Rakes, shears, potting soil and enthusiastic teenagers were out in full force Saturday at a foster home makeover in Redmond. A group of teens spruced up the yard outside, while others worked indoors, decorating pots to distribute to other foster homes throughout the state.
The work party was the result of an initiative by the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC), which partnered with , the statewide organization that owns the foster home. RYPAC is entirely youth-led, and the kids involved are total opposites of the stereotypical lazy teen, said Michele Loewy, an AmeriCorps volunteer for the City of Redmond.
People get involved with RYPAC for different reasons — high school-required community service, parental nudging, resume boosting — but the environment at the organization’s meetings promotes the importance of volunteerism, Loewy said.
“It’s the cool thing to do,” she said.
RYPAC typically meets bi-weekly, with a volunteer event once or month or so, said Ken Wong, teen programs director for the City of Redmond. The various events offer chances for the youth to build their leadership skills, both Wong and Loewy said.
“They have a lot of ownership,” Loewy said. “They get to make the final decisions on everything.”
Jesse Ewing-Frable, a 17-year-old senior at Redmond High, is the chair of RYPAC, and said she appreciated the hands-on element of Saturday’s event.
“It’s tangible results, and you see it right away,” she said. “We do a lot of inside stuff, and it’s nice to get outside.”
Ewing-Frable has led the advisory committee since June and said volunteering helps cultivate an awareness of others’ needs.
“It forces you to expand yourself in new directions that you never thought were possible — (to) get outside yourself,” she said.
Donna, the foster parent at the house, stood back and watched the work with appreciation. She currently has three children in the house and has been a foster parent for 11 years.
The 24/7 time commitment of that job makes it difficult to focus on much of anything else, including yard work, said Donna, who declined to give her last name.
“This volunteering is incredibly helpful to me because I can’t do it,” she said. “My life revolves around taking care of kids. My (work) is planting seeds in kids.”
These types of events help show gratitude to a foster parent, whose job is often a thankless one, said Cheryl Schnelle, the volunteer coordinator for Friends of Youth.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to take time to stop and thank them,” she said.
In a city like Redmond, it can be easy to assume affluence extends to all corners, but that’s not true, and volunteering is just as critical here as other cities, Loewy said.
“It’s important that people don’t ignore their neighbors,” she said. “There really are people that are struggling and that can get ignored sometimes.”
RYPAC meetings are held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the first and third Thursdays of the month at the . Youth from ages 13 to 19 and adults who live, work or attend school in Redmond are welcome to join, and can get more information by calling 425-556-2358 or sending an email to email@example.com.