From left, Kristen Zuray, Wendy Laxton and Tonya Guinn speak at Trail Youth’s 2019 birthday celebration fundraiser. This year their annual event is a banquet scheduled for April 4. Courtesy photo

From left, Kristen Zuray, Wendy Laxton and Tonya Guinn speak at Trail Youth’s 2019 birthday celebration fundraiser. This year their annual event is a banquet scheduled for April 4. Courtesy photo

Trail Youth celebrates a year of coffee, positivity

Trail Youth banquet fundraiser scheduled for April 4.

A community youth organization is inviting residents of the Valley and beyond to walk an interactive trail.

The trail showcases The Trail Youth experience and the organization’s timeline.

In support of its mission and expansion goals, The Trail Youth’s Trail of Hope Banquet is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 4 at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.

As of March 9, there were no plans to postpone or cancel the event due to coronavirus concerns, but organizers said they are monitoring the situation and adhering to county guidelines. They also said they are being sure to keep surfaces clean and encouraging those who feel sick to stay home — at both the organization’s coffee shop and at the fundraising event.

The event is the nonprofit’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Last year, a birthday celebration was held in June at No Boat Brewing, marking the one-year anniversary of The Trail Youth Coffee Home opening in North Bend.

This year, executive director Kristen Zuray said they are “getting down to business.”

Tonya Guinn, program director and the planner of the event, said the goal is to raise $100,000 for expansion. Zuray said they hope their Coffee Home in North Bend will be self-sustaining and that they can open additional coffee homes in other cities with the support of grants.

“After the impact we’ve seen in our first several months of our coffee home being open, we want to spread the message of hope farther to reach more youth,” Guinn said. “This event financially supports our mission to remove negative labels and spread value and worth, so youth can reach their full potential.”

Growth

“We’re passionate about building teens’ confidence so they are successful in whatever they do in the future, and all of our programs that we offer to teens at no cost illuminate that,” she added.

Trail Youth offers four different volunteer internship programs: barista training, coffee roasting, podcasting and marketing. The organization also offers free coffees for youth, hang out space and mentorship.

Every youth gets a free cup of coffee when they visit, funded by the coffee purchases of adults who visit the shop.

“When you buy a cup, you give a cup,” Guinn said.

The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. They are closed Sundays. “Teen only” hours are observed from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday each week, but adults are still encouraged to come buy coffee to-go.

“Everything that we do to support our youth programs is funded by the community coming in and buying coffee,” Guinn said.

Guinn said about 200 youth utilize the Coffee Home monthly and they have given some 7,800 free drinks to youth since they opened. Every cup has a positive affirmation written on it, such as “you are loved,” “you are worthy,” or “you are enough.”

They also have trained more than 60 baristas since they started, Guinn said. The baristas learn the business side as well, including inventory and the costs of everything.

Guinn explained that they train teens at all levels at their own pace, regardless of where they may be at with depression or anxiety. It is often their first job and organizers hope to get them ready for a job at a bigger place.

The coffee home also sells merchandise made by the teens, sporting some of the organization’s affirmative messages and youth artwork. Soon they will sell bags of their own blend of coffee beans, roasted by the kids on the coffee roasting team.

Banquet

The banquet event will include dinner, an auction — with all items handmade by The Trail Youth teens and mentors — prizes, and a photo booth. Tickets are $65 and include dinner. There are 300 seats available and Guinn said on March 9 that they were 75% sold.

Teens have been involved with banquet preparations by helping with marketing and getting ready to video the trail experience. The podcast team plans to do a Facebook Live walkthrough and interview guests so those at home can experience it, too.

Guinn and Zuray said the trail aims not only to tell stories, but also to convey emotions.

“It’s a checkpoint of all the milestones that took us from where we started actually out on the trail, serving coffee and donuts to young people out of our cars, to the journey that gets us to where we are now where we have a nonprofit coffeehouse,” Guinn said.

Zuray said organizers aimed to create an indoor trail, even including trees so people feel like they are outside, and it begins with an open car. She said the trail will include pictures and stories of kids who’ve benefited from their work. There also will be objects on display, and a general progression from dark to light — bleak to hopeful.

“It’s kind of like a museum type effect but along a trail,” Zuray said. “When you first walk in, it’s hopeless and dark. But then as you continue down the trail, things begin to start changing with what we’re doing on the scene. It becomes more positive and progresses to the impact.”

She said it grows more towards what the kids are doing now to continue to spread the message of hope.

“People can walk along the trail and get the idea and feel it, too,” she added. “We’re hoping that they can make an emotional connection and feel the hopelessness in the beginning and feel the progression to the change and see that the kids are the ones now spreading the hope. The kids are now carrying the torch and bring that hope into the community.”

Podcast

Guinn said the podcast team is one way the teens spread the message, and they cover topics ranging from suicide, to communicating with family members, to highlighting community heroes. The podcast series is called “Coffee Break with Trail Youth.” There are about 60 episodes so far, and it airs weekly on Mondays and Thursdays on Trail Youth’s Facebook page.

One member of the podcast team is Jaclyn Huntzinger — a junior at Mount Si High School who has been a part of Trail Youth for two years. She has also been a barista and volunteered on the youth board. She said Trail Youth has changed her life and helped grow her confidence.

“The Trail helped me understand that my voice matters and now I use it,” she said. “That’s the most important thing that I’ve learned through my involvement at the Trail.”

She said her favorite part of her experience is the community members she’s met — not just mentors and other teens, but also frequent customers she’s gotten to know. As far as the event, she said she’s most excited to see the interactive trail.

“I’ve never been able to walk through and see the face of it, walk through the whole timeline. I’m really excited to see how it all turns out,” she said.

She said she hopes more people will get involved with The Trail Youth and see the valuable work they do.

“I feel like The Trail Youth is just so important for the community. If we just get The Trail out there more, let them know The Trail is warm and welcoming to everybody, it could make a big change in this community,” she said. “I just wish everyone in the community could be able to come in and just see how welcoming The Trail is.”

The beginning

The Trail Youth works with youth ages 13-19, connecting them to resources, mentorships, and a safe environment. They empower youth for the future, but are mindful of their past and what they are going through in the present.

It all started when Zuray and her husband in 2013 met a group of homeless young adults on Issaquah’s Rainier Trail, involved with drugs and prostitution. The words “worthless” and “societies’ trash” inspired Trail Youth’s mission to eliminate labels and restore self worth. They brought coffee and donuts, and soon word spread to the community and the trail became a happier, safer place for local families to enjoy.

Trail Youth became a nonprofit in 2014 and was eventually asked to the Snoqualmie Trail to work with teens facing challenges such as depression, suicide, drugs, couch surfing and anxiety. A need for a safe space became apparent and with a Best Starts for Kids grant was realized. The organization was featured on Mike Rowe’s Facebook show “Returning the Favor,” which renovated their new Coffee Home in just two weeks.

More information about the event and about Trail Youth can be found online at www.trailyouth.com, or on social media.


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