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Vashon Youth Council, Development of Island Teens split $25,000 grant

Two youth-centered nonprofits on Vashon have received a $25,000 grant that will enable them to hire a consultant who will evaluate both organizations and determine how they can better reach people in the community.

Vashon Youth Council and Development of Island Teens received the funds — one of the largest private donations in their combined histories — in January.

The gift will give both organizations an opportunity to create a donor database and develop a more ambitious fundraising plan — which in turn, they said, will enable the two groups to become stronger and more effective.

“We hope by getting the person and a plan we will grow and offer more opportunities for youth,” said Amy Ezzo, the Vashon Youth Council program director.

The donation came from an anonymous individual, according to Crystal Culp, the president of the board for Development of Island Teens (DOIT).

The two organizations have similar missions and work closely together; at the heart of them both is youth empowerment.

First established on the Island 11 years ago, Vashon Youth Council (VYC) now focuses many of its resources on “Dream Contracts.” These contracts enable teens to pursue a multitude of paths they might want to explore, with VYC helping them flesh out the details and find the right resources to move forward. So far, VYC has awarded fewer than 10 of these contracts each year, but hopes to offer more. Adults can apply for VYC’s Dream Contracts, too, Ezzo said, as long as the projects benefit youth.

On an Island when many teens feel there is not enough to do, the youth council is working to change that.

“It’s really how you look at the opportunities you have in front of you,” Ezzo said. “Our sole purpose is to meet the needs of Vashon youth and really give them a voice in their community. ... We can help with anything.”

In addition to the Dream Contracts, the youth council participates in the Youth-Adult Dialogues and hosts music, film and other entertainment events.

Like VYC, DOIT’s mission is to support and develop the potential of Island youth, and to that end, it assists many youth-oriented programs and projects in the community, according to Culp.

For the past three years, DOIT has provided one-quarter to one-third of the youth council’s budget. Through a grant from King County, it also funds the ongoing Youth-Adult Dialogues and supports the Island’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Questioning group and the Burton Adventure Recreation Center, which includes the skate park.

For several years, DOIT offered “Opportunity Knocks” grants to teens wanting to undertake a variety of projects, but it has suspended those for now and is supporting VYC and its similar Dream Contracts instead.

DOIT has a long history on the Island, starting 18 years ago with the intent of creating a teen center. In its heyday, two or three high school students served on the board and received credit in a government class for doing so. Typically, the board numbered 12 to 15 people.

In recent years, some stalwarts have moved on, and the board is now only five people and is actively recruiting, as is VYC, Culp said.

Once the consultant is in place, hopefully by late spring, more work will get under way: the development of a donor database, the creation of a fund that will build over the years and plans for a large fundraising event. More people on Vashon will come to know the work of both organizations, and with more community support, the more the organizations can do in the community, Culp said.

Not long ago, activity at the youth council had waned, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years and is “busy, vibrant organization,” said Culp.

“DOIT can have that kind of resurgence, too,” she said.

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