Every year, Islanders gather to listen to stories about how Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) has helped young people, seniors, families and the community at a fundraising breakfast for the public-private partnership. The 2019 event has raised $377,480 so far.
“One person’s call for help becomes our collective call to action,” said Lisa Katsman, this year’s breakfast chair.
The MIYFS Foundation Annual Breakfast was held on March 6, followed by an all-day Shop Local event, during which 11 local businesses donated 20 percent of their profits to the cause.
“We are celebrating the 30th year since the founding of the MIYFS Foundation,” said Jody Kris, MIYFS Foundation president. “Much of the success of our business partner-Shop Local program has arisen from cultivation of these business owners by the foundation over the years.”
The Shop Local event accompanies the breakfast each year, and all the proceeds go toward supporting the programs and services offered by MIYFS.
MIYFS has faced numerous budget cuts with the failure of November 2018’s proposition 1, according to Kris, so the foundation appealed to locals to help it exceed last year’s donation totals, asking for at least $250 from each breakfast guest. Other donors, including local companies and an anonymous local family, promised to match gifts of $500 or more.
Katsman wrote in an email to breakfast attendees that MIYFS is not finished yet, and that “we have a considerable amount still to raise before we can fill the gap caused by city budget shortfalls.”
The goal is “to maintain a mental health counselor in every public school as well as a fully funded senior services position,” Katsman wrote — both services that were set to be reduced in 2019-2020.
“The foundation is hoping to rely on the generosity of our community to enable the foundation to make enough to retain and restore some of those services,” Kris said. “We hope that everyone will consider giving more. And, for those who cannot attend the event, we hope that they will donate generously online.”
At last year’s breakfast, more than 600 Islanders donated $215,000 during the breakfast alone, before local businesses made their contributions. That was a 16-percent increase over 2017’s “in the room” total, and it averages out to more than $350 per person.
MIYFS director Cindy Goodwin said the department already has several key initiatives underway this year, including a community needs assessment that should be finished in June.
Pat Braman, a former school board member and Mercer Island’s citizen of the year in 1997, said in her keynote address at the breakfast that the Island needs to find a permanent funding source for MIYFS.
“They are the hands that help all in this community,” she said.
MIYFS supports local families in need with emergency assistance, a food bank, employment assistance, a job board and connections to state and federal resources. Additionally, the foundation offers counseling services to all individuals, mental health counselors to Mercer Island public schools and a geriatric specialist offering counseling, consultation and care management.
In a video shown at the breakfast, MIYFS employees said their model works because they are located on the Island, which provides an opportunity not only to provide convenient services, but to intimately know the community.
“For anyone who has lived on the Island for a while, almost everyone is aware of someone who has used MIYFS services,” Kris said. “Many school age parents have met the school counselors and appreciate their watchful eye and compassion shown to all students. Because Mercer Island is wonderfully multi-generational, the community is very aware of the importance of keeping seniors engaged and understand the value of providing geriatric services to help families keep the senior generation independent, well and fulfilled.”
The event was one of many that were delayed by the early February snowstorms, moving from Feb. 13 to March 6. Typically, the event is held near Valentine’s Day and this year, Kris said they had a nearly filled room. MIYFS polled attendees on postponing event and received a “robust” response in favor of the delay, which Kris said was the right choice in retrospect.
“The forecasts were ominous,” Kris added. “We have a large population of attendees – both seniors and school age parents – who likely would not have been able to attend in slippery conditions or if school was closed.”
MIYFS is a department of the city of Mercer Island, and receives funding from many sources, including the Mercer Island Thrift Shop, the city’s general fund and the foundation.
“We have so many great business partners,” said Sari Weiss, development officer at MIYFS.
Businesses participating in the Shop Local event included All the Best Pet Care, Au Courant The Den, Auto Spa, Island Books, Island Treats, Mercer Island Athletic Club, Mioposto Pizzeria & Bar, Pete’s South Mercer Chevron, Studio 904, Terra Bella and Yogabliss.