Youth & Family ‘Heart’ breakfast serves many needs

Jane Meyer Brahm, Gary Plano
Island Forum

You gotta have heart! So say those Yankees from the Broadway musical and the players on the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation team. This year, we also gotta have hope.

We are proud to be this year’s honorary co-chairs of the foundation’s Giving from the Heart Breakfast. As two community members who are intricately involved with the youth and adults in the community, we know the crucial role that Youth and Family Services plays in maintaining the high quality of life in our community, helping our youth to become mature and active participants in our local and global world, and supporting adults with some basic needs. The annual event, the foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year, takes place from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the Community Center at Mercer View.

The cause is a good one, and we urge you to take advantage of the inspiring stories that you will hear and the wonderful socializing at this event which is attended by more than 300 people and all done in time to get you off to work.

The stresses of the recent economy have hit some Mercer Islanders hard. 2008 saw a 75 percent increase in Food Pantry requests. Yes, right here on Mercer Island, emergency assistance is on the rise as well.

But YFS does more than provide food for sparse cupboards and funds to pay for living necessities such as utilities. YFS serves people from all walks of Island life. Counseling for families and individuals facing all sorts of challenges is available on a sliding scale. School counselors give our young people an edge in learning how to deal with life’s issues, so they don’t interfere with getting a high quality education.

There is a senior outreach program that assists people with aging issues. A youth diversion program provides meaningful consequences for youth offenders without having to face the sometimes daunting court system.

Two youth leadership programs, VOICE and SVP, give Mercer Island youth a chance to see how others not so fortunate cope with the struggles of trying to maintain a normal lifestyle and to contribute to the betterment of our greater community through public service. YFS also takes a leadership role in changing social norms regarding underage drinking and drug use through the Communities That Care program. The YFS staff, along with a 30-member community board, is working to harness the strengths of our parents, adults and youth to address a decades-long problem. The fix will not be quick; like the problem, the solution will take root over time.

The final score for all this? Hope. Hope for those on our team most in need. And most importantly, hope for the future.

Despite the serious nature of the work that YFS does, the event is fun. Coffee, socializing and registration start at 7 a.m. Breakfast is served at 7:30, a short program starts shortly after 8 a.m., and the event is over by 8:30 with a lot of time for mixing afterward.

The event is free. There will be an “ask.” All donations are gratefully accepted. The suggested minimum donation is $150, and each gift of at least $150 will be matched by the Maren-Swenson Fund.

This year’s major sponsors include the Maren-Swenson Fund, administered by the Seattle Foundation, Doris and James Cassan, John and Ellen Hill, Thomas Reynolds and Mariluz Villa, Bernstein Global Wealth Management, Gull Industries, Union Bank of California and Sunrise Senior Living.

We know you all have hearts. So why not step up to the plate and hit a home run at this year’s Giving from the Heart Breakfast on Feb. 11.

Gary Plano is the superintendent of the Mercer Island School District and Jane Meyer Brahm is a former editor of the Mercer Island Reporter.

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