Volunteers from ParentMap join the women of the Terese Smith Howard heritage circle to help tie bows to the wreaths and prepare them for selling. Photo courtesy of Maureen Taasin

Volunteers from ParentMap join the women of the Terese Smith Howard heritage circle to help tie bows to the wreaths and prepare them for selling. Photo courtesy of Maureen Taasin

Kirkland women fundraise together to help connect families to educational opportunities

Goodwin Connections members expect to sell $10,000 worth of wreaths.

It was Mother Teresa who said, “do small things with great love.”

This worldview inspires Terry Dessert in her work at Goodwin Connections, a nonprofit organization that connects families to educational opportunities that build financial stability and leads to generational change.

Dessert, board president at Goodwin, has been a member of the organization for 37 years and for 12 of those years, has sold wreaths to benefit local families enrolled in Goodwin’s family connections program.

Within the organization, members gather in groups known as circles and host various activities and fundraising events throughout the year. Each circle is different and women meet all over Seattle and the Eastside.

On Nov. 27, Dessert and her circle, the Therese Smith Howard Circle, gathered in her Kirkland home for the annual event of decorating wreaths. Three-hundred sixty wreaths were decorated with juniper berries, cones and bows. Dessert said they expect to sell $10,000 worth of wreaths, with all proceeds going to help families enrolled in the family connections program.

“There is nothing I can do in the big picture, but I can do something here,” said Dessert. “I can make a difference with Goodwin…I feel it’s a chance to make a difference locally.”

Formerly the Seattle Milk Fund, Goodwin supports low-income families with child care and preschool expenses to allow parents to attend college full-time, focus on their studies, graduate in a timely manner and launch in their career. The children also receive a learning opportunity at the same time.

“We honestly feel a connection to these [families],” Dessert said. “We support them when they graduate and we rejoice with [them]…it’s a small thing but in the end, it’s a huge thing for these families. ”

Maggie Skinner, executive director at Goodwin said most of the parents enrolled in the family connections program are “savvy” and are able to piece the tuition part but if they don’t have the child care piece, it makes it hard for them to attend school.

“By allowing parents that breathing room and ongoing support with child care expenses, it really allows them some peace of mind for their family,” Skinner said.

Goodwin helps support college students in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Parents attend schools including Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Bellevue College, Cascadia College and the University of Washington Bothell.

In the family connection program, Dessert said parents receive support from the first day they enter the program all the way through graduation day. Goodwin’s support has allowed 95 percent of their students to graduate on time, with an average of a 3.5 grade point average.

Through the help of donors and fundraisers like Dessert’s, $305,307 have directly supported 292 family members with educational opportunities and family support from 2017-18.

Families interested in applying in the program can apply in April 2020.

To learn more about Goodwin Connections, visit www.goodwinconnections.org.

Volunteers from ParentMap join the women of the Terese Smith Howard heritage circle to help tie bows to the wreaths and prepare them for selling. Photo courtesy of Maureen Taasin

Volunteers from ParentMap join the women of the Terese Smith Howard heritage circle to help tie bows to the wreaths and prepare them for selling. Photo courtesy of Maureen Taasin

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