Thank you Magid!

It is a good day at Teen Feed when we receive a gift of much needed supplies for the homeless youth we serve. Today, it was a huge box of warm gloves that came in the mail from Magid Glove and Safety … something that will come in terribly useful when the weather turns cold in Seattle.

Since its inception, Magid has been actively involved in supporting the communities it does business in – locally and globally. With a primary focus on promoting the health, safety and well-being of those in need, Magid accomplishes its philanthropic objectives via financial and non-financial contributions and through the support of its employees’ individual charitable efforts.

By sending gloves, Magid made a tangible difference in the lives of homeless youth ages 13 – 25 who will be struggling on our streets this winter. Youth will stay a little warmer – when there isn’t money to buy a cup of coffee and stay indoors, when the shelters are full, when youth are waiting for Teen Feed to open for a warm healthy meal each night.

Thank you Magid employees. You do make a difference.

Advocate of the Month: Sarah Anderson!

Teen Feed’s Advocate of the Month – Sarah Anderson!!

Sarah Anderson rules. She has been an Advocate with Teen Feed for six months. In addition to her outstanding contribution as a volunteer, Sarah raised $2,520 for Teen Feed as a runner in the Rock n Roll Marathon. Her final time was 4 hours and 43 minutes. Rad! Read on to learn more about Sarah and the heart she brings to Teen Feed.

Why/how did you get involved with Teen Feed?
I attended the Ben Gibbard benefit show and when Megan explained what Teen Feed is I knew it fit with what I was looking for in regards to my volunteer goals. I was drawn to the organization because I felt like I could relate to the youth because I grew up in a difficult home. I currently work a very demanding job. Teen Feed provides balance to my life.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at Teen Feed?
I know it’s where I should be. Time flies by when I’m listening to people’s stories; seeing the hope in people’s eyes; hearing people’s honesty in interactions – you’d never hear people be that honest in a coffee shop or interact this way in another capacity. The human experience is intriguing to me.

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?
I run! I also play kickball, we’ve won two championship in my Underdog League. I also like to work on my house. The house is 111 years old, so there are a lot of quirks.

What did you eat today?
A Clif Builder’s bar (peanut butter flavor) and a cup of coffee.

What have you learned from volunteering at Teen Feed?
I have learned that providing support is the more important than expressing your own expectations for people. People change when they want. Teen Feed is integral because there are people that youth can rely on. You have ideas of how people should live their life but you can’t project your own goals. You just have to be there for them. I wish the person I am at Teen Feed could be manifested in the rest of my life.


Teen Feed is launching into what I think will be a really incredible process. We’ve just unveiled our newly-renovated office space, a space that was designed to help those we serve feel comfortable and invited to connect with us. We also just launched a new strategic plan that will carry us through the next five years. I am particularly excited to be at Teen Feed right now, and I feel fortunate that I can share in the lives of those we serve. What better time to remind ourselves why we are committed to doing this work…

I’m currently reading an amazing book called In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Maté. It focuses on his work in Vancouver, BC with homeless people facing chemical addictions. There are many reasons that I highly recommend this book, but a major one is that Dr. Maté creates a very human perspective on drug addiction. He makes an eloquent presentation that his patients have experienced immeasurable pains that very few people could understand and turn to drugs as a way to escape the daily horror and turmoil that is their life. In a world that looks down on addicts, he calls the reader to first see people that are traumatized…people who, like all of us, just want to survive and cope with the pain of life.

One particular passage of the book has really stayed with me. “When my addict patients look at me, they are seeking the real me. Like children, they are unimpressed with titles, achievements, worldly credentials. Their concerns are too immediate, too urgent. What they care about is my presence or absence as a human being. They gauge with unerring eyes whether I am grounded enough on any given day to coexist with them, to listen to them as persons with feelings, hopes and aspirations that are as valid as mine. They can tell instantly whether I’m genuinely committed to their well-being or just trying to get them out of my way. Chronically unable to offer such caring to themselves, they are all the more sensitive to its presence or absence in those charged with caring for them.”

Wow, what an epic challenge to remain committed to the homeless youth we serve! It’s not enough for me to just order ID’s or to hand out housing applications with an idle, “fill this out and get it back to me.” It’s not enough to shuffle around plates of food or to pass out socks without an accompanying hello and a smile. The youth we serve at Teen Feed have incredibly accurate honesty meters built in. They have to…many of them have not had the luxury of being surrounded by supportive, caring friends or family for most, if not all, of their lives. They can immediately tell, even in a simple hello, whether our staff and volunteers care about them or are just there to build themselves up. In the six years I’ve been working with homeless youth, I can think of so many times where they have called me out for not being genuine and have invited me to join them in a place of deeper honesty and beauty.

