June’s Advocate of the Month – Andrea Cote

Thoughtful, brilliant and supportive.  That’s Andrea Cote.

We first got to know and admire Andrea when she began as an Intern at Teen Feed in the spring of 2011. We love working with Andrea in and outside of program. Since her internship, Andrea continues to help us out with her broad skill set behind the scenes, assisting us with administrative processes and organization at Teen Feed.  We’re so jazzed to celebrate her volunteerism as well as her completion of the Master of Science in Information Management from the University Washington. Andrea has been an Advocate since June of 2011.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I got to know Teen Feed in a roundabout way. There was an internship description at the Information School (UW). I responded, met with Megan and was asked to compile data and code it for Teen Feed’s stake holder interviews. As I was going through the interviews and reading people’s conceptions of Teen Feed I really got to know the program. To better understand what I was analyzing, I attended the volunteer orientation. Then I started volunteering as an Advocate.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

The sense of community I feel at Teen Feed, both with the other volunteers and the guests. When you volunteer on the same night each week, you want to come and see the guests, but you also feel a sense of responsibility to the group of people you work with.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I’ve pretty much been doing homework for the last two years. There’s a whole new world now (post graduation).

What did you eat today?

BBQ chicken pizza from my work cafeteria.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

One thing that is stressed a lot by the coordinators is how important it is to meet people where they’re at. Whether that be laughing over a light conversation, offering resources or sitting quietly with a youth at the same table. It’s important to read the situation and where that person is at and give them what they need for that moment.

Thanks for using your amazing skills to support youth at Teen Feed, Andrea!

Interested in being a volunteer at Teen Feed? Click here or email volunteer@teenfeed.org to learn more.

May’s Ally of the Month – Hanah Joudi!

A High Schooler, volunteer, and award winner. Amazing!

Hanah Joudi has been an Ally for the past year and a half.  She has been a dedicated Friday night volunteer, building connection with guests and helping to hand out socks and hygiene supplies. This spring, Hanah applied for and received a volunteer award on behalf of Teen Feed and the service she has done as an Ally. The Soroptomists, an organization that focus on women’s empowerment, awarded her with the Young Women’s Volunteer Achievement Award.  Please help Teen Feed celebrate Hanah and her success!

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I thought I needed volunteer hours to graduate from my high school, so I was looking for a place to volunteer. I continued to volunteer at Teen Feed because I liked it so much.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

My favorite things about volunteering at Teen Feed is that it teaches me new things every time I’m there. Whether it be about the challenges that homeless youth face or things I can do to help.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I play golf, travel to new places and hang out with my friends!

What did you eat today?

I’ve eaten an omelet with tomatoes, cheese and chives; and a spoonful of nutella.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Teen Feed is that there is so much more to homelessness than I thought before I started volunteering. There are so many factors that contribute to why a youth is experiencing homelessness.

Thanks for your hard work Hanah!

Interested in being a volunteer at Teen Feed? Click here or email volunteer@teenfeed.org to learn more.

Meet April’s Advocate of the Month, David Hollingsworth!

AOTM-4-12-David-Hollingsworth2

David Hollingsworth has been an easy going, dedicated and inspiring volunteer since December of 2010.

He is an engaging conversationalist, critical thinker, and a generous supporter of Teen Feed. David sees his life through a lens of interconnectedness and he engages and shares ideas with humble excitement. He even celebrated his birthday by asking his friends to donate to the Teen Feed program! We’re fortunate to be able to count on him as a volunteer and celebrate his commitment to Teen Feed.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I am studying Social Justice at Antioch University and volunteering is a vital aspect of my education. I really wanted to be a part of the community that I plan to work with upon graduating. The mission of Teen Feed and the low barrier accessibility of program really resonated with me. It was really important for me to get involved in social justice work outside of the classroom.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

The people. The advocates and the youth – I just have a lot of love in my heart for everyone at Teen Feed. We all come together once a week, volunteering for the same cause and working toward the same goal: to talk to youth. These youth are the most forward and honest people I know. I really see potential at Teen Feed, whether it’s a youth who is creating art at Sanctuary Art Center, playing the piano during dinner, or talking about what they’re working toward. It’s encouraging and inspiring to be a part of that.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I love going to Sounders games. I’m a huge fan! I also play soccer and disc golf with my Labrador. And I study of course, more than ever before in my life.

What did you eat today?

A scone. Fantastic.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

There’s a lot. I’ve learned that there’s a certain tangible resiliency in the youth, and I’ve really come to respect this. Some youth are striving for life, in a positive way. Before I was volunteering I thought there would be more frustrations and depression from youth. But at Teen Feed I see youth who are working to better their lives with beautiful resiliency. It is really inspiring.

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.

Meet Oliver Whyte, Excel guru and Advocate of the Month!

Oliver Whyte was once described to us as an Excel Guru. Turns out, he has his Ph.D in Computer Vision. Wow.

Oliver recently lent us his Ph.D expertise and skills, transforming our sign-in procedure by developing a database to better track the information we collect each night at Teen Feed’s sign-in. Oliver has also been a Sunday night advocate with his wife, Lindsey, for the past nine months. Oliver has taken his relationship with Teen Feed’s youth “beyond the meal”, offering his skills to help us to do our best work behind the scenes. We chatted with Oliver to find out what motivates him to be an advocate at Teen Feed…

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

My wife Lindsey began volunteering first and encouraged me to volunteer as well. It’s been great. It’s given me a chance to work with youth who may be struggling, who still have an opportunity to have a positive experience and place in society.  I really enjoy meeting youth and talking to them, seeing their achievements and seeing Teen Feed’s role in their lives. The meals and the case management – Teen Feed is something stable and reliable.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

The fact that when I go to program I learn from our guests. I learn so much about various topics and what people are interested in through conversation. They have so much knowledge.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

Last summer Lindsey and I went hiking and camping in the surrounding national parks. I used to play the trumpet and am planning on picking it up again.

What did you eat today?

A cinnamon roll that Lindsey made. Also some bread, roasted vegetables and pesto, Lindsey also made this. I’m quite spoiled.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

I see in practice the notion of the saying “there is a person behind every face”. I have never been outside of my comfort zone (speaking to people I don’t normally meet). I see this saying in reality and up until now I was in school, meeting people like me, doing similar things. Teen Feed gives me the opportunity to experience “the person” in this saying, at every meal.

…and we enjoyed getting to know you, “the person” who is Oliver!

If you are interested in becoming an advocate or learning more about ways to become involved with Teen Feed click here or email volunteer@teenfeed.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

Meet Kiyomi Higuchi, Advocate of the Month!

Kiyomi Higuchi ran the Seattle Half Marathon in under 2 hours. That is a true story.

She also sold pieces of pie to her co-workers to raise money for Teen Feed during the half marathon fundraiser. What I’m trying to say is Kiyomi infuses her commitment to advocacy for homeless youth from program into her life and community. She is intuitive, genuine and insightful. And, girl can run, fast! We sat down with Kiyomi to ask her about her experience as an advocate volunteer at Teen Feed…

How long have you been volunteering with Teen Feed?

15 months.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I graduated from college and was working in retail (which I still am) and I wanted to start doing volunteer work. My BFF, Stephan Goodman, had been volunteering with Teen Feed and I started coming with him. I loved it.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

Volunteering at Teen Feed has been the number one way of continuing my education outside of college. I have learned about myself, other people and social issues. It has also made me more aware of the way people talk about homelessness. When I hear people speak in stereotypes outside of Teen Feed I am able to advocate for youth based on the real conversations that I have with them at dinner. These conversations have also taught me about my own biases.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I like to run, read novels and the Sunday Times, get crafty, and daydream about travelling.

What did you eat today?

A breakfast burrito for lunch.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

That helping people helps yourself.

 

Thanks for being an awesome advocate Kiyomi! If you are interested in learning more or becoming a Teen Feed volunteer, please reach us at volunteer@teenfeed.org or click here.

December’s Advocate of the Month: Jason Dickson!

Jason Dickson has got it goin’ on! His committed presence at Teen Feed is appreciated by staff and youth alike. Jason goes above and beyond to support staff during program. Beyond his two nights as a Teen Feed advocate he also volunteers at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter. Teen Feed could hardly keep up with all of the thank you cards we owed him for his humble generosity. So, we sat him down with a cup of coffee and got real. It’s hard not to like this guy, he’s down to earth, kind, funny and he “gets it”. 

How long have you been volunteering with Teen Feed?

Since January 2011.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I watched a documentary called “Children Underground”. It was so touching and I wanted to get involved because I couldn’t bury my head in the ground about these kinds of issues – I had to do something and I’d rather give my hands than money. So, I Googled homeless youth in Seattle and contacted some organizations. Teen Feed was the first to respond so I attended the orientation and started volunteering. It was spontaneous, just like everything else I do.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

The guests. Don’t take it personally, the other volunteers and staff are great but the guests and relationships are my favorite. Being at Teen Feed gives me the freedom to get away from myself and focus on the guests.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I like to get out whenever I can. When the weather is permitting I love going climbing. With the winter approaching I want to go snow shoeing . I’m wreaking havoc if I’m stuck in the city.

What did you eat today?

A philly sandwich from the Wayward Café.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

I think about this quite a bit. If you would’ve asked me a year ago what I thought about homeless youth I would have been able to ‘fill in the blank’ to describe a youth with a lot more assumptions. From my experience at Teen Feed, a homeless youth is no different from other kids (like my own son) except circumstance.

Interested in becoming a Teen Feed Advocate or Volunteer?
Please
click here or reach volunteer@teenfeed.org for more information.

Advocate of the Year- Jenny Rose!

Jenny Rose is a champion. An advocate for almost two years, Jenny’s contagious and tenacious passion for youth makes her an excellent model for Teen Feed guests and other advocates.  Her authenticity and ability to “be real” enables her to  connect with youth in a way that a lot of people can’t – and the youth respect her for it. She has a real ability to connect with youth, asking thoughtful questions and always keeping the focus on them. She is a champion in her family and community, sharing the impact of her Teen Feed experience amongst her friends and sons, creating awareness and allies wherever she goes.  It was our pleasure to honor Jenny’s commitment and generosity of spirit by awarding her Teen Feed’s “Volunteer Advocate of the Year” at our 2011 Annual Celebration in October. We invite you to get to know Jenny Rose…

How long have you been volunteering with Teen Feed?

That’s a good question ! I remember I first came along in the summer of 2010 so about 18 months now though it doesn’t seem that long …. Time flies !

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?

I wanted to locate some volunteer work that involved interaction with people, so I browsed the internet looking for opportunities with youth in particular. Teen Feed was the first organization that popped up and, at the same time, I discovered that my next door neighbor who is a nurse, was volunteering at 45th Street Clinic which I noticed was a community partner on the Teen Feed site. I have a demanding and stressful job where I seem to have my head buried in my computer and tons of paperwork with very little daily interaction with people so getting out and about with people in the community was just what I needed to create a good balance in my life. Being a mom of three teenagers I was particularly drawn to Teen Feed. My sons and I are a terrific team – we all moved from the UK to the US settling here 10 years ago which was a huge adventure, and we work well as a family. I think I am learning so much in my “mom role” and wanted to share my experience.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

Interacting with the youth for sure. They are a really interesting and awesome bunch.  They have fascinating, interesting personalities, are great company, and have so many experiences to share and needs to fulfill. I am constantly amazed by the stories they relate of their past experiences and of their current daily interactions within the community. It is quite an honor to gain their trust, share their struggles, have them accept your help, and it is so fantastic to hear about their successes. That’s probably the best part. The Teen Feed staff are simply awesome. Learning from and interacting with them is definitely one of my favorite things about the program. I am in awe of their level of care, support and dedication to both the youth and all us volunteers.. I have many new friends here now and it feels like being part of a big family  ! Oh, and let’s not forget about the yummy dinners!

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?

I love hiking – my husband and I head to Mount Rainier or the North Cascades most weekends and we got into mushroom hunting last year – I’m working on becoming an expert !! I really enjoy going to the theater, opera, symphony, and rock concerts ( I went to see Journey this week ! ) and I really love socializing with friends, cooking and throwing dinner parties. All my girl friends donate to Teen Feed so we have dinner / Teen Feed drive parties a lot ! Of course some of my favorite times are those hanging out with my boys – watching movies, game nights etc and we sit down to a family dinner every weekday night ( except on Wednesdays when I am with my Teen Feed family ! ) which is one of my most favorite times. I’m hooked on BBC dramas and shows – Silent Witness, MI5, Dr. Who, Vicar of Dibley. I guess some US ones are OK too –  like The Mentalist and Without a Trace J

What did you eat today?

Toast and British Marmalade for breakfast, chicken wonton soup for lunch…. And now I’m waiting for that yummy Teen Feed dinner !

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?

Gosh, so much. When you are bringing up 3 teens you kinda think you have seen, done and solved most things in a youth’s life, but … not so ! I have learned so much from our youth here. Particularly what is really important in life – what they need to live comfortably, happily and safely. How to create stability for them and offer support. Basically how best to fulfill their needs and build up a trusting relationship so they will share with you.  Building good communication skills is definitely the key to being a good advocate and learning to really listen and hear what is going on for them. I’ve had to learn how to build and maintain relationships within the time parameters of the program. It’s a challenge with only an hour once a  week, but I think I have learned how to leave every interaction on a good positive note until the next time and how to create positive anticipation for the future. When one of the older youth said to me recently “ you know, I’ve told you more in the last 30 mins than I’ve ever told anyone in my life, including my parents “ you know you are on the right track and it all becomes worthwhile !

Interested in being a volunteer advocate like Jenny? Please visit our Teen Feed Volunteer page or emails volunteer@teenfeed.org

 

 

A beautifully contagious sense of hope for 14 youth…

If you’ve spent any time at Teen Feed or in the U-District community these last few months, chances are you’ve heard the name Gossett Place. Whether you’ve heard the name or not, let me tell you that it’s pretty awesome! Gossett Place is brand-new subsidized housing sponsored by the Low Income Housing Institute and Sound Mental Health. It’s part of a larger group of housing facilities with units for “high-utilizers” – folks that, because they don’t have a safe place to call home, end up stuck in various parts of our larger service system: treatment centers, jail, ER’s, shelters, etc. Gossett Place is open specifically to individuals dealing with long-term chemical dependency and/or mental health issues.

Gossett Place is located in the heart of the U-District and has one incredibly exciting different feature than its housing counterparts: several units were set aside specifically for young adults accessing U-District agencies! To briefly summarize the referral process, Teen Feed has been working closely with other U-District service providers over the past few months to submit referrals for young adults that meet the “high utilizer” criteria or who are assessed by Gossett staff to be “highly vulnerable”. There have been many meetings, presentations on youths’ histories and lots of applications to fill out…but the reward has been great!
The reward is that to date, 14 young adults have moved into Gossett Place. These 14 young adults now live in the nicest, newest building in the entire U-District, each with their own state-of-the-art studio apartment. The building has many perks including a common area with a big screen TV, a computer lab, on-site laundry and direct access to professionals who provide support for their chemical dependency or mental health needs. Residents pay 30% of their income as rent; if they don’t have income they don’t pay anything. Gossett’s biggest perk is that young adults enter as they are; it’s truly a housing first model. This means they don’t have any expectations to fix their “problems”…they simply get to move in, get settled and then receive support to work on the issues they feel are important to them.

The young adults creating new homes and futures for themselves at Gossett Place talk often about how nice it is to be out of shelters, to know they have their own bed to sleep in, and to enjoy the feeling of sleeping in.

They talk about how nice it is to live in a community where they feel supported and not expected to change themselves at a moment’s notice.

They’ve told us they now have the time and space to dream about what’s in store for their future. Their stories have lost the concern or fear of the present and have picked up a beautifully contagious sense of hope.

My hope is that all those we serve will catch a case of this hope and to get experience their own version of Gossett Place.

-Ryan

Ryan Fouts is Teen Feed’s Support Coordinator, leading the Service Links for Youth (SLY) program. To learn more about SLY, click here.

DISCLAIMER: In the Teen Feed News newsletter, Larry Gossett should have been listed as a King County Councilmember, not a Seattle City Councilmember. We apologize for the oversight.

September’s Advocate of the Month: Carl Powers

Getting to Know the Advocate of the Month: Carl Powers!

Carl Powers is a stand-up guy. He has been a committed Teen Feed volunteer since 2007. Carl is an integral part of the Tuesday night advocate team, a natural leader, willing to help, articulate in his ability to spread his passion for Teen Feed and he is fu uuuny. Read more about the man, the marvel, the Advocate of the Month, Carl Powers!

How long have you been volunteering with Teen Feed?

I started volunteering in October of 2007 until the following September of 2008. I returned as an Advocate in October of 2009 and have been volunteering since.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?
I needed 50 hours of community service hours in High School and Teen Feed was listed as an option at my school. I met with Eric Wirkman, nice guy, and stuck with it. I have other friends that are involved too, Marlee Palmer (current volunteer). I took my senior year off from Teen Feed and resumed as an Advocate my freshman year of college – I wanted something to do.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?

I like the Teen Feed community – other advocates, Teen Feed staff and the clients we serve. It is a fun place to hang out and volunteer because it doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes you have to click into ‘business mode’, but it is mostly a calm place.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?
I do stand-up and improv comedy. I am a part of the Collective Improv Club and I have done gigs at Comedy Underground. I also like to play soccer and all sports. I really like skiing. My favorite comedians are Jim Gaffigan, Eugene Mirman and Michael In Black.

What did you eat today?
A white-chocolate-chip-cranberry-cookie and lemonade from Starlife on The Oasis. (He just woke up)

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?
The best way to get to know someone is to actually talk to them and not just listening to what’s said about someone. It’s about giving people the time.

To learn more about becoming a Teen Feed Advocate, click here.