The inaugural Love Snoqualmie Valley event — a community-wide volunteer day with hundreds of residents working on community projects — takes place Oct. 5.
585 people had already registered as of Sept. 28, said Emily Ridout, event organizer. Their goal was 500.
Many of the 607 specific project slots had begun to fill up, but there’s no limit to how many volunteers can participate.
“Anyone can show up and we will find a place for them,” Ridout said.
The day will begin with a “Valley Rally” at 8 a.m. in downtown Snoqualmie at the corner of Falls Avenue and Southeast King Street, at the entrance to Sandy Cove Park, Ridout said. There will be a raffle, prizes, community building activities and free T-shirts.
Online registration in advance of the event will not close and is highly encouraged, to try to ensure everyone gets their shirt and can participate in projects of interest.
Ridout said the rally is an event all residents are encouraged to attend, even if they aren’t volunteering. It will last about an hour.
Then the volunteers will work until noon. There are about 25 projects.
“We’re not asking you to give us eight or nine hours — we’re asking you to give us half a day,” Ridout said.
Some projects are more labor intensive, some are creative. Some are designed to be kid friendly and some are geared toward seniors.
Some projects aim to help people in need, such as creating care kits for the homeless. There are also encouragement projects, like painting rocks with decorations and kind messages to be left in parks, on trails and at schools for people to discover and take with them.
Ridout said volunteers also will do cleaning projects at local parks, nonprofits and schools. Some people will pick leftover crops at local farms to deliver to the foodbank. Others will bake cookies for first responders, write letters to local veterans or clean library books.
“For one day you can come and expose yourself to 30 different opportunities and find something that you’re passionate about,” Ridout said.
She said seven local churches of various denominations make up the event’s leadership team. Beyond that, several other churches and about 30 nonprofits are involved, as well as local schools, neighborhoods, city governments, service clubs and first responders.
“I have the most incredible team around me,” said Ridout, who is the local and global outreach director at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church(SVA). “I thought if we could get seven different churches to unify and bring their community to the table, we could really leverage our community. It’s a strong message to see different churches come together.”
She said the idea came from having seen the same event take place in Modesto, Calif., where a friend lives. Her friend’s church asked themselves if they were doing everything they could to help Modesto, which was ranked among the country’s worst cities.
According to the Love Modesto website, the event began in 2007 at Big Valley Grace Community Church. The church asked themselves two questions – “Why is our city on lists of the worst cities in America?” and “If our churches were to suddenly disappear from the Modesto area, would anyone even care or notice?”
They took a hard look inward and decided they needed to do more, Ridout said. They didn’t try to solve all the city’s problems themselves, but instead brought sectors together as well as nonprofits and local government and schools.
They picked a few projects they thought would be immediately impactful. Their goal was to get 100 people to volunteer at their first event in 2009, but instead they got 1,200, according to their website.
She said she has been wanting to do this in Snoqualmie Valley for several years now, dreaming of bringing the greater community together. She said that when she previously worked for a local nonprofit, she would find herself confused why individual nonprofits do not often work together.
She knew she wanted to have one of these events, like in Modesto, so she started reaching out to the larger umbrella nonprofit Love Our Cities (https://www.loveourcities.org/). Planning started in spring 2019.
“I could not believe how excited the churches and community were and how ready they were to do something like this,” she said.
The event is free and open to all ages. All of the costs are covered by sponsors.
“It was almost easy. People were ready for an opportunity to come together.”
For four months people could submit ideas for projects online, and the leadership team decided which to pursue.
The hope is people will enjoy the work and continue to come back and volunteer.
Ridout said other cities that have held similar events through Love Our Cities have reported 30 percent of volunteers stick with the organization or project they helped with during the event.
She said that while the valley is a pretty well-off community, there are still plenty of projects that could use volunteer help and ways that people can come together. They just might need a push.
“We are thriving in many ways. We are a beautiful community,” she said. “Our focus is on community connections.”
“Even though we are a really healthy community there is a lot of need. We have this massive heart in our community and our roots are really deep, but people don’t always know how to engage. We’re kind of just laying the groundwork for them to find community and purpose and belonging.”
“We really wanted to design this in a way to make this about the community and not about us,” Ridout said. “We’re going to continue to keep doing the best work that we can.”
She said she frequently gets questions about what this could evolve into. Outside of having a large annual event, she said her team is currently discussing other ways they can continue to make ongoing efforts throughout the year.
“The community has the right heart and mind, it just needed a chance to show up. I’m really grateful that so many people care. This is really humbling,” she said.