Homelessness has always been an issue in King County, and the number only increased during the pandemic years. HopeFest, a student-founded nonprofit, has been working to combat this problem by providing supplies and services to those in need at an annual event known as the Hope Festival.
This year, HopeFest 2022 will be held Saturday, July 9, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.
The planning and execution of this event is done by local high schoolers. Outside of planning, youth volunteers contribute by hosting donation drives to collect items for HopeFest.
The group was originally founded by Tyler Zangaglia, a senior at Gonzaga University and Eastlake alumni, who currently serves as CEO. He works closely with the board of directors, composed mainly of students, to manage the nonprofit.
Alexander Osborn, 16, HopeFest’s current co-director, is an incoming junior at Eastlake High School. He explained that HopeFest’s mission to address homelessness could be broken into three parts.
“The first part is that we give people items they can use immediately,” Osborn