Tonya Guinn loads up her vehicle with holiday gifts for the teens who visit The Trail Youth each week. The group estimates they serve about 60 kids with their outreach. (Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo)

Tonya Guinn loads up her vehicle with holiday gifts for the teens who visit The Trail Youth each week. The group estimates they serve about 60 kids with their outreach. (Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo)

County grant to open doors for troubled Valley youth, along with the doors of The Trail Youth coffeehouse

The Trail Youth began its outreach to troubled teens with coffee and doughnuts and now, with a Best Starts for Kids grant, it will expand that outreach into a mentorship program, nonprofit clothing bank, and naturally, a coffeehouse.

For the past year, a group of volunteers has been cautiously and quietly working with local teens and young adults, who are troubled, to build trust, friendship and confidence. Since January, The Trail Youth has set up a weekly coffee stand on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail in North Bend, offering free hot coffee, doughnuts, sometimes hats and gloves for the winter months, and always an opportunity to just talk.

Their goal then, as now, was to help these 30-plus kids, many (not all) from the nearby Two Rivers School, to find the help they needed to solve their problems.

“We want to help people accesses the services that are available to them,” said Tonya Guinn, the soon-to-be program director for The Trail Youth projects in the coming year.

What that means depends on the youth, and on the problem. Some of the kids are fighting drug addiction, some have family troubles, some don’t have a place to live.

“They’re not homeless and they don’t like being called homeless,” said Kristen Zuray, founder of the Trail Youth. “Some are couch surfing, some are sleeping in their cars…. some kids came from really good homes and just lost their way.”

To help them find their way again, Zuray started The Trail Youth project about four years ago, in Issaquah. Two years ago, she moved it to the Valley, where she connected with Guinn and Wendy Laxton, the future operations manager for the organization. The three have been working together for the past year to reach this hard-to-reach population, mostly through coffee, doughnuts and warm clothing.

Next year, when The Trail Youth officially receives some of the funding from its recently awarded $400,000 Best Starts for Kids grant, the group will add some offerings to its menu of services, but coffee will still be at the top of the list.

“Our dream has been to open a coffeehouse, so kids have a safe, warm place to go after school,” said Guinn.

“Before they go out into whatever their circumstances are,” added Zuray.

That coffeehouse, within walking distance of the school, serving coffee by donation, providing gallery space for student art to be displayed and sold and offering a supply bin of extra gloves and other necessities, is close to becoming a reality. The group is negotiating a lease now and hopes to open in early 2018, after some building renovations.

For some students, the coffeehouse will also provide a job.

“We’re going to offer barista training, for the students who want it,” said Laxton.

Students will operate the coffeehouse, with adult supervision, during its open hours, which are yet to be determined. Zuray said it will be open at least until dark on weekdays during the school year and for special events on Saturdays.

The coffeehouse, though, is just one of the services to be funded by the King County grant.

“It will also cover the mentoring program,” said Laxton, referring to the pilot program The Trail Youth just launched.

In this program, five youth — there’s already a waiting list — are paired with five adults who will meet with them at least weekly and offer advice and support to help the youth achieve their goals.

“In the course of the mentorship, we’re going to develop individual paths to success,” Zuray said.

Basically, she summarized, the pairings will start with the youth’s dream, then work backward to build a road map he or she can follow to reach it.

Another group of youth have been recruited into The Trail Youth’s leadership program, to help operate the new iteration of the Teen Closet, a non-profit clothing bank specifically for teenagers. The original Teen Closet, operated by Monica Rutherford and Joan Guenther for several years out of Mount Si Lutheran Church, closed last summer.

Since the clothing bank’s work was with the same group that The Trail Youth were reaching, the organization saw an opportunity to re-open the program under that youth leadership. A youth board is being developed to create a mission statement, policies and procedures for the bank, giving the board members real-world experience at managing a nonprofit.

Or, as Laxton answered when the youth protested that they just wanted free labor for the clothing bank, “It’s not free labor, it’s resumé building!”

A simple perspective shift, reframing a youth’s vision of the world into a more welcoming place, full of opportunity, is a skill that all of The Trail Youth staff have developed. Both Guinn and Laxton said they were drawn to the organization because of their own, personal perspectives on struggling teenagers.

“I think it would be so nice to help some teens avoid some of those pitfalls,” said Laxton.

Zuray, executive director of the program, hopes to make that perspective shift even broader, eventually, charging students with producing fundraisers to help other struggling youth, in other countries.

“It’s a way for them to start looking outside of their own circumstances to see the world around them,” she said.

Learn more about The Trail Youth at http://www.thetrailyouth.com.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Now volunteers, these ladies will become official staff of the Trail Youth with receipt of a three-year, $400,000 Best Starts for Kids grant from King County. From left are Wendy Laxton, operations manager, Kristen Zuray, executive director, and Tonya Guinn, program director. (Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo)

Now volunteers, these ladies will become official staff of the Trail Youth with receipt of a three-year, $400,000 Best Starts for Kids grant from King County. From left are Wendy Laxton, operations manager, Kristen Zuray, executive director, and Tonya Guinn, program director. (Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo)

More in Life

2021 Lexus RX 350L. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Lexus RX 350L

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a good day when a Lexus… Continue reading

2021 Chevrolet Blazer. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Blazer

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to certain car models they… Continue reading

The Cadillac CT4 is designed to appeal to a new generation of Cadillac buyers with its athletic design and astute driving dynamics. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

By Larry Lark, contributor With apologies to Oldsmobile, “the 2020 CT4 Premium… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan

By Larry Lark, contributor Mercedes-Benz occupies rarified air in the automobile pantheon.… Continue reading

Margery and Pat Godfrey. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Couple’s love story inspires new Hallmark Channel movie

Inspired by local residents Pat and Margery Godfrey is the story “A Godwink Christmas - Second Chance, First Love”

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Washington State Fair cancelled
Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health
Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown