SPONSORED — Lynette Endresen takes tailgating to a whole new level. But this Everett resident isn’t participating in the steak-grilling, hot dog-eating, stadium parking lot booze-fest. For Endresen, tailgating is just part of helping and she’s certainly doing that. A recent recipient of the KIRO Radio and WSECU Hometown Hero award, Endresen continues to provide hot meals, clothing, personal items, dental care and more to some of the region’s neediest residents.
Founded in 2011, Endresen’s organization, aptly named “Tailgate,” provides hot meals and more from a parking lot.
“I became aware (in 2011) that a Sunday night meal was needed in the downtown Everett area,” Endresen recalls. “I contacted the church that served dinner every other week and although they greatly saw the need for a weekly dinner, they did not have the manpower to provide it.”
Before committing to the job, Endresen talked to some of the people who actually relied on the community dinners.
“I saw how filling this need would help them; I decided this was something I could organize and jumped in with both feet.”
“Jumping in” involved the monstrous tasks of organizing volunteers and borrowing tables, chairs and other necessary supplies and serving dinner the very next week. Endresen recalled 32 guests eating that first Sunday, but word quickly spread.
“Now we have an average of 120 per week,” she said.
Finding helping hands
Feeding 120 people per week isn’t exactly a one-woman job. That’s why Endresen relies heavily on her volunteer crew. Currently, Tailgate includes a team of about 40 people who regularly volunteer to set up, serve dinner and perform myriad tasks to keep the program running. Along with volunteers through Gold Creek Community Church, the organization also relies on Hope Creek Charitable Foundation and word of mouth to draw in volunteers.
“We have singles, couples, families, teen and adult small groups, as well as sports teams, that have come out to serve with us,” Endresen said.
Beyond the meal
And they’re serving up more than a hot meal. Tailgate also provides sack lunches to go, clothing, shoes, sleeping bags, tents, blankets and toiletries to anyone who needs them. Additionally, the organization has partnered with Medical Teams International and many local dental professionals to provide dental care to the Sunday-night dinner guests.
“Because of the friendship and trust we were able to build, many have received needed dental care that they would have been otherwise too scared to seek out,” Endresen said. “Because someone they knew was right beside them, they were able to overcome their fears and leave with a healthier smile.”
Those recipients have more to smile about, thanks to Tailgate. Endresen emphasizes that the organization goes beyond providing for physical needs.
“One of Tailgate’s biggest priorities is providing connection, friendship and hope,” she said. “So many of our guests are disconnected from family and friends through so many different reasons, some their fault and some not. We want our guests to know that we see them and they matter to us.”
Endresen and the Tailgate volunteers live by the motto so eloquently stated by Mother Teresa: “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
Finding joy in service
Love is something Endresen has come to know better herself.
“People come from the broken places in their lives for so many different reasons,” Endresen said. “So often we want people to change and then we will accept them, but the reality is for people to change we need to accept them first. People have to believe in themselves in order to find change and often that belief has to start with someone else first believing in them. Tailgate exists to show people that we believe in them and we cherish all people.”