For forty years, the Pike Place Market Foundation has supported a downtown community of residents and workers, and the underlying network of social services designed to support them.

The impetus for such a foundation came in the early 1980s, after the Reagan administration’s federal budget cuts slashed social service funding across the country. Overnight, the Pike Place Market Medical Clinic lost a $150,000 federal grant representing half their operating budget. The Pike Market Preschool received notice that their $60,000 federal grant for playground construction was canceled, effectively halting the Preschool’s future opening. One stroke of the pen decimated social service infrastructure nationwide, just as needs were skyrocketing in the face of economic downtown. Market agency staff and supporters realized that if they didn’t take action, this vital network of social services in the heart of downtown would be at risk: threatening the community that made Pike Place Market the Soul of Seattle.

Thus, the Market Foundation was founded in 1982 to leverage Seattle’s love for the Market and convert it into support for the agencies in the Market. This is the story of each of the five social service agencies in Pike Place Market, often referred to as the “Five Families” and how the Market Foundation has provided 40 years of dedicated funding, resources and community support to help our partners focus on their vital work of serving the downtown community.


Our History of Partnership

Neighborcare Health at Pike Place Market

When Pike Place Market was saved from the wrecking ball in 1971, the Market’s governing charter committed to expanding low-income housing for seniors living downtown. These senior residents were vital to the Market’s unique community: yet bore the brunt of economic impacts in the fallout of urban renewal, and had very few services available to support them.

“We were looking at community need demographics and what resources existed,” remembers Chris Hurley, former Executive Director of the Clinic. “Downtown Seattle was one of the areas where very little was available, even though there was a high concentration of low-income elders in the community.”

Community outreach in the late 1970s helped identify the downtown neighborhood’s needs, with survey results showing a need for public health resources focused on senior residents. Thus, the Pike Market Medical Clinic began providing limited nursing services in June of 1978 and within a year, had grown to full-time operation.

To help support the Clinic’s comprehensive care efforts for low-income residents living downtown, the Market Foundation continues to provide consistent year-over-year financial support: $7.2 million since our inception. “The Market Foundation would always be characterized as the Clinic’s largest private donor,” says Chris. “The difference is that the Foundation’s support is consistent, and specifically for operations, instead of being contingent on a new project… Nowadays, this is where philanthropy is going more and more, but it’s where the Market Foundation has always been.”

In addition to granting financial support, the Market Foundation has helped support the Clinic in facility and program growth since their humble beginnings in the old Motherload Tavern, and then moving to a slightly larger space in the Livingston-Baker building off Post Alley. To address the need for new and expanded facilities, the Market Foundation launched a capital campaign in 2003 to expand the Clinic, raising $576,630 for the new space. This “Care for the Market” campaign increased square footage for mental health, social work, and administration, as well as doubled its pharmacy space.

Today, clinics like the one in Pike Place Market are battling increasingly complex health threats after the pandemic revealed critical gaps in our medical and community support systems. As healthcare continues to become increasingly privatized and inaccessible to our neighbors living on low incomes downtown, the Market Foundation is committed to supporting the vital work of Neighborcare Health at Pike Place Market through annual support and partnership.

Pike Market Senior Center

Since 1979, Pike Market Senior Center has been more than just a warm, safe place to enjoy a hot meal, but a caring community serving seniors in downtown Seattle. Much like the Medical Clinic, the Senior Center was founded to help fill critical service gaps to support the downtown population of seniors displaced by urban development and the rising cost of living.  

“Poverty and physical disability leave the elderly and low-income residents of downtown Seattle with little control over their neighborhood,” described a 1987 study by board member Anne Focke that was published by the Ford Foundation. “They are the first to be displaced when development seeks the ‘highest and best’ use for a site. As the Market Foundation has learned, however, the elderly and low-income residents of downtown Seattle have long taproots into the area and their contributions are great, though overlooked.” 

