A decade ago, Karina O’Malley recognized the growing number of homeless women living in East King County, and starting working to assist them as one of the founders of non-profit program The Sophia Way. O’Malley continues to be a tireless advocate for the homeless and today Metropolitan King County Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci recognized O’Malley work by presenting her with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service.
“Due in part to her efforts, hundreds of women and families have found a safe place to stay,” said Balducci. “In 1957, Dr. King pointed out that life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’ Karina O’Malley has answered that question by dedicating her considerable energy, compassion, and intelligence to improving the lives of women without homes in East King County.”
O’Malley helped found The Sophia Way, the Eastside’s only low-barrier shelter for women experiencing homelessness, which means women can stay at the shelter while meeting only minimal requirements. This approach allows The Sophia Way to serve more shelter guests, including those most in need like those struggling with mental illness or addiction. O’Malley has served as director of the program and continues to serve on its board.
Along with The Sophia Way, since 2011, O’Malley has was part of the group that started the Lake Washington United Methodist Church Safe Parking program, a church ministry serving women and families living in their cars, and she currently serves as the program coordinator. She also helped establish the Eastside emergency shelter for women and families. Ms. O’Malley serves as treasurer for the Kirkland Interfaith Network.
“Karina is our north star. She points our organization in the right direction and reminds us every day about the importance and urgency in this life-saving work,” said Angela Murray, Executive Director of The Sophia Way. “She is a quiet force that builds community coalitions that pave the way for impactful change.”
“I don’t think there is anyone better at inspiring a crowd. She provides a clarion call to all of us to create a more just society. She has a beautiful soul,” said Leslie Miller, the Human Services Administrator, for the city of Kirkland.
O’Malley’s tireless work has been recognized by many people and organizations. She has been awarded the Alliance of Eastside Agencies Volunteer of the Year (2016) and the League of Women Voters Making Democracy Work Award (2017).
The annual presentation of the MLK Medal of Distinguished Service is the Council’s way of thanking those who have made a particularly strong impact on the county and to encourage others to renew their dedication to serve their community.
This is the third year Councilmembers have recognized individuals in their districts who have answered the question asked by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “What are you doing for others?”
Editors: Cutline for attached photo: “Metropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci with Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service recipient Karina O’Malley.”