Charity’s turn for kindness

It’s been a long time since Kelly Carroll hasn’t had to get up at 5 a.m. to get started on her work delivering food and clothing for R. Place of Refuge, the charity organization she runs out of her Kent East Hill-area home.

It’s been a long time since Kelly Carroll hasn’t had to get up at 5 a.m. to get started on her work delivering food and clothing for R. Place of Refuge, the charity organization she runs out of her Kent East Hill-area home.

Carroll may be pleased for a slight break, but this wasn’t the way she wanted it to happen.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” she said last week. “It’s thrown me off-kilter.”

The morning of Aug. 18, after picking up a delivery of food to be taken to families around the area, the early-1980s F250 pickup truck that R. Place has used to make its rounds for three years burst into flames. The vehicle – as well as the palette of food that was in the back – was a total loss. But it’s not just a loss for R. Place, it’s a loss for the hundreds of families Carroll serves every day in Covington, Maple Valley and other south King County areas by bringing food, furniture or whatever else is needed.

“It’s not just a truck, it’s life,” Carroll said. “When it pulls up, kids know they’re going to eat.”

The day of the truck fire, Carroll had to call 60 families to let them know she wasn’t going to be able to make a delivery that day.

One of the phone calls Carroll made was to Flora Jackson, whose Kent-area home Carroll visits twice a week, bringing meat and produce for Jackson, her nine grandkids and about five other family members.

“This girl brings stuff like you’ve been shopping at the store,” Jackson said of Carroll. “This woman is a miracle. Now the little truck that bought the food is all gone, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The truck was the sole form of transportation for R. Place and routinely traveled thousands of miles each week from Seattle to Issaquah, Kent to Tacoma and even multiple trips some weeks to Lewis County to help out victims of last year’s flooding.

Carroll started R. Place more than six years ago to help low-income families, domestic-violence victims and those displaced by a disaster or tragedy.

“Our families aren’t just sitting around not working,” Carroll said of the people who rely on them each week. “Our whole job is just to restore lives.”

Now, instead of helping out, R. Place is hoping someone will help them so they can continue helping others.

“We have no way to pick up or deliver anything,” Carroll said.

R. Place receives no government or grant money, so all donations to the non-profit are in-kind. Without a truck, Carroll said, “we may have to close the doors.”

Carroll said she gets food through Associated Grocers, which also supplies food banks. But because she has no way of picking up the donated items, there is no guarantee of food coming in or going out this week.

“Everything we do is based on when I get it. Then it goes where it’s going,” she said.

By Tuesday last week, Carroll was done with the tears and back to answering her constantly ringing cell phone. She borrowed an SUV from a friend to pick up some food to take around, but the big news came around noon, when Penske Truck Rental agreed to donate a vehicle for one week.

“We’re a nationwide company, but we have our roots in the community,” said Curtis Flowers, district rental manager for Penske.

Carroll is hoping, especially with her busy season starting up, that the community she has helped will be able to help her by donating money, gas cards – even potentially a new truck – to keep R. Place of Refuge alive.

“This is the first time I can say the organization needs a random act of kindness,” Carroll said.