A thousand people attended the 15th annual Step Up to the Plate luncheon for Bellevue Lifespring at the Meyedenbauer Center in Bellevue on Thursday, March 27th. These thousand people were there to support this incredible non-profit which serves thousands of children of low-income families in Bellevue. Thats right… Bellevue. Bellevue LifeSpring is 103 years-old and has always been privately funded thanks to a small staff and hundreds of volunteers like you.
Succeeding the opening remarks from stellar emcee Patti Payne, ambassadors Joseph and Randi Brazen spoke about the many facets of Bellevue LifeSpring and how they help our community. Together, Randi and the Bellevue LifeSpring crew filmed an emotional video illustrating the reach of Bellevue Lifespring and the influence of their different programs on families and children in our community. In the words of Randi, “If you can’t write a check, you can donate your time”.
Following Joseph and Randi was Dr. James Kriseman of Overlake Medical Center. According to Dr. Kriseman, “Children of poverty hide in plain sight,” he explained to the attendees. “Unlike adults, they experience the full impact of poverty. The harbinger of the scars of poverty are irrefutably linked to malnutrition and food insecurity (not knowing where your next meal is coming from).” Kriseman conveyed the consequences of cheap, empty-calorie junk food, which are fed to low income children. “It’s a cruel paradox that low income often equates to obesity.”
Even more emotional was when 13 year old Rosa took the microphone alongside her younger siblings. Bravely, she told her story of how LifeSpring has helped her family persevere through tough times and encouraged her to apply for a college grant when the time comes. This family with little money and parents who speak little English are in our community.
Directly after, Patti Payne directed the audience’s attention to the empty paper lunch sacks which acted as the center piece to every table, making it obvious that they were empty. This symbolized how the donations made on that day were imperative in feeding the hungry children. The response was record breaking. Around $353,000 was raised at that lunch, $100,000 more than last year. These numbers are a testament to the programs of Bellevue LifeSpring and a notion that Rosa and Dr. Kriseman’s message was heard by all. Clearly, the attendees wanted to fill those empty lunch sacks.
Ensuing this call to action was keynote speaker John Howie who spoke of the joy he receives in giving. For the past ten years Chef John Howie has been reaching out to families in need in the Bellevue community. One of his largest charitable events is the Thanksgiving dinner he puts on at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar of Bellevue. Bellevue LifeSpring proudly partners with John Howie on this event since its inception and this year he provided the holiday meal to over 600 people.
Who would have thought that Bellevue has more than 4,000 children who are food-insecure? These children of poverty are among us and are a vital part of the community. Bellevue LifeSpring’s message to that crowd was to get involved in any way they can whether it be volunteering, writing a check, or spreading the message similar to Dr. Kriseman’s.
Thursday’s luncheon honored three deserving recipients with rewards for their philanthropy and support. First, chef John Howie who has contributed more than $4.5 million to local feeding programs. Next, Anu and Naveen Jain (inome) for their amazing commitment to LifeSpring and for their entity’s sponsorship of the benefit luncheon. Finally, to Kemper and Betty Freeman and Kemper Development for their decades of service to the community and to LifeSpring in countless ways, including the creation of a Bellevue LifeSpring Thrift Shop in Bellevue Square, charging $1 a year for rent.
Thank you to all of those who were involved and who made the 15th annnual Step Up to the Plate Luncheon possible. We hope to see you all next year!