What’s an even better feeling than scoring a great deal on a local restaurant? Volunteering with friends or colleagues to make a difference in your community. YouthCare started the season off right on United Way’s Day of Caring with a group of 50 volunteers from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They scrubbed YouthCare’s Orion Center until it shone like never before – giving our youth a space they can take pride in.

Groups help us tackle the big projects – the things that staff just don’t have the time to focus on as they work hard every day to help homeless youth stabilize and move forward. Things like painting – which a group of incredible volunteers will tackle this weekend. Val Backus, Shannon Burbridge, Darby Langdon, Dwayne Bishop, and studentpainters.net will be giving our Adolescent Shelter a makeover so it remains a welcoming place for scared young people to figure out their next step. A special thank you to Sherwin-Williams for donating all the supplies and the paint!

We’ll celebrate Make a Difference Day on October 22 with Seattle Works and friends to do another deep clean of the Orion Center (with 4,000 teenagers a year using the OC as a cafeteria, a school, a library, and an overnight shelter,  you can just imagine why we need such frequent cleanings!). And in November, Windermere Realtors will help us sort donations of food, clothing, and holiday gifts.

Our faithful meal groups truly stand out – rain or shine, they come bearing gifts (of food) to serve lunch or dinner to at least 60 homeless youth at the Orion Center. From tacos to stir-fry, their healthy and tasty meals keep our young people going so that they can take their next steps: to shelter, to education, to employment.

This fall, we welcomed four new regular meal groups: FareStart (Yum. Wonder what they’re cooking?), Ellen Ramsey & friends, Ann Williams & friends, Jennifer Ting & friends. We also had eight new groups serve a one-time meal, and we’ve got four new groups starting this month too. North Coast Electric wrote an excellent blog post about their experience – check it out for a peek into the world of meal groups.

We are so grateful to all of our volunteers, individual and group alike, that help us get homeless youth off the streets and preparing for life. Your service shows our young people that their community has not forgotten them, frees up staff time to work with our youth, and stretches our budget further. These are all important in a time of increasing budget cuts and grim economic forecasts. Thank you.

Volunteers Clean the Orion Center