While giving birth to her youngest son, Demetria Lund flatlined for several minutes. “When you do the whole dying thing, you have conversations with God,” Lund says. “[My son Epic] ended up in the NICU, and I spent nights making promises about making the world a better place.” A few months later, she made good on those promises.
It was 2014, and her then 6-year-old son Emarion asked if he could give his shoes to friends who couldn’t play basketball because their footwear was too small. Surprised by the request, Lund did some research and learned that Snohomish County, where she lived, lacked an organization that distributed shoes to children in need.
In response, Lund organized a shoe drive and collected more than 800 pairs. From that work, Beautiful Soles was born.
The grassroots nonprofit has since given new shoes and socks to more than 3,000 children in South Snohomish County.
It’s not just shoes, either. Once, while bringing donated socks to Esther’s Place, a day shelter for homeless women and children in Everett, Lund met a pregnant woman in active labor who was trying to get help for herself and her two children before heading to the hospital. Lund shared the request on Beautiful Soles’ Facebook page and was overwhelmed by offers to help. Eventually, donors paid for the family to stay at a hotel for a month.
“The family came home from the hospital to a [hotel] room with decorations and a Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped presents,” Lund says.
Beautiful Soles regularly assists homeless families with short hotel stays and emergency needs while helping them locate permanent housing. Through Beautiful Soles’ connections with local shelters, nonprofits and local agencies, 14 families now reside in permanent or transitional housing.
There’s more to this work than meeting a physical need, says Lund, who works full-time as a case manager and raises four children with her partner, Ed. It’s about building relationships between those who give and those who receive.
“We ask [people who donate] to bring the items, whether that’s diapers or meals, to [those in need]. More often than not, friendships are formed,” Lund says. “Our families who are homeless feel more loved and that gives them more hope, so they can see that light at the end of the tunnel.”
What book has changed your life?
“Faith in the Valley: Lessons for Women on the Journey to Peace” by Iyanla Vanzant. I love the author, but that one just stands out to me. She’s pro-women and pro-mother, and she speaks to all the struggles people go through and how to get through them with positive thinking.
What’s one small action our readers can take in their own lives to make positive change happen?
We’re all the same [within] different life circumstances; we all have our battles. You know how everything is so angry right now? People need to show kindness and grace to each other and realize we are all just people trying to get through life.
What’s one takeaway you’d like families to understand about your line of work or area of expertise?
Find a small nonprofit that’s homegrown in your community and support them. Find out how you can get involved and involve your children, because that plants a seed.
I love it when parents come to me and say their kids have stood up for those kids who are picked on. [Through volunteering with Beautiful Soles], they’ve met kids and know it’s not those kids’ fault.
It’s good to hear about one child saying, “Stop! No, we can’t pick on him. You don’t know what’s happening at home.”