Remember when you heard about the mudslide in Oso, WA on March 22, 2014.....a mudslide that came totally without warning on a peaceful Saturday morning a little past 10 a.m.? In a matter of seconds, a number of homes at the base of the slide were lost and over 40 people lost their lives. This hit very close to home to many of us here in Snohomish county...perhaps because we actually knew some of the victims or family members, or knew some of the first responders who worked tirelessly at the site for days, or knew medical and government officials involved in the aftermath of the slide.
For me, the mud slide was a reminder of how life can change in an instant, as I mentioned in an earlier post. When I saw a report on the news the evening of the day it happened, I immediately called the home of my cousin and his wife...because their youngest daughter, Noelle, and husband and three young sons three years of age and younger live in Oso...near the north fork of the Stillaguamish river. Providentially, their home was not affected by the mudslide and Noelle and the boys were not at home (her husband was working in Alaska at the time).
She and her family attend the church, Oso Chapel, that became the hub of the community in dispensing food and support for all those affected by the slide. Many people in a situation like this would simply choose to donate to the church or some other organization that was supplying financial and other types of support to those affected by the disaster. Noelle, however, was inspired to help in a rather unique way.
One morning after the slide, Noelle was getting ready for the day by drying her hair and putting on some makeup, and she looked down at the beauty products spread out on her bathroom counter. The thought occurred to her that those who lost their homes had lost truly "everything"...including all hair tools and beauty products. As she looked in the mirror, she thought, "I would still want to look like myself." Like most women, she knew that when she looks good, she feels better. (Let's be honest...most of us don't like to be out and about without "our face on", as my southern friend says!). Noelle also realized that the beauty products and hair tools she was looking at and using would cost several hundred dollars or more to replace....and that spending money for these items might be hard to justify in light of the magnitude of the loss of lives, homes, clothing, and other things. So......guess what she did?
She decided to organize a campaign to raise funds to replace all the personal beauty products for those who had lost their homes or been flooded out. Running the idea by a couple friends, one said, "You will need to get a good logo to post on Facebook." Even though Noelle was not even on Facebook at the time, she knew this would be the quickest way to get the word out. She contacted her cousin's wife in Minnesota who is a graphic artist and designed a logo for the cause promptly. Then Noelle opened a Facebook account and found an online donation website to facilitate the donations. In short order, Oso Beautiful was born!
The initial goal was to raise $5000, and the response was enthusiastic and immediate. Within a week of the initial post, (and "shares" by Noelle's mom and sister and others) about 90% of the funds had been donated! Her aunt, a local stylist at Gene Juarez, also put out the word to her friends to obtain gift certificates and hair and makeup products. As the days went by, the donations of products and styling tools and gift certificates came rolling in.
One friend helped Noelle sort through and organize all the donated items. Noelle shopped and put out the word for items that were still needed. One day she posted, "I need 9 more hair gels," and within minutes, an old high school friend responded, "Done! Ordered from Amazon, you will have them very soon." As the list of recipients grew, a local Avon lady answered a plea and donated makeup. Her sister, Rachel, came and together they organized all the baskets...25 in all.
The value of the initial baskets for those who lost homes exceeded $1000! Each basket contains a $250 Nordstrom gift certificate, massage and hair styling certificates, Arbonne, Mary Kay and Avon makeup, and other beauty products. Noelle is currently distributing the baskets after locating where the recipients are living. That was also quite a challenge as these "homeless" women are living with friends and family, scattered from Arlington and Darrington, to Bothel and Lynnwood. Baskets were added to give to the wives of Oso's first responders. The response has been heart warming...often tears...and comments like, "Awesome,"...."Holy cow, this basket is AMAZING!!! She is so happy!!!"...and this one, "Oh my! I really am so surprised and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I did not realize until I saw your beautiful gift how hard it has really been. It made me stop and let go, if you know what I mean. Thank you, thank you so much! You are an angel."
Countless hours have gone into this project. When I asked her to estimate the hours, Noelle could not even come up with a number. Keep in mind this is a young mom with three very young boys...with a husband who frequently works out of state...who also works outside her home three days a week as a mental health counselor! When I asked her what motivated her to spearhead this project, she simply said, "When God prompts me, I have to do it right then or I will end up justifying not doing it." What a gift of love she has given this hurting community! Oso Beautiful is a shining example of how God can use and multiply the efforts of even one responsive person. Noelle is so thankful for all who donated money, gift certificates, beauty products, and time...to make Oso Beautiful come together in such a beautiful way. Our prayers continue for Oso!