Your journey with Compassion Connect began many years ago through your encounters with Gary and Linda Tribbett and Clear Creek Church. How did you first meet Gary and Linda?
I am not too sure if the first time I met Linda was the first time I met Gary, but I would like to say I “looked” at him for a good year before I actually met him or knew his name. He and a couple other volunteers at Clear Creek [Church] ran a hot chocolate and chili volunteer service on the corner of 162nd and Burnside for about six years, (2009-2014) to give back to communities. My mother and I used to go to the store “coincidentally” every Friday; at first, we were skeptical, always keeping our heads down, not making eye contact because that was not the first group that had stayed on our corner before. For me, being nine years old, that was the first “nice” group I had seen. No loud, biased preaching, no cussing or “you're going to hell” signs. Just friendly men and women, and sometimes children too.
Not ever having a positive man in my life, Gary was the very last person I wanted to meet, ironically. I am not sure if it was Linda, or Andrea Eversmeyer (Marks at the time) who finally singled me out. Being a little kid, the initial hook was having a name twin. But even bad people can joke around, so I guess I would say the thing that made me want to keep going to the store on Friday nights around 6pm would be the environment that these people created. They all just wanted to give back to the community, to educate no matter who you were. It was here that I met the people I call family now.
Why did you decide to get involved with them (Gary & Linda) and with the Adorned In Grace Design Studio?
There isn't a lot I remember of the very beginning but being so young, I was still in this stage of immaturity, yet curious for what was to come. I was still trapped in the environment of my family, but it was the curiosity that gave in to the invitations to go to Clear Creek Community Church. The Design Studio didn't happen right away, and for a while it was hit and miss. For a while, I think it was just the change in pace and people that kept me involved: “Suddenly these nice people are here, wanting me for no reason and giving me things without expecting anything?” which was something I had never experienced before.
I think that was the initial idea; to find something that draws in the younger generations, but brings home the main point—God. I think I was twelve years old when it was brought up. Just some girls, learning how to sew, maybe make a purse with some other women who are excellent seamstresses. The depth of my relationship and involvement in the Design Studio didn't stick until about a couple years later. I was maybe fifteen.
What are some of your favorite memories of the Design Studio?
There are a few, and they're definitely all scattered. I remember the very first time I stepped foot in the Design Studio, I was partnered with Christina Causey, and she was telling me how she had never sewn before, and she ended up sewing her finger by accident. Another time would be once I got more involved, so 2014 when we had a car wash to fundraise for an aquarium trip. It was one of those times where I felt accomplished; I had done something and earned a reward. I know for some of the girls there they had never done something like that before in a positive way.
One of the memories I will always remember is not directly associated with the Design Studio as a place to sew but an example of the family that had grown. I think it was a couple days after my birthday, and I hadn't expected anything, but because of my family situation, I hadn't received anything (i.e. card, cake etc.) and Tara Homola asked if I wanted to join her in dropping some things off at the Design Studio. I said yes because I wasn't doing anything. But anyway, when we entered the Design Studio, there were balloons, cupcakes, and a bag on the counter. All three people, Marie, Akiah, and Tara had planned a birthday party for me. That is the best memory I have.
What is something that you have appreciated about your Design Studio mentors?
They don't act perfect, or try to change for me, or try to suggest something that they themselves have not done or went though. They show their imperfections and are always humble with their faith and don't put up a front like they know everything.
What would you say to girls who are considering joining the Design Studio or to women who are considering being a mentor at the Design Studio?
To the young women thinking of joining the Design Studio, I say go for it! Whether it be for the relationships, or the wicked good sewing lessons, go for it. It will be awkward at first, but over that, anyone can see the love some of these women want to give. I sound exactly like the people I wanted to avoid when I was younger (ironically) but since I came from that point, I can tell you that the judgment, the doubt and the anxiety is the enemy. No one is born judging others, or thinking they're bad people. It's just something you have to overcome in order to see the depth of what is going on at the Design Studio.
To the women considering mentoring, if you have the time, and want to make a difference in someone's life, I would say go for it as well. Not that I doubt you already aren't, but I've asked some of the very first people I've met and they said it was a very hard thing to do. I was not the nicest child, but they said they saw under all of the bondage, a little girl. And it is going to be hard (i.e. why we are teenagers) but also the biggest struggle I've seen on both ends is following through.
It is so easy to say you can help, and it will inconvenience yourself to help someone in need, but as hard as it is to ask for that help, it is just as hard to stop and ask yourself if you can really burden your full life with another life full of burdens. Not that burdening yourself is a bad thing, especially when it comes to these young women, but that is the biggest piece of advice I could give. Besides that, just be yourself. I say that because so many older women ask how they can be a good mentor (I surprisingly get that a lot) and that is all I can say because like children learning, we are spiritually growing every day, and if you are putting on a front because of insecurity, or doubts, we will see that. If I have learned anything, it is from the truth of my mentors. It isn't always happy or fun, but it is them being imperfect and humble that has taught me so many things versus people I have known who have acted the part but not done it.
What are some ways you have changed as a person from the time you met Linda and Gary, and got involved with the Design Studio, to who you are now?
The biggest thing I would say would be my religious shift. Before I met Linda or Gary or anyone through the church, I had a very twisted idea of what Christianity was. It was just a cover, or a lie to make your family seem better, more put together. Before I met Linda and Gary, Tara and Milan, Marie and Doug or anyone through the church really, I would be repulsed by the things I do now. Reading my bible, or just carrying it around like I do now. Giving back to people without expecting anything in return, or just constantly evaluating myself whether it be my physical body or my spiritual body, which I wouldn't even know would be there if it wasn't for these people that I know God put into my life for good.
Being a child, I constantly asked for family that would love me, and I would be able to love them. At the time, I wasn't asking anyone in particular, but now I know that someone is always listening, and he heard. He put those people there that Friday, it was the work of God that crashed our paths together and it not only changed my life but changed theirs as well. Without them, I wouldn't have any of the family I do now. My walk is still tough, but without my family I doubt I would have even decided to be baptized in 2015.
Sometimes, I sit at home, and I talk with my mother and my grandmother, and I feel different than them. I know they're my family, but they didn't want what was best for me. Whether it be the harder way, the more inconvenient way, or the impossible, these women and men I have met over the last seven years have helped drastically change my life. Whether it be faith, addiction or just habits. They've done this without even knowing it.