On the morning of Feb. 7, Jenny McPherson and I are co-chairing the 2018 Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation Breakfast at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center. This event is the main fundraiser for the MIYFS Foundation, which provides significant financial support for the services of MIYFS. I would like to share some of my personal reasons for supporting MIYFS, in the hopes that you will join me and hundreds of our neighbors in supporting its important work in our community.
I first learned of MIYFS through the counselors in our son’s school, as I suspect is true for many of Island parents. Our family moved to Mercer Island from Alaska after my husband finished his service with the Air Force. Our first-grader had some challenges in adapting to the move and making new friends.
Enter Julie Mattson, MSW and MIYFS-funded counselor at Lakeridge. In her gentle and encouraging way, Julie provided our son with the tools and support that he needed to navigate through the social and emotional challenges of being a new student. That 6-year-old is now a thriving middle schooler, but I honestly don’t know if he would be as comfortable in his skin as he is now without Julie’s guidance. And his younger brother has also always known that Ms. Mattson is available to help whenever he or his schoolmates need it. Julie’s work at Lakeridge is reflective of the MIYFS counselors at all Mercer Island public schools, and I imagine many of you could tell your own stories about how these counselors have helped our children thrive.
When I learned that MIYFS funding makes it possible to have a licensed mental health counselor embedded at every public school on Mercer Island, I felt compelled to give back to this organization that had helped our family so much. I started by volunteering at the Mercer Island Food Pantry, located in Luther Burbank Park. I was surprised to learn that the pantry averages more than 30 visits per week from Mercer Island residents who are food insecure. The pantry shelves are stocked with donations from our generous community, and yet the need persists. Our donations to MIYFS make it possible for the pantry to supplement food donations with items needed by many of our neighbors, including frequent requests for staples such as toilet paper.
The food pantry and embedded mental health counselors in the schools are just two of the many essential services that MIYFS provides. Thanks to your support, MIYFS is also able to run the following programs:
• Youth Leadership and Community Service (Voice and SVP). In recent years, 300 Island kids donated 10,000 hours for more than 50 nonprofits on the Island and in King County.
• Mercer Island Thrift Shop. Its proceeds support MIYFS programs, and it provides a supportive work experience for youth and young adults with disabilities.
• Healthy Youth Initiative. This helps to prevent the harm caused by youth drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety and other risk behaviors through community advocacy and education.
• Mental Health Services. MIYFS provides counseling for Islanders on a sliding fee scale.
• Diversion and Early Intervention. Arrested youth are re-focused on positive learning experiences while being held accountable for illegal behavior.
• Senior Outreach and Advocacy. MIYFS offers a full range of services to our seniors and their families including consultation, counseling and care management.
• Family and Emergency Assistance. This provides temporary support for Islanders in crisis or facing unexpected hardship, including rent and utility assistance, and holiday, back to school and employment assistance.
Please join me on Feb. 7 for breakfast. Together let’s celebrate 16 years of Giving from the Heart and do our part to support this community treasure that is “Here for Everyone.” To register, or donate online if you cannot attend, please go to www.miyfs.org or call Sari Weiss at 206-275-7756.
Kate Lamperti is the co-chair of the 2018 MIYFS Foundation Annual Breakfast.