Meet Debbie Tonkovich, March’s Advocate of the Month!

Debbie Tonkovich has been a dedicated Wednesday & Friday night advocate, offering two nights of consistency and stability for youth for the past eight months!

She is trained in counseling with a Master’s Degree from Seattle University, is a proud mother of four, and is a reflective, thoughtful person with a humongous heart of gold.  In addition to being an awesome advocate, Debbie is generous in sharing her time whenever we need help in the office or with special projects. Debbie makes us laugh, keeps us thinking about how to do our work better and is always finding ways to help out and contribute to Teen Feed’s youth and community.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I got lucky. I knew I wanted to volunteer with youth, so I went on to the United Way website, typed in my zip code and found Teen Feed. I got kind of fooled though. I thought I wanted to work with high school age kids and when I got to program I was meeting guests who were a little older than the teens I expected. I didn’t realize how much I would come to enjoy working with these youth.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

I do like to meet new people with different experiences and backgrounds. I get to meet so many really cool people and hear great stories. I live in a neighborhood without a lot of diversity, coming to Teen Feed I get to step out of that. I also love when a youth has a success and we are able to celebrate with them at Teen Feed, so cool.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

You can say that I like running. We have a sunny front porch at my house. I love to sit on my front porch with my kids and talk about nothing.  I love to be outside on a sunny day and I also love watching The Gilmore Girls (I have the whole series on DVD). I am also learning how to knit.

What did you eat today?

An orange, vanilla yogurt, cereal, whole wheat toast and coffee.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

I know what I have learned, but I don’t want to sound preachy. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned anyway:

In the University District there are some amazing services, all of these agencies work together to do beautiful work. These youth have these great services, but these services are reactive. What I mean is, why didn’t we serve these kids earlier? Why as a society did we wait so long? As a society and within communities we need to be more proactive in caring for youth.

Another thing I’ve learned: I often hear the term, homeless youth. I have learned that these people are “youth who are experiencing homelessness”. It’s not permanent, it’s temporary. The term homeless youth has seemingly negative connotations to people who don’t understand. These are just youth who need something right now (dinner at Teen Feed). Homelessness is not who they are.