Friends of Youth luncheon brings in $168,000 for young people on the Eastside
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
March 18, 2013 · Updated 2:56 PM
At age 23, Jenny Villalobos is married with a 4-year-old daughter. She's set to graduate from Bellevue College in a few months and plans to continue her education and become a pediatrician. The Puyallup resident also has money saved in the bank and she and her husband recently bought their first home.
While things are going well for Villalobos now, it hasn't always been that way.
When she became pregnant as a teenager in 2008, she was kicked out of her family's home and found herself in her final year of high school with a baby on the way and unsure of where to go.
After a few weeks, Villalobos and her boyfriend — now her husband — turned to Eastside-based Friends of Youth (FOY), a nonprofit whose mission is to deliver services to youth and their families to improve emotional stability and self-sufficiency. The couple became part of the organization's transitional and supported housing programs before gaining independence.
"They were very helpful," Villalobos said about FOY.
On Friday afternoon, Villalobos shared her story with about 600 people who attended the FOY Celebration of Youth luncheon, the organization's annual fund-raiser held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Bellevue. The event brought in more than $168,000 — all of which will go toward FOY's various programs as sponsors covered the cost of the luncheon.
In addition, the luncheon included a short video with interviews from FOY staff and current and former clients, comments from President and CEO Terry Pottmeyer, as well as a few words from Maddie McGavran, an eighth-grader from North Bend who works with FOY counselors on her anxiety.
The housing programs Villalobos and her husband were part of and the counseling services Maddie utilizes are three of several programs offered by FOY. Others include foster care for youths younger than 18, emergency homeless shelters for youths younger and older than 18, parenting classes and help with substance abuse.
Friday's luncheon addressed the misconception that the need for services provided by FOY and other organizations are not needed on the Eastside, that it's an urban issue. Pottmeyer said the need is there, citing that they had seen a 40 percent increase of cases at The Landing, FOY's drop-in emergency shelter for young adults.
"These young people are from every single zip code on the Eastside," she said.
Another recurring theme throughout the afternoon was courage: It takes a lot of courage for young people to ask for help and trust adults; it takes courage for them to change their behavior and it takes courage for adults to offer their help.
Villalobos agreed that it's not easy for a young person to ask for help.
"They think that adults don't understand them," she said.
Maddie, who used to panic during math tests to the point of not finishing them, had the same thing to say. She said she was hesitant to ask for help because she used to think working with a counselor made her a bad person — a lesser person. Instead, she learned that it's OK to ask for help and that it actually makes a person stronger. After working with counselors, she went from scoring 64 percent on math tests to 100 percent.
"Nothing can stop me now," she told the crowd with a grin, sharing her plans to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college and eventually land her dream job — whatever that may be.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.