Nine-year-old Ezra Lucien said giving to others is just like Christmas.
“You give something, they receive it, and then they have a big smile on their faces,” she said.
That’s why she now has her own state-registered nonprofit: the BRAGG project. The nonprofit is a way for Lucien to help others, whether it’s with food parties, gifts or other possible volunteer opportunities.
BRAGG project is named after Lucien’s oath. She asks everyone who receives something from the BRAGG project, to say: “I am brave, I am relevant, I am awesome, I am gifted and I am God-loved.” She also makes them promise to share what is offered to them. She said she wants to remind everybody that they have these traits. Sometimes she just goes around grocery stores with her mother, Dominick Lucien, handing out BRAGG certificates.
Through BRAGG volunteers also make goody bags filled with supplies, teddy bears and whatever they can grab to give to children at Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH) Center of Hope, and other organizations like pediatric hospitals and senior centers. Dominick Lucien is on a local buy nothing Facebook page and pulls items from there as well. Ezra Lucien said she wanted to make sure kids had something to play with— she didn’t want them to be sad, or bored playing with the same things.
Through the nonprofit, Ezra Lucien hosted three pizza and popsicle parties over the past summer for REACH families, raising money through displaying art at Luther’s Table in downtown Renton. Ezra Lucien said she hosts these events because she “doesn’t want the families to have to eat the same things.”
Dominick Lucien paid the $50 to get her daughter’s nonprofit registered and says, other than that, she has worked under Ezra Lucien’s lead. But their past before moving to Renton definitely inspired the volunteer spirit in Ezra Lucien.
In Arizona, Dominick Lucien was a foster care mom. Ezra Lucien was the youngest while Dominick Lucien fostered teenage boys, the same age as her older son. Being a foster mom wasn’t easy financially— Dominick Lucien said they had to hustle for food, toiletries and other stuff around the house. She said she had to learn to find resources that could help her.
During Christmas, with the help of local organizations that Dominick Lucien contacted, she was able to make sure all her children received presents.
“There are so many people out there, willing to give. You just have to ask and ask humbly,” Dominick Lucien said.
She then moved to Renton with Ezra Lucien and her son five years ago.
Dominick Lucien quickly got connected to Luther’s Table, when her son started volunteering there as he attended Renton High School. Paul Kycynski, who worked with her son at Luther’s Table, revealed to her family that he was also a pastor of Roots of the Table, the church through the restaurant. Soon her family was attending services and volunteering with Roots to help make sandwiches for those struggling to find a meal. They would provide dinners to folks who are homeless in downtown once a week.
“It’s a community of people giving things to the homeless,” Ezra Lucien said of the people who volunteer with Roots of the Table.
Around that time she asked to be baptized and also got into sharing and giving. She volunteered to clean the donation room and answer calls for REACH Center of Hope over the summer.
Dominick Lucien and her daughter tried to think of a way to help out folks more than once a week, so they started the BRAGG project. The director at Luther’s Table, Tom Frodsham let Ezra Lucien display her paintings for sale in the space.
Frodsham said her paintings were really great, depicting flowers, nature and angels. Because she didn’t have access to expensive canvasses or frames, Ezra Lucien painted on cardboard and sold them for $10 each. An art teacher actually came in and saw her work and donated some supplies for her future paintings.
He doesn’t know the Luciens’ too well, but said they are a wonderful family that often comes in for Roots of the Table and family-friendly karaoke. Ezra Lucien said Luther’s Table is a great place for meeting new people and helping others.
For the next steps, Dominick Lucien is reaching out to any local restaurants that want to donate dinners this holiday season, as well as reaching out on social media.
“It’s the holidays, people have to be in the giving mood,” Dominick Lucien said.
Most of the families BRAGG helps are in a transition between places to live, just down on their luck. The last thing they need is to worry about where to get a meal, Dominick Lucien said, when it can be easily donated.
Working on the BRAGG project has taught Ezra’s mom to be less material, and more giving. Now together, they just want to spread the BRAGG oath.
“It doesn’t matter what situation you are in, you are BRAGG, no matter what. Whether you believe that or not,” Dominick Lucien said.