Friends of Youth (FOY) recently held its annual fundraising luncheon, Celebration of Youth, on March 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue.
More than 700 people showed up to hear incredible stories of success, courage and youth walking the path to self-sufficiency. This year’s luncheon raised $369,000.
FOY has been influencing the lives of local children for the past 67 years. The nonprofit serves more than 5,500 youth and young adults ages 6-24 and their families each year, operating facilities and programs at 21 sites in 18 cities across the Eastside and the greater Puget Sound region.
FOY works to support youth in need — including overnight youth shelters, youth development initiatives, in-home family support for young parents of newborns, parent education, youth and family counseling, substance abuse counseling, therapeutic foster care, residential treatment and transitional housing for homeless young people and teen mothers.
At the luncheon, incoming CEO Paul Lwali paid tribute to outgoing CEO, Terry Pottmeyer.
He said she has been a strong leader of FOY for the past nine years and hopes he can follow in her “huge footsteps” and continue the in her legacy. The 700-person ballroom gave Pottmeyer a standing ovation.
Lwali comes to the organization from the North Region of the YMCA of Greater Seattle, where he was the senior executive director. His work included increasing equity and inclusion among YMCA members and creating new strategic partnerships both locally and internationally. He has served as the executive for many YMCA branches across the country, including the Bellevue YMCA, where he created programming for special needs participants, partnered with other nonprofits and school districts on addressing out-of-school issues and helped forge new and positive relationships with various ethnic and religious groups.
“Each youth has a special story,” Lwali said at the luncheon. “We believe no young person should ever spend a night out alone. We’re there to support them in whatever way they need and we provide the tools they need to follow their dreams.”
Former FOY clients — whose last names have all been withheld — shared their stories on how the organization has helped them.
Jessica came to FOY a little more than three years ago. In 2015, the then 20-year-old and her 7-month-old son sought safe housing in Bothell. Through the support of her case managers, who helped her establish her long-term goals, she is now a college graduate and a medical assistant for Kaiser Permanente.
“I’m forever grateful to Friends of Youth and my case managers who helped me develop my goals and checked in on me to see how I was doing,” she said.
Jackson, a former youth and family services client, also shared how FOY influenced his life.
Jackson came to the organization in search for a permanent home. After being forced out of living with his family member in Issaquah for his sexuality, he was homeless and in need of a job. After getting a job at an Apple store, Jackson had a hemorrhagic stroke and was unable to pay for rent. FOY was there to help him find a new place to live where he could recover and not have to worry about being evicted.
“It was humbling to ask for help and I’m always going to be grateful to them for all they’ve done,” he said.