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ceo update | august 2022

Updated: Aug 23, 2023


As I write this, I want to acknowledge each of you reading as a key member of the greater Friends of Youth community. We have been hard at work reorganizing and adapting our organizational infrastructure to better serve youth and young adults with a strong focus on providing quality services.

In restarting a quarterly communication to all of you, I'd like to share some of the exciting next steps at play that many of you have contributed to taking shape.

In Fiscal Year 2022 (July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022), thanks to the hard work, diligence, and sacrifice of our employees, we carefully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic while serving our community and clients. During this time, with my directive to center our staff as our first client, the Board of Directors approved a budget with investments in wage increases, additional positions, enhanced training, and revamping of our internal and external communication tools and services. Upon reflection, I'm pleased to share that those investments led to our new Organizational Chart, which has not only reconstructed and simplified our operations and program areas but has also strengthened our agency’s communication and improved our operational effectiveness.

Also in this last Fiscal Year (FY2022), we achieved our decade-old vision of acquiring a permanent overnight emergency shelter location. Working with the Friends of Youth Foundation, Friends of Youth Board of Directors, our Finance team, our champion Representative Lisa Callan, and countless other supporters, we acquired a 6,900 square foot property in Kirkland on Willows Road NE. This will be the designated site for our new shelter and should double the number of clients served while providing the necessary amenities that positively impact our youth and young adults accessing our services. Our anticipated transition from our current location in Redmond to this new site will take nine months, with the intention of offering services starting May 2023. Accomplishing this dream has only been made possible by the hard work of our numerous employees and supporters over the years. Their steadfast commitment to our mission, clients, and community earned Friends of Youth the respect and reputation that helped us secure and fund this site.

This past fiscal year has also been a very successful development and fundraising year! After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our Board of Directors recommended that our key signature fund and friend-raising event, Celebration of Youth, be dedicated to the employees of Friends of Youth. In April 2022, with this Board mandate, we successfully resumed our in-person fundraiser at the Bellevue Hyatt, with over 100 employees in attendance. The event raised $504,000, which included phenomenal lead-up community information events by subject matter experts from our program teams. Thanks to you, we made our financial goal, and more so, we celebrated and recognized the contributions of all our employees with our community.

We welcomed many new employees to our Executive Leadership Team, our Senior Leadership Team, our Lead Team, and our Program and Operations Departments in FY2022. At the same time, we said goodbye and gave heartfelt farewells to many tenured employees and friends. With the “changing of the guard” and the many emotional send-offs, I look to the future with eager anticipation. To the new and exciting talent that has joined our agency–we welcome you and look forward to your contributions in service to the youth and young adults in our community.

Every three years, Friends of Youth’s Board, Employees and Key Stakeholders assess our Mission, Vision, Values, and relevance through a strategic planning process. For three years, 2020 through 2022, Friends of Youth embarked on a strategic plan that included building and supporting a strong employee team as one of the main priorities. While we made some important strides in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Risk Management, Training, and Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI), reviewing and adjusting employee benefits, we still have much to do in the areas of employee recruitment and retention. With that knowledge, we want to stay focused on our most important asset by incorporating our staff as our first client into our strategic plan! This statement has set the tone for our final year of the FY2020-2022 strategic plan but has also propelled us into successfully planning and drafting our FY2023-2025 Strategic Plan.

On September 10, 2022, our Board of Directors will vote on our new strategic plan. The goals, objectives, and tactics within it will directly impact each employee, our operations, and the long-term sustainability of the agency. My sincere thanks to all the employees who completed surveys, provided input and feedback, participated in various stakeholder sessions, and most of all spent countless hours for over 12 months dedicated to ensuring Friends of Youth remains focused on client impact.​​​​​​​

I look forward to sharing the strategies and commitments we establish and continue forward.

With heartfelt gratitude to each of you, your contributions are what help make Friends of Youth a special community of support for our region.

Thank you all,

Paul Lwali

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