Last Friday, almost 1,200 people from around the community joined us at the Westin Seattle for a lunch of hope and inspiration at YouthCare’s 34th Annual Luncheon. Together, we met our fundraising goal for homeless youth—our most ever.

We deeply appreciate our generous sponsors who ensured that every dollar raised goes directly to YouthCare programs that empower homeless youth to achieve their potential. Our hearts are full of gratitude for our donors, table captains, and Challenge Pool donors for their commitment to young people. Finally, a heartfelt thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteers who helped make this year’s luncheon our most successful luncheon ever.

“Take a minute to look around you,” said YouthCare’s Board Chair, Karen Jones. “When you feel a little discouraged about what’s going on in the world…remember that every person in this room is here today because they care about improving the lives of young people in our community.”

Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare’s CEO, spoke about our commitment to social justice and equity, reminding us that young people do not choose to be homeless. She explained that we must do more than ask ourselves, “who are homeless youth?” Instead, we must ask, “why youth are homeless?” Asking “why” pushes us to address root causes and systemic barriers—institutional racism, intergenerational poverty, homophobia, xenophobia—that can destabilize families and lead to homelessness.

Room View at Luncheon
Photo Credit: M.Romney Photography

Our youth speakers were amazing. Each of them bravely shared their personal journeys as young people who experienced homelessness—and met YouthCare on their path. They awed us with their resilience and strength.

Nafsiya took the stage and eloquently told her story about conflicting cultures, tribulation, and triumph. As a child whose parents immigrated from Ethiopia, Nafisiya struggled to find her identity, caught in a tug of war between traditional Ethiopian culture and life as an American teenager. She courageously fought to overcome challenges, including addiction and an abusive partner. Her warmth and tenacity were infectious on stage, and we are so excited for her future.

Nafsiya on stage
Photo Credit: M.Romney Photography

Creole, a graduate from YouthCare’s YouthBuild program, talked about the hardships he experienced growing up: losing his brother and struggling with poverty. He inspired us with his determination to provide a better life for his own family. He shared a quote by motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, that he repeated to himself every day for years on his way to success: “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.” Creole is now a foreman at a prominent construction company and we couldn’t be more excited for his success!

Creole youth speaker at podium
Photo Credit: M.Romney Photography

Last, Natalie, an incredible young woman who shared her story at last year’s luncheon, gave us updates about the progress she’s made, including earning straight A’s the last two quarters at Seattle Central College. Natalie reminded us that the stepping-stones to stability take time and hard work—but with genuine support and love, long-term stability is always within reach. We’re so proud of her!

Photo Credit: M. Romney Photography

Nafsiya, Creole, and Natalie are young people who came to YouthCare with unique stories and distinct challenges. They are all on different parts of their journey. But one common thread ties their paths together: the support of YouthCare’s phenomenal staff who made a difference in their lives.

Staff and youth
Photo Credit: M.Romney Photography

We’re humbled to have the dedicated support of our community behind us as we work to end youth homelessness. As Melinda said: “I am so very aware that it takes all of us to end this crisis and help every young person in our community be safe, thrive, and have justice.”

Please remember that homeless youth in our community need your support throughout the year. Make a gift, volunteer, or learn about other ways you can get involved.

Thank you for an incredible luncheon!

Watch Nafsiya, Creole, and Natalie‘s speeches at the luncheon. 

Check out photos from the luncheon on our Facebook page!