News

Human link: Couple helping the Valley's homeless write free letters home

Helping dozens of homeless people in the past year through their Free Letters Home project, Stacy and Greg Barber are reconnecting families. The Barbers are collecting unused stationery at Carmichael
Helping dozens of homeless people in the past year through their Free Letters Home project, Stacy and Greg Barber are reconnecting families. The Barbers are collecting unused stationery at Carmichael's True ValueHardware in Snoqualmie, North Bend's ACE Hardware, Carnation Market and Duvall True Value.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

It's been almost a year since Greg Barber first got the idea for Free Letters Home.

From their first trial run in mid-January through today, he and his wife, Stacey, have been connecting families, accepting unexpected and unsolicited donations, and becoming more sure each day that they are doing a good thing.

The problem is, "I keep thinking, this is such a simple idea, so what's wrong with it?" Greg said.

The Snohomish couple's Free Letters Home project, expanded this fall to the Snoqualmie Valley, is as simple as things get. Greg and Stacey started with a lot of stamps, some leftover stationery from Stacy's stash, and a simple hope from Greg for Valentine's Day. "All I wanted was for some kids to hear from their fathers for Valentine's Day," he said.

That first Sunday, the couple set up a table with pens, papers, and stamps, across from a gathering spot for homeless people in Everett, and then Greg told Stacey to wait, safely, in the car. He planned to sit at the table alone, and offer people a chance to write and send a letter home, for free.

"I didn't know what would happen," he said. "What if a drug dealer tried to kill me for being on his turf?"

But Stacy wouldn't have it.

"These people are out there," she said. "Wy should I stay in a nice warm car?"

So, they both sat at the table, and quietly provided the opportunity together. They decided not to ask questions of anyone, and just offer the occasional spelling help, when needed.

"Greg's a good speller," says Stacey, with a smile.

If the letter-writers agreed to it, their letters were stamped with "freelettershome.com" which is the only advertising the Barbers have done for their project, before they were mailed.

The response was small at first, but powerful. A few people wrote letters. Drivers stopped as they passed by to ask about the program, then handed over $10 or $20 bills "for stamps" before driving off. People started sharing their stories.

Greg remembered hearing from one man, now a businessman, about how a similar opportunity in New York years ago when he was homeless reconnected him with his estranged family and changed his life. Later, the couple heard from another family who got some help and returned to Alaska, to start over.

Before the month was out, Greg asked Stacey if the project could continue. She agreed right away, saying "It feels good to help people."

"I didn't set out to get people off the streets," Greg said. "For me, the project is about family, not homelessness. It's about families, and people, and communities."

Carmichael's True Value Hardware in Snoqualmie has a collection box on display, for people to donate their unused holiday cards, birthday cards, sympathy cards and almost any-other-occasion cards.

For more information about Free Letters Home, visit their website at www.freelettershome.com, or their Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 27 edition online now. Browse the archives.