A fundraising dinner and auction for Ryan’s House for Youth has brought the organization $5,000 closer to its goal of raising $400,000 by the end of the month to purchase a vacant Coupeville motel.
The Coupeville Rec Hall was packed to nearly overflowing for the organization’s annual Big Red Event Saturday evening. It was literally standing room only, as organizers and several others gave up their chairs to accommodate the large crowd.
“The number attending changes every year,” said drop-in center manager, Nicole Sorensen, as the evening got underway. “But this is the first time we’ve run out of seats.”
As kinks in the seating were worked out, Whidbey Island’s Shifty Sailors entertained the crowd, setting the tone for an evening of fun, good-natured ribbing by Master of Ceremonies Jim Freeman and generous donations by those in attendance.
“There are 150 people in this room, not because we’re serving lamb or chicken, but because you see the value in us purchasing the Countryside Inn Motel,” Lori Cavender, Ryan’s House founder and executive director, told the crowd.
Acquiring the property has become the fundraising focus of Ryan’s House for Youth, which serves homeless and at-risk youth ages 12 and up on Whidbey Island through its drop-in center in Freeland, a host family program and its outreach van. The organization has the opportunity to purchase the motel, which would provide 14 rooms, laundry facilities, a large drop-in center, clothing distribution center, office space and three apartments.
While the group has been looking for a more permanent facility for a while, Cavender said the ability the motel offers to provide transitional housing is the icing on the cake.
“This is a dream building,” she said, laying out all the benefits of buying the property to the audience.
“Please, please, help us do this for our kids,” she said through tears.
Sorensen, a former Ryan’s House youth, shared her story, telling the audience what a difference the organization made in her life.
“Thanks to Ryan’s House I have a healthy relationship with my family now,” she said. “Thank you so much for caring about youth like us, because we really need wonderful people in our lives.”
Ginny Nelson, a Ryan’s House volunteer and Project Manager, said people have always been supportive, but feels it even more so this year.
“Everybody loves Ryan’s House and is rooting for us,” she said. “It makes the kids feel good to know people care about them and that gives them roots in the community.”
Before the auction got underway, those attending could purchase raffle tickets for a 50/50 drawing and balloons that were loaded with prizes ranging in price from $5 to $100. The auction got off to a good start, with the first item – a stay at a local inn- brought in $300.
E.J. and Susi Krouse paid $500 for a painting of a young Ryan’s House girl, which they immediately donated back to Ryan’s House for them to hang in the facility. Susi Krouse said they come to the fundraiser every year.
“We saw the magnificent work Ryan’s House is doing and it’s such a fantastic project,” she said. “The kids get so much out of it. This is a good way to help them get that property.”
One of the items bringing in a large amount of money at the auction was a trip to Hawaii, which included air fare and a stay at a private condo, which sold for $2,350.
Cavender said Monday the event brought in about $15,000 all together; $5,000 of that is earmarked for the motel purchase and the remaining $10,000 is set aside for general operating expenses. The group has received a matching grant of $30,000 and is trying to raise that amount for the capital campaign.
For information on Ryan’s House and how to donate, click here.