From Homeless Backpacks to All Kids Win

Homeless and hungry children and teens are an existing, exponential problem in our country. It may not cross one’s mind that the student they see walking down the school hallway or sitting at the bus stop will be struggling to find a meal that weekend. However, there are many people, such as the members of the All Kids Win organization (formally known as Homeless Backpacks), that recognize this issue and are working effectively to feed hungry students and end the cycle of homelessness.

For the last seventeen years, 100% volunteer-based Homeless Backpacks has helped homeless teen students in Washington State. Over the years, the number of teens this organization has fed grew as schools and counselors reached out consistently. In the beginning, Homeless Backpacks quietly donated packed bags filled with foods like tuna, granola bars and instant oatmeal to schools requesting assistance, and the counselors would give the food to the students in need through confidential avenues. Up until last year when COVID-19 hit, Homeless Backpacks was helping over 600 students a week. However, as pandemic restrictions changed the way students were attending school, it also changed the way the organization was giving — big time.

The number of students Homeless Backpacks helped per week went from 600 to over 2200 almost overnight. The operation no longer functioned as it had originally; instead of counselors calling for the delivery of 10 or so bags, school districts began picking up food by the truckloads! The pandemic brought on huge transitions for the organization. It was time to expand their vision and their brand.

At the beginning of 2021, Homeless Backpacks became All Kids Win in reflection of this evolution. Stephanie Hemphill of All Kids Win says, “We rebranded and renamed our nonprofit because we are not only serving homeless students but also serving food-insecure students. They could be kids living with a family below the poverty line, a kid who is couch surfing to escape an abusive home, or any other situation that would put them in a position to not know where their next meal is coming from. Our vision is that hunger never stands in the way of education, so we want our name to reflect our mission and vision.”

Right now, the number of teen clients is up to around 1300 a week. As schools go back to a “normal” routine, All Kids Win plans on adopting their previous model again, although their organization will never be the same. With the overwhelming influx of volunteers stepping in, All Kids Win anticipates a smooth transition and looks forward to the growth. Their hope is to relieve some of the pressure so that kids can simply worry about kid things.

All Kids Win
homelessbackpacks.org

NATALIE BENSON

APCC: On a Mission for the Community

When Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) was formed in 1996, it was intended to fulfill a deep need as a place that brought together significant segments of minority Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. For more than two decades, APCC has taught and celebrated the cultural history, customs, arts, crafts, people and legends from their 47 represented nations. And it has been a hub for so many people to gather and celebrate. To be entertained. To show their pride. And to help each other.

Helping each other is one of the major missions of APCC. And, help they do. Whether it is assistance in filling out government forms to start a new business or guiding members in understanding complicated regulations, APCC is there to help. The organization knows they are trusted because they look like their members and speak their language. They form a comfort zone and have the capacity and earned trust to improve their members’ lives.

Through phenomenal support from their sponsors, APCC puts on a vast number of annual events that entertain and educate. But APCC also sees a need to help with students creating many wrap-around youth programs in the local schools. Reducing stress for youth begins and ends with reducing stress on their parents. This is accomplished by APCC through housing and food assistance, two of the biggest stressful issues for any family.

As APCC approaches its 25th anniversary in November, it has expanded its role in the community by offering free testing and vaccinations, much needed food boxes and school supplies plus Resiliency Grants Assistance for small businesses. Asia Pacific Cultural Center – on a continued mission of service.

Asia Pacific Cultural Center
4851 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma
253.383.3900
APCC96.org

BY LYNN CASTLE

Giving Back in the 253

In any community, a sense of “community” is built on the connections made through unique groups of people that support one another. When I moved to Tacoma five years ago, I was wanting to know my neighbors, to feel that my community supported one another, and to find ways to give back. Quickly, I learned that the 253 has an abundance of opportunities for giving of time or financial resources. I encourage you to join me in this building of community.

If you are looking to give time, the South Sound region is filled with organizations that would love to have you as a volunteer. You can choose to focus on a wide range of interests: recreation, arts, social justice, health and education, to name a few. If you are passionate about education and the development of younger generations, a good place to start is in our schools. Outside of the schools, nonprofits often look for volunteers to do administrative tasks or provide program support.

Two good ways to find out about service opportunities are to join the Volunteers group on Facebook or visit the nonprofit websites listed on the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation page. When you feel your roots settling into the 253 and your heart is called to give back, but your time is limited, a monetary gift can provide hope and resources throughout the South Sound. “Philanthropy” is often misperceived as giving big financial gifts, but a gift of $20 a month goes a long way in creating a sustainable community. For Emergency Food Network, for example, every dollar you donate provides $12 worth of nutritious food for our neighbors in need. Philanthropy in any amount promotes the welfare of others. Your generous gift could change lives.

To find local organizations that qualify for tax-exempt giving, visit the nonprofit listing on the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation page.

gtcf.org/community/directory
facebook.com/greatertacoma

BY TAUNA SHOEMAKER

Giving Back in Thurston County

A great way to quickly learn about your new community and meet new friends is to get involved with a nonprofit organization. Every community offers numerous opportunities to support these worthwhile causes. Finding organizations that are meaningful to you will make the experience most rewarding.

These four questions can help you find your perfect nonprofit match:

• Do you have a passion? By identifying what motivates you, such as sports or outdoor pursuits, environmental or conservation issues, working with children, or assisting the elderly, you’ll start to narrow down the list.

• How much time can you give? Figure out how many hours per week or month you’d like to contribute to an organization. If you have schedule limitations, check to see if the organization can work around those.

• What do you bring or want to acquire? It’s important to know how you’d like to contribute to an organization. Are you interested in providing leadership, planning events, or being a social media guru? Volunteering is also a way to get practical training and experience to help your career.

• How do you want to serve? Consider whether you prefer working one-on-one, such as mentoring a teen or helping an adult learn to read, or working in a group, such as helping to renovate a home or coordinating fundraising activities.

Once you’ve had a chance to consider your ideal organization, start exploring what’s available. If you worked with a nonprofit in your previous community, there’s a good chance you’ll find a local chapter in Thurston County too. Three consortiums support a variety of community nonprofits and the lists of their member organizations are a good resource.

• South Sound Partners for Philanthropy
celebrategiving.org
• The Community Foundation
thecommunityfoundation.com
• United Way of Thurston County
unitedway-thurston.org

Want to get involved but don’t feel you have the time as you get settled? Consider attending a fundraising event. Events are a fun way to meet like-minded people, raise funds for the cause, and give you a feel for the organization.

BY JULIE LEYDELMEYER