Stroll through Pike Place Market in Seattle on a typical day and you’ll smell fresh bouquets of wildflowers, hear the chatter of craft vendors hawking their wares and see fishmongers toss salmon as big as logs through the air.
Look closer, though, and you’ll see that beneath all the bustle is a thriving ecosystem, with the spirit of community giving at its core.
There are 500 units of housing for low-income seniors located in the converted hotels and residential buildings around the Market. There’s a free health clinic for local residents, along with a preschool open to families who work in and around Pike Place. There’s also a food bank that serves more than 300 people each week and delivers groceries to more than 80 homebound older adults.
It’s all supported by the Pike Place Market Foundation, established in 1982 to support services for independent business owners, farmers, artisans and low-income residents of the 110-year-old public marketplace. Thanks to a recent $25,000 grant from the Starbucks Upstanders challenge, more funding will now go to the organization’s Community Safety Net program, which helps vendors who are undergoing financial or personal hardships. In 2017, the Foundation gave more than $34,000 in emergency assistance so that 60 members of the Market community could hold onto their residence and livelihood. That’s crucial in a city that has experienced such a huge housing and tech boom in recent years (the median rent in the area is around $2,500 per month, according to Zillow Rent Index), pricing many people out.
“Recently, we had an artist who just had her whole inventory stolen,” says Patricia Gray, Community Relations Manager for the Foundation. “When you’re a single entrepreneur and you’re relying on your handmade goods to provide your source of income, a blow like that can really ruin your business, so our Safety Net is there to help people get back on their feet.”
In addition to the Starbucks grant, the Foundation has just emerged from a major capital campaign, raising $3 million over the past calendar year. That money will go to a variety of programs, including Heritage House (an assisted living facility for seniors with significant medical needs), the aforementioned preschool, and The Market Commons, a resource center open to the public.
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The Pike Place Market Foundation was established to be an ongoing source of support through fundraising and advocacy to make sure we can build services for the community and keep them strong.
“The really amazing thing about Pike Place is that it’s such a multigenerational community,” says Gray. “We have foster grandparents who work in the preschool side by side with the kids. You really just see our seniors come alive when they get the opportunity to read and play with young children. We’re developing more programs along these lines.”
Such an environment has helped people like Fawn, a young mother who was homeless and living in Seattle’s Tent City for parts of three years. Thanks to the Foundation’s Food Access Program, she had access to fresh produce to bring home to her children and could send them to a safe preschool in the Market, connecting with those around her for support. Now, Fawn is working for the Metropolitan Improvement District downtown, helping the homeless population in her own neighborhood.
Says Gray, “Pike Place is so much more than just the fish and the flowers that people love. It’s about showing people that they are a part of a diverse community built with purpose and design.”
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