The Senior Center offers a community space where these seniors can socialize, enjoy nourishing meals, access housing services, and engage in wellness activities. As a partner, the Market Foundation supports the vital work of the Senior Center through funding, relationship building, and specific programs like Bulk Buy that help offset operating costs for the meal program. These service offerings are essential to our community, as most senior center members live on little or no income, nearly half are unhoused, and most are at risk of social isolation. 

By the 2000s, the Senior Center had expanded service and grown in numbers to the point where they were outgrowing their current space. The Market Foundation’s “Care for the Market” campaign raised $1.85 million to build new and expanded facilities, including a new, larger Senior Center, which opened in 2006. The new kitchen expanded to serve nearly 60,000 lunches – double the previous capacity. The Senior Center was then better equipped to serve approximately 1,000 seniors who utilized the daily meals, employment services, companionship, recreational and social services. 

 In 2020 when a global pandemic threatened our neighborhood and many resources around the city were suddenly unavailable, staff at the Senior Center sprang into action to keep our community healthy and stable. “There weren’t as many meal programs in Seattle open because of the COVID risk, almost everything closed down,” said Jeannie Falls, Executive Director of the Senior Center and Food Bank. In response, the Pike Market Senior Center stayed open and expanded meal offerings, adding dinner to-go in addition to hot breakfast and lunch. As residents sheltered in place, Senior Center case managers worked with staff at The Commons to ensure members in Market housing still had access to nutritious food and remained socially connected. 

Pike Place Market is a wonderful microcosm of a supportive community,” says Jeannie. “And it’s because there’s a network of social services. The Market Foundation, The Commons, and the PDA (Preservation and Development Authority) all work together with us to create a supportive community so that people don’t fall through the cracks.”  As seniors continue to face the threat of COVID and rising inflation while living on fixed incomes, we will continue to direct funding, resources and support towards the critical work of Senior Center staff. 

Pike Market Child Care & Preschool

Before the Preschool opened in 1982, it was common to see children and babies napping or playing under their parents’ vendor stalls in Pike Place Market. Then Friends of the Market decided to open a preschool in the Market that could welcome all families, regardless of economic means, valuing diversity and a sense of belonging. Pike Market Child Care and Preschool would be a critical new service for Market families and the greater community, as high-quality early learning is vital to building an equitable and healthy neighborhood.  

When federal funding budget cuts effectively put a stop to the opening of the Preschool in 1982, our community sprang into action – founding the Market Foundation to help fundraise for a playground and officially open the Preschool. Exactly forty years later, we are thrilled that the Market Foundation’s very first project, the preschool playground, is coming full circle in a new renovated play space for the next generation. Construction is wrapping up on a dynamic, versatile space that allows Pike Market kids to invent, create and build social, cognitive and physical skills in a more open and spacious natural setting.  

Today, Pike Market Child Care & Preschool serves as a vital early learning environment that embraces an anti-bias education approach, where children receive excellent care, made-from-scratch meals, and build social and learning skills. The teachers and staff continue to make high-quality early learning accessible to families of all income levels, in a country where the actual cost burden of early child care is placed on families and caregivers (the majority of whom are women of color). A recent study from the U.S. Treasury found “the existing child care system in the United States, which relies on private financing to provide care for most children, fails to adequately serve many families. This is not just happenstance – sound economic principles explain why relying on private money to provide child care is bound to come up short.”  

In a system where childcare is inaccessible and unaffordable, the Foundation provides annual granting to support the Preschool’s vision of an early learning community where cost is not a barrier. Tuition is based on a sliding scale, and over 70% of enrolled families receive financial assistance so that every child has the opportunity to feel valued and visible in their learning community.  

In addition to annual granting, the Market Foundation also supports the Preschool through capital campaigns, and project guidance and support. “When we opened our baby room, it took two years to research and raise the money, and Market Foundation Executive Director Lillian was my partner in all of it,” remembers Preschool Interim Executive Director Ilene Stark. “To feel that way about a funder and have that trust is remarkable…”  She speaks about how funding for early learning can be heavily dependent on assessment outcomes, leading child care providers to standardize their programming and operate on a scarcity mindset.  

The Foundation’s unrestricted year-over-year support has helped the Preschool build a highly-recognized program committed to anti-bias education, social justice, and equity which may not have been possible if the Preschool had to pursue restricted granting. “The Foundation is invested in us and everyone else at the Market,” reiterates Ilene. “It’s so beautiful, I can’t put into words what the Foundation is doing and their commitment to the Market community.”

More recently, the Preschool and Foundation have worked together to navigate the ongoing childcare crisis after COVID closures and other challenges during the pandemic. “We couldn’t accomplish half of what we’re doing without the Foundation,” says Ilene. The support of the Foundation was instrumental in helping us get through the impact of the pandemic. Child care in the US is under-resourced and it has been under-resourced forever. The whole system is fracturing and falling apart. But because of that commitment: not only the financial support, but the relationships, we are able to implement a one-of-a-kind program that is inclusive of all members of our community.”

Pike Market Food Bank

The Pike Market Food Bank has spent nearly half a century helping our downtown neighbors get the food they need. Started in 1979 in a public housing project, it quickly became apparent that more people needed the services of the Food Bank than had been anticipated, leading them to join governance with Pike Market Senior Center in 1980. Wage stagnation and the rising cost of housing continued to constrain people’s buying power, with communities of color facing the most disproportionate food availability and affordability levels. To meet this growing need, the Food Bank continued providing increased access to culturally-appropriate groceries while also expanding client choice and building a dignified, accessible shopping experience. 

The Market Foundation supports the work of the Food Bank with annual granting, food drives through our corporate partners, volunteer support, and food access programs through The Market Commons. Programs like no-cook bags and home delivery have helped Food Bank staff pivot and expand programming to meet emerging needs in our neighborhood. “Partnerships have evolved our capacity and allowed us to bring a systematic, strategic approach to home delivery,” said Angie Wood, Director of Food Bank Programs. “This is how we can build something equitable and sustainable, and practice it here before expanding into other areas of the community.” 

This partnership became especially important at the onset of COVID-19, as seniors were sheltered in place and could not shop for the food they needed. Through close collaboration between the Food Bank, The Market Commons, and PDA residential managers, the Emergency Food Distribution Program provided 989 emergency grocery bags and 15,737 emergency meals to ensure senior residents in the Market had access to food without risking their health and safety. “If we have to do it all ourselves, our capacity is limited,” says Jeannie Falls, Executive Director of Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank. “But with partnerships, we can focus on what we are good at, and we are able to serve so many more people.”  

The Market Foundation continues to provide dedicated annual support: so that the Food Bank can address current gaps in our social and community support systems, especially as food insecurity in our state has increased by 17% since the beginning of the pandemic. As federally funded programs end and the need for emergency food services continues to rise, we are committed to providing unrestricted funding for the Food Bank to invest in staffing, vehicles, food purchases, and other vital resources.  

“The work done at the Food Bank is complicated and important,” emphasizes Mason Lowe, Deputy Director of the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank. “To be a reliable community resource, we need staff and support.” A critical investment for the Food Bank’s post-COVID model will be in the form of a new delivery van, made possible through a Rachel’s Reserve grant.  This specialized, reliable vehicle helps maintain their current home delivery program and help support the Food Bank’s continued evolution.


Heritage House at the Market

For the large population of seniors living in Seattle on low incomes, aging out of their independent living situations was challenging. In response to this emerging need, the Market Foundation helped build an assisted living facility in the heart of Pike Place Market to support the aging population and offer a more comprehensive housing landscape for seniors downtown. Heritage House was founded to provide private apartments, nursing services, and a rich quality of life to seniors in a vibrant urban environment, allowing them to age in place without being uprooted from their downtown community.  

The Market Foundation raised $2,500,000 for the facility’s construction and in 1991, established Heritage House as one of our legacy partners to receive unrestricted support to maintain operations. The facility is now home to 63 seniors receiving 24/7 assisted care, most of whom receive income assistance from the state. 

Heritage House has partnered with The Market Commons to bring social activities to their residents and works with the Preschool to provide intergenerational programming to the community. Before the pandemic, preschoolers visited Heritage House every other week to meet the seniors and learn from their life experiences. Together they colored, shared story time, produced puppet shows, and danced. “We built this with an anti-bias goal to teach them that elders aren’t just grandparents – they’re playmates, dancers, artists, and friends as well,” said Katy Radley, a teacher at Pike Market Childcare and Preschool.   

Partnerships with our friends at Heritage House show just how important it is to foster opportunities for our community to connect, and how we are all positively impacted by relationships that stretch across generations. As seniors in the Market age out of independent living and enter the final chapter of their lives, Heritage House empowers them to remain connected to their physical neighborhood and the next generation of our community. 

The Market Foundation’s Own Social Service Programs

As part of our community model, The Market Foundation works to meet emerging needs and fill critical gaps outside of the existing agencies’ work. This led us to start our own programs in the 1990s, starting with the Food Access Program and emergency funding for farmers and community members.  

In 2017, we entered a new chapter in our service offerings by opening The Market Commons: a community resource center in the MarketFront expansion. The Market Commons is home to an array of new and existing programs that enable us to reduce barriers in our neighborhood, including the Community Safety NetSmall Business Fund, and the Food Access Program. 

Though we could never have imagined it, our community model and commitment to partnership prepared us for what would soon be one of the biggest crises the Market had ever seen. The COVID 19 pandemic exposed deep gaps in social and health systems, all of which contribute to the cycle of poverty and instability that many of our neighbors experience. 

In response, program staff at The Market Commons and our partner agencies worked together to deploy emergency funds to Market workers, nourish our community with access to meals and groceries, keep senior residents safe and connected, vaccinate residents and workers in the Market, and so much more. “We used the policies and procedures we’ve already adopted as a framework, and our connection with agency partners to move quickly in response,” said Crystal Dixon, Director of Strategic Impact. “We were able to turn on a dime because our programs are built to be nimble and responsive to community needs.”  

Our community model and commitment to our partners became more critical than ever, as The Market Foundation raised and invested more than $4 million in grants and emergency programs during our Power of Pike Place Recovery campaign. “The structure we had built allowed us to raise and deploy money in a granting system where we could pivot to meet needs as they arose, whether that was small business grants, safety net, or something else,” said Lillian Sherman.  

Because of the Market Foundation’s ability to support our partners and focus on the overall health of the Market community while also being nimble in responding to emergent needs, our neighborhood has remained strong through the past four decades of change in our city. We are beyond honored to have supported our Legacy Partners with $19,018,737 in annual unrestricted operations funding since 1982, in addition to leveraging tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for capital projects.

As we hit the incredible milestone of 40 years, we want to thank our partners, community members, staff, board, donors, and volunteers for being with us every step of the way. Your support helps nurture the health of our community and keep the Market strong now and for the next 40 years to come!

 It is an honor to be celebrating 40 years in this community!

Celebrate the Market Foundation’s impact of $40 million invested over 40 years into the Market community!

We need your help to keep the Market strong now and for the next 40 years to come. Give today and join us in supporting a thriving Market where everyone can live their best life possible!

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Nurture the Next Chapter: Sustaining Pike Place Market for Future Generations

We’re thrilled to announce The Market Community Fund: a unique opportunity to transform individual giving into lasting, measurable change — connecting your philanthropic goals to your love for the Market. A gift today, or bequest from your Will or Trust in the future, provides a lasting legacy to the health and sustainability of the Market community.



Anniversary Stories: Investments in Housing

In collaboration with our partners, we have helped to retain affordable housing in and around the district – supporting the construction and rehabilitation of units in many residential buildings in the Market.

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Anniversary Stories: Heritage and Preservation

The Pike Place Market Foundation was founded in 1982 with the original mission to “preserve and enhance the traditions and diversity of the Pike Place Market community.” 

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Anniversary Stories: Evolution of the Market Foundation

As we celebrate this monumental anniversary, we’re looking back on our history and honoring the staff, service partners, volunteers and supporters who have helped nurture a thriving community in the Market.

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