What will make our nice, new office and our ambitious strategic plan successful is our commitment…our heart. My teammates are so passionate and deeply committed to the youth we serve, and I consider myself so fortunate to share my Teen Feed journey with them. But, my teammates and I can only carry the direction of Teen Feed so far. You, the greater Teen Feed community…volunteers, donors, friends, family…you are what will help Teen Feed go from good to great. I envision our commitment to youth as a series of concentric circles around them…they are always at the center. No matter how “close” you are to those we serve, your continued commitment to caring for our youth is as vital as it ever was. Continuing to give your time and money, making nutritious meals, investing in real relationships and never, ever giving up on the potential our youth have…this is how you will help us ensure that our youth have the best possible chances to meet their future off the streets. Let’s get started…


Nutrition at Teen Feed

Seven nights a week the youth that access Teen Feed can count on a hot nutritious meal thoughtfully prepared by volunteer meal teams. The dishes that meal teams offer are of delicious homemade quality. “I am impressed with the meal teams food handling, selection and general good nature that they impart to the meals,” comments Marybeth Walton as she observes a night at Teen Feed.

Marybeth is a nutrition student at Bastyr University who has chosen to focus on Teen Feed for her senior project on community nutrition program development. Her goal is to help find a way to improve upon the meals that youth receive by building on the nutritional content of the meals served. Through a community nutrition model Marybeth has been collecting relevant information about the healthcare needs of the youth we serve. Her project and expertise will address healthcare needs by creating recipes and meals that promote health and wellness.

We look forward to incorporating Marybeth’s knowledge and experience as a nutrition and dietetic student into Teen Feed’s meal program. She is currently collaborating with and gathering information from our committed and passionate meal teams. We look forward to learning more from Marybeth, utilizing the recipes she crafts and ultimately continuing to offer youth the best and most nutritious hot meals, every night of the year.

– Katelyn Stickel, Teen Feed Coordinator

Teen Feed as a Secure Base

By Josh Horvath, Advocate

While serving as an Advocate for Teen Feed, I often ask myself how do youth find themselves homeless and trying to survive out on the streets?  I currently am a graduate student in counseling psychology at Northwest University, and view a lot of my times at Teen Feed through a psychological perspective.  I’ve learned from the staff that there are numerous reasons a youth might find themselves homeless: from struggling with the challenges of mental illness, to addictions and abusive home lives.  In my studies I have learned about Attachment Theory and the idea of the secure-base.  I have come to believe that many of our guests at Teen Feed are lacking a secure-base in their lives, and that Teen Feed truly can become a secure-base for them.

Attachment Theory explains that the secure-base is formed between an infant and a primary caregiver.  A secure-base is formed when there is mutual enjoyment and empathy shared between the primary care giver and infant.  Secure attachments also need to be continually fostered throughout childhood.  Without a secure-base in childhood, an individual sees the world as a dangerous place, they are uncomfortable in close relationships, and likely will not progress through life with hope for a better future.  In therapy a counselor for many people becomes the first secure-base in a person’s life, because they offer empathy and acceptance.  I see Teen Feed operating in much the same way as a therapist, by being the first secure-base for someone and thus a starting point of change. 

Teen Feed is consistent, and the staff and volunteers demonstrate empathy and total acceptance of every guest.  The idyllic image of healthy family life is of a family coming together, eating dinner and sharing about how their day went. During dinner the good and the bad stuff is okay to share, and mutual support is given.  This is the setting of Teen Feed meal nights, and I believe can serve as a reparative process in many of the guest’s lives.  I sometimes wonder of if this is the first time they have ever experienced eating dinner in this way.

It is an honor to be able to volunteer at Teen Feed.

Aging Out

by Paula Heath, Advocate

 Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened…”  Dr. Seuss

If you look at Wikipedia for the definition of “aging out,” this is what you’ll find:

“Aging out is American popular culture vernacular used to describe anytime a youth leaves a formal system of care designed to provide services below a certain age level.”

At Teen Feed, a youth ages out at the end of their 25th year; the minute they are 26, they no longer qualify for the program. Through coordination with other community programs, the staff tries to ensure that each youth has a plan and knows the resources available to them for on-going shelter, food, and medical care.

But is this aging out of Teen Feed really a Dr. Seuss occasion?

