FINALIST: Bothell, WA

"For a day or a lifetime" and "People are just plain nice"

How do you celebrate a birthday in Bothell? Well, if you’re one local resident, you do it by collecting charity for those in the community who are less fortunate. That’s just the kind of caring place it is.

Named a Finalist Because: An unlikely relationship in this Seattle suburb has sparked a movement that is spreading kindness all over town.

From the Editors: Like many other locals, Will Tinkham enjoys going to Beca’s Brew, a popular downtown coffee stand in this community of 45,000, a half-hour north of Seattle. He liked to hang around so much that the owner, Beca Nistrian, offered him a deal: If he would come by and chat with her for an hour or two each day, she would give him a free drink.

Tinkham, a developmentally disabled man, sees the world a little differently than most of us, and, according to Nistrian, that made him an extraordinary conversationalist. Soon, a friendship bloomed, and in addition to the free drinks, Nistrian started paying him to help out. His most important task: to greet customers with a friendly smile.

Inspired by his positive attitude, Nistrian planned a surprise party for his birthday. Though it is growing fast with wineries, community festivals, and biotech jobs, Bothell still feels like a small town, and sure enough, “a huge community gathering” materialized. Residents brought balloons, flowers, food, and a giant Happy Birthday banner. Four police officers showed up, and Tinkham got a ride in a police cruiser—siren on, of course.

Like Tinkham himself, the event inspired Nistrian and many other residents, and a movement was born. Each year on Tinkham’s birthday, Bothell now celebrates Cup of Kindness Day to encourage good deeds.

You don’t have to wait a year to see folks being nice in Bothell. Another resident, Jason Dunbar, converted an RV into a mobile shower for the homeless. Twice a week he offers showers, serves lunch, and gives out clothing and toiletries to those in need.

On her 50th birthday, Mary Leah-Moore, who nominated Bothell as the Nicest Place in America, decided to forego a celebration and instead collected stockings full of toiletries, hats, scarves, snacks, and other essentials, then handed them out on one of the homeless shower days. Said another nominator, Joanna Elder, “If you are ever in need of something in crisis, Bothell has you covered. The community really rallies around people.”

— The Editors

For her 50th birthday in December, one resident collected stockings full of toiletries for the homeless — 50, one for every year of her life. (Credit: Mary-Leah Moore)

This town is growing beyond belief and getting better every day! I’ve lived in Bothell for 12 years, after moving away and coming back (twice!) I’ve finally settled down here. I enrolled my visually impaired daughter in the Northshore School District. After extensive research on schools in the Pacific Northwest, I found NSD is one of the best school districts in Washington with outstanding special education programs.

This community is outstanding. The City of Bothell replied to my inquires for speed limit sign scanners and data with courtesy and ease, and the new downtown projects only add beauty and style. I’m a volunteer for our local Buy Nothing Project, and co-leader in a Bothell based Girl Scout Troop. I LOVE Bothell.

A hidden swing buried deep in Sheltonview Woods, a treasure awarded to only the most inquisitive of adventurers. (Credit: Joanna Elder)

Bothell is a town that displays kindness in some unique ways. A little over a year ago, a local coffee stand owner had a frequent visitor who was disabled. Will would come to the coffee stand nearly every day. When Beca, the owner, found out Will’s birthday was in a few days, she put a post on a local community Facebook page, asking people to gather to welcome him on his birthday and surprise him. Dozens of people showed up, even the local police department, and he got to ride in a police car. A local sign-maker made a huge banner announcing his birthday. People brought treats and greetings. Since then, everyone knows Will and there was even a book written about it! To this day, Beca’s Brews is busier than the local Starbucks. This is just one example. Bothell shows kindness in so many ways.

Stories About Bothell

We have a community Facebook page and several free gifting sites on Facebook that have sparked so many friendships and community shows of support. For instance, a local man runs a shower ministry for the homeless. He and his father-in-law have converted an RV into a mobile shower and they provide showers to the homeless, giving each person with new underclothing and toiletries. Lunch is also served and they welcome anyone to help. We have brought children and friends to serve.

Visiting Santa at Bothell’s Country Village — looking like it’ll be the nice list for this one. (Credit: Joanna Elder)

In December, I set a goal on my 50th birthday to collect and fill 50 stockings with essentials for the homeless clients. These stockings and the supplies in them were donated by the community. I spent hours picking up a stocking or two here, a bag of toiletries there. In the end, I was able to fill 50 stockings with gloves, hats, scarves, toiletries, snacks, and other essentials, distributing them during a shower day. It was the best 50th birthday present ever!

Locals set up to help those who are less fortunate get a good shower. (Credit: Mary-Leah Moore)

The community really rallies around people. We had a family whose house burned down. The community gifted an entire houseful of items to help them get re-established. We’ve had people donate airline miles to help someone get to a loved one in an emergency, and people who gift big-tickets items like cars or furniture so the community can share resources rather than buy new or add to a landfill. Even after a fire damaged many establishments on Main Street last year, Sign Up, Sign Co., Inc. made and passed out free “Open for Business” banners so they wouldn’t lose too many customers, and we raised as much money as we could to help them out. This community shows so much support during your time of need — as it should! If you are ever in need of something in crisis, or something as benign as paper plates for a picnic, the community has you covered. The giving spirit is really infused in Bothell!

A free library in Bothell, where anyone can take or leave books. (Credit: Mary-Leah Moore)

Susie and Larry’s Story

My husband and I opened our mom and pop Sign Up, Sign Co., Inc. here in Bothell over 29 years ago! We’ve moved around a few times, but always chose to remain in Bothell. People are just plain nice here! It doesn’t matter if someone wants a mammoth sign made, or just a $10 item, we are happy to help them out. And they are always so appreciative. Almost always, they want to stand around and simply chat for a few minutes after placing their order. Friendships are very quickly made, so much that they will stop in to say hi and see how we’re doing, or just drop by so we can pet and love their doggies for a few minutes. Bothell used to have a sign proclaiming, “Welcome to Bothell, for a Day or a Lifetime!” So many of us took it literally, and chose to stay for the lifetime.