Reflections on my first CRE Foot Washing

This is a reflection by Bob Chapman.

The foot washing at the annual Community Resource Exchange, sponsored by United Way of King County, is a vital part of the DNA of Church of the Redeemer. Inspired by the vision of Emily Austin, this congregation took this ministry to its very core.

Foot washing is who we are.

I had wanted to participate in this since I first came to Redeemer in September 2010. However, when part of the “gig economy,” I did not get time off with pay for any reason, whether illness, company holiday, or social good. That changed when I moved to direct employment in December 2017.

So, on March 20, 2018, I was there. It was my time to participate.

Emily Austin and Bob Chapman

Here are some thoughts I had from that day.

The advanced foot care team are rock stars

Everyone works hard. Very hard. However, the advanced foot care people work a bit longer and harder. And, with less attention.

Advanced foot care volunteers earning their rock star status

No one really wanted their feet washed until after 10:00 am. The guests have more important things to do when the doors first open. Get a new pair of shoes. Apply for a job. Find a housing voucher. Get a haircut.

And, get advanced foot care.

Sharon Villa, rock star

The advanced foot care team was busy pretty much from the start. I don’t think those volunteers took much of a break the whole day, even for lunch. Someone brought food and drink to them. They worked right up to closing at 2:00 pm. Then, they had to pack their tools of the trade and carry them to their cars.

I think that only Emily works harder.

Emily Austin, working hard

Look around before it gets busy

I knew about many of the services being offered that day for those experiencing homelessness. I didn’t necessarily know where they were being offered inside the Century Link Field Event Center. That is why I had no idea where to apply for a housing voucher when asked.

Sarah Phillips, looking around while working hard

There was no requirement to know this information. However, it would have been nice.

A lot is accomplished by people working hard

Washington State DSHS was next door to us. I talked to their manager. He said that he is manages the DSHS Belltown office, where they normally see about 300 people a day. With half the staff at the Community Resource Exchange, they helped the same number of people, finishing by 2:00 pm.

The usual suspects, and more

There are people in red shirts who are there to solve problems. We needed folding extra folding chairs to create a waiting area for advanced foot care. While we initially borrowed chairs from DSHS, they needed their waiting area, too. When I said what we needed to a red shirt, she found enough chairs for us, one or two at a time.

You could see efforts like this all around.

Terri Howatt at the start of the day

It is fun to call someone by their first name unexpectedly

Most of us, guests and volunteers, were wearing name tags. After a while, when I asked if a person needed their toes trimmed, feet washed, or wanted one of the foot care kits we had to pass out, I addressed that person by their first name.

Of course, no one expected it. It made a good ice breaker to start a conversation.

My “gotcha” moment

Most people have at least one “gotcha” moment if you go. It isn’t a requirement, but it is typical.

In my case, I asked a guest if he needed his toes trimmed or advanced foot care. (You ask this first, because the advanced foot care people cannot do their magic after the toenails are wet.) The reply was that he lost his toes to frostbite recently. That, and how wonderful it was to find a pair of shoes that comfortably fit. He emphasized the positive with the new shoes.

So, I asked if maybe he would want to have his feet washed, instead. I didn’t know how recently this had happened. However, he was still in wound care and couldn’t get his dressings wet.

As a person with a long history with wound care resulting from radiation when I had cancer, I had my moment to think about how my experience would have been different if I was experiencing homelessness.

The people at Redeemer can be proud of where this is today

Foot washing at the Community Resource Exchange started with Redeemer, and we are still heavily invested in it. While Redeemer was the pioneer, the people and work of the Foot Soul Team come from more than Redeemer today.

Volunteers from the Seattle Service Corps with Emily

The Foot Soul Team is a steering committee to organize foot washing annually at the United Way of King County’s Community Resource Exchange. This ministry has participants from many regional faith communities.

Volunteers washing feet

Just as the Foundation for Academic Endeavors in Mount Vernon grew out of another Earley Outreach Fund project at Redeemer, the foot washing at the CRE has grown to be something much more.

Speaking of Mount Vernon

I intend to be back next year. After all, it is in Redeemer’s DNA. Hopefully you can join in.

Church of the Redeemer

Community life at Redeemer centers on worship in the Episcopal traditionArt and music vitally deepen this worship. Our faith expresses itself with service to people, locally to internationally.

Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 Northeast 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. We are a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.