Happy birthday, goodbye, good luck, sure have enjoyed our dinner conversations. These are words that an advocate typically does not have the opportunity to say to the departing youth. He might be there on a volunteer’s Friday, but he is gone forever before the next Friday. I have found myself on several occasions asking the staff what happened to so-and-so, is everything okay. It may be that because I like human stories so much, this abrupt ending, which is not really an ending, of course, leaves me with a bit of a cliffhanger effect.

So I have wondered out loud to the staff how the youth feel about their disappearing act, their “aging out.”  Do they feel they have accomplished something, become savvier and more confident, or do they see the system just tossing them up to another program? How important was the Teen Feed meal to them, and how much will they miss it …?

I’ve only touched the surface here, I think; there’s much more to listen to and learn. Safe to say the headline appears to be that no youth wants to age out of Teen Feed. Their perspectives range from anger to resignation/practicality and may be correlated to their housing and income situations at the time.

The youth know that Teen Feed is more than a warm, complete meal every night (many often have no real meal during the rest of the day); it’s their living room, a place where they can talk with friends and form relationships. Gaining better skills for healthy relationships and lifestyles, experiencing safety and consistency – these are part and parcel of the program.

The youth with whom I spoke all know exactly when they will age out – in fact one offered the age-out years of a number of different programs. Many can have difficulty expressing their feelings and may become argumentative, disrespectful, and even angry as they near their end date. Perhaps, as one staff member pointed out, this behavior is an effort to distance themselves from the program before they know they’ll have to leave.

On the other hand, there is this: For one youth with stable housing and food stamps, it was a shrug and then, “I don’t want to leave Teen Feed, but since I will have to, I guess I’ll have to learn to cook dinner.”

All with whom I spoke said that, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being super important, Teen Feed is a 10 in their lives today. This gave me pause: Congratulations to the Teen Feed staff and volunteers of all kinds – you are making a real difference. Still, right now, the termination is abrupt, and the new life stage is not at all known — or inviting.

Be well through the holidays, everyone.

 “The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.” – John Galsworthy

Grateful Volunteers

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”

~William Faulkner

By Paula Heath, Advocate

Right now, you may be thinking that “grateful volunteers” should say instead… “grateful nonprofit organizations.” The truth is that I have been thinking how grateful I am for Teen Feed. And based on the attendance and enthusiasm at the Annual Celebration October 10 at Hillel, I think I’m not alone!

My own volunteer history has included two hospitals, trail repairs and cleanups, big sisters, and for the past 15 months, Teen Feed. And of all the organizations, Teen Feed has made me feel the most valued. So I have looked back to see what they’ve done, that’s touched me personally, in the way of thanks:

• a snail mail card for no reason except to say thank you

• a personal and a general thank you at every meal I attend

• e-mail reminders, reach outs for extra volunteerism at special events relating to teen feed

• warm hugs from the staff

• contagious and unwavering enthusiasm, kindness and positivity

• events just for us, like the Annual Picnic and Annual Celebration

This year was my first Annual Celebration. Smoothly run, thoughtfully assembled, and appropriately modest in presentation. Simple handwritten charts on the walls and table centerpieces that cost nothing but brainpower and staff creativity. Because we were at Hillel, the food had to be kosher and it was delicious, generous, and varied – Leah’s is the greatest! Each speaker was humble, sincere and gracious, and each honoree likewise was modest and happy.

So I’d like to say thank you to Teen Feed for the Annual Celebration – a demonstration of your commitment to your volunteers – and for all the other tangible and intangible ways you make me feel rewarded and a part of something good in exchange for just 2 hours of my time every week.

Will Thompson

“I was sustained by one piece of inestimable good fortune. I had for a friend a man of immense and patient wisdom and a gentle but unyielding fortitude.

I think that if I was not destroyed at this time by the sense of hopelessness which these gigantic labors has awakened in me, it was largely because of the courage and patience of this man.

I did not give in because he would not let me give in.”

– Thomas Wolfe

By Paula Heath, Advocate

[Will Thompson was Teen Feed’s Street Talk Outreach Program Coordinator for the past two years. He founded STOP to respond to the greater number of young youth Teen Feed was seeing on the streets, and has left a permanent impact on staff and youth alike.]

He is a big man, with a distinctive splayed walk. His broad face wears a virtually permanent smile with flickers of sharp humor dancing in his eyes. His booming voice rings across the nightly Teen Feed dining rooms – with engaging stories, sharing opinions on computer games and current events, and most of all providing guidance through his personal example.

To see him is to be drawn to him – a huge magnet of confidence, enthusiasm and caring. I watched with some envy as, without fail, his table filled up first, and the liveliest conversations began. Laughter, always. No one ever got up and left his table – he was able to connect with everyone.

When I asked a few of the youth how they would describe him, the responses were consistent. “He was knowledgeable about us, our lives, and the things we like to talk about.” “He was always informed and kept the conversations going, no down time.” “Kind, caring, available.”

Will has moved on to life in another city. We all thank him for everything that he accomplished here in the U District; the positive impact he had on so many young, vulnerable lives; and for showing advocates like me how to engage with our youth. A terrific mentor, he always communicated hope and optimism – a great legacy. Thank you, Will!

Teen Feed’s Vision

By Paula Heath, Advocate

Teen Feed staff asked me to give them my Advocate’s point of view on the Board-approved Vision statement. It is a little bit of a cheat for me to do this, because I have spent a lot of time around corporate vision, mission, and values development throughout my career. While it takes an enormous amount of collective work to create them, it is worth it – these are valuable statements for any organization to incorporate into their culture and the way they do business.

The Teen Feed Mission has also been approved by the Board of Directors. The Mission says what we do:

  • Teen Feed works with the community to offer support to meet basic needs, build strong relationships, and ally with homeless youth as they meet their future off the streets.

Before getting to the Vision, which says what it will look like when we execute our Mission, let me quickly share a few guidelines often used when developing a vision statement.

  • While it used to be a description of the state and functions of the organization after it had implemented its strategic plan, now it’s more of a motivational tool to inspire and motivate.
  • For an organization that benefits the community, the vision should describe the future it wants to create for the well-defined community it wants to impact.
  • It should be short, simple, and powerful, and use active not passive words…easily remembered, and deliverable in a quick elevator ride.
  • Ideally it gives a mental picture of the vision.
  • Focus on the most important facets of the overall vision.

Here is the Teen Feed Vision:

Every youth:
­* strengthens and is strengthened by their community,
* loves and is proud of the person they are,
* is passionate and experiences growth,
* is safe, and
* works toward justice and experiences peace.
Every youth sees their whole life experience as valuable.

I like it in many ways – each chosen ideal (strength, love, pride, passion, growth, safety, justice, peace) is admirable. However, all may not be achievable by every youth. It’s possibly challenging to remember them all.

 So, here are three suggested stand-alone Vision statements – which carry the weight of the above Vision’s intent, but allow for some of the sub-points to be brought in to flesh it out, as needed.

  1. Every [street] youth strengthens and is strengthened by their community.
  2. Every [street] youth sees their whole life experience as valuable.
  3. Teen Feed’s vision is that every street Youth can realize their full strength, value and potential for themselves and their community.
[Director’s Note:  Thank you Paula for providing great input on the heart of what we do!  To the next 25 years!  -megan]

A Guide for Youth Engagement

– By Paula Heath, Teen Feed Advocate

Life is slippery. Here, take my hand. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

As an Advocate with Teen Feed, our role sounds pretty simple: establish a safe zone for conversation from 7-8 pm; elicit information, whenever possible, about the Youth’s present situation that can be used by Staff to help them meet their goals and improve their circumstances. Note that our role is not to become a Youth’s new BFF. That is deliberate – and a good thing. But it’s not for everyone: it takes the right fit, and some understanding of the core principles of social work.

Teen Feed is here to ‘restore and enhance’ the Youth’s ‘capacity for social functioning.’₁  We Advocates, who are not social workers, use our own life’s knowledge of people, attained through personal experience, to learn about the Youth’s condition and life objectives. During a one-hour meal in a bustling atmosphere. When conveyed to case workers at the end of each meal, this type of information can expedite assistance for the Youth toward their goals.

But a challenge can come into view if attachments form. When a Youth and an Advocate become too attached, it can be counterproductive and unhealthy for both, so boundaries and reminders of Social Work professional ethics are important. Admittedly, it can be hard to see the ‘line’ which should not be crossed. For example, for both Advocates and Staff, we can’t help to create success for the Youth without building rapport and gaining their trust…Two qualities Wiki uses to define friendship are trust and mutual understanding. Is it unhealthy to be friends, then?

The safest rule of thumb is to think in terms of ‘professional closeness’ when you walk into Teen Feed. Remember the importance of objectivity and clear thinking to success, and the productivity possible in the absence of potentially damaging irrational emotions. And use Staff members as the best source for any questions in the areas of exchanging emails, friending on Facebook, and meeting out of program (Note that all of these examples could be outside the ethical boundaries).

A friend in need is a friend indeedProverb