hot meal to the residents of Camp Unity Eastside, a tent village in Woodinville (Photo by Kirsten Abel)“It’s going to be something that we’re going to continually do,” Flohrs said.

About 24 people currently live at Camp Unity Eastside. The tent village, which is set up in a portion of the parking lot at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Woodinville, might not look like you’d expect. 

The tents are aligned in two neat rows. Some have handmade signs that signify who lives inside, like a house number. There’s an administration tent, where the camp supervisor (a resident of the camp) works, and a food tent, where meals are served and where extra food is stocked. Soup, oatmeal, instant potatoes, bread, peanut butter, and tea line the shelves. There are two refrigerators, a freezer, and a microwave. 

In a trailer at the entrance of the camp, there is a shower, a hand washing station, and a washer and dryer. 

The village is quiet. A handful of people are out and about. The stereotypes of a homeless camp that is dangerous or dirty simply do not exist here.

“It’s a small neighborhood,” said Jim McCorkle, a Camp Unity Eastside board member. “They’re part of a community. They take care of each other.”

Camp Unity is self-sustaining, meaning that the residents themselves work different jobs to keep the camp running. Some work as kitchen supervisors or donation supervisors, and everyone takes a turn working security (the camp runs security shifts 24 hours a day), patrolling the perimeter and checking on tents.

The camp also has a zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs, alcohol, and violent behavior.

Six Hampton Inn employees, some from Woodinville and some from Arizona, arrived at Camp Unity last Monday evening. They brought the amenity kits and scarves to give out to residents and they also brought a hot meal—enchiladas. 

A few people came in to eat and chat. Others who work evening jobs, McCorkle said, will eat later. “They are able to manage leftovers well,” he said. “Nothing goes to waste.”

Various volunteer groups bring hot meals to Camp Unity several days per week. According to McCorkle, the residents often receive one prepared meal per day. 

Some residents live at Camp Unity for a few months while in between homes or jobs. Others stay for much longer. Some people are on waiting lists for affordable housing, which can take months or even years.

This is the first time Hampton Inn has worked with Camp Unity. 

“I know that we are really trying to build a culture that we can take back to all of our hotels,” said Lisa Van Houweling, the hotel’s director of sales.
When the employees got together to talk about what kind of outreach to do, the issue of homelessness weighed heavily on the group.

“I’d say that was probably one of the things that touched with everybody,” Lisa said. “Everybody can imagine that it would be really hard not to have a home.”

And Hampton Inn has even bigger ideas about how to partner with the camp aside from supplying hot meals and amenity kits. They are also exploring the possibility of providing linens that can’t be used at the hotel and, most importantly, maybe even jobs.

“These are people who truly just fell on hard times,” Van Houweling said.

For more information about Camp Unity Eastside, visit campunityeastside.com. Check the meal calendar to sign up to provide a hot meal, or see the essential needs list to find out specific items that residents need. (Currently, winter items like gloves, jackets, and hand warmers are on the list.)

Visit hamptoninn3.hilton.com or call (425) 788-9247 for more information about Hampton Inn & Suites in Woodinville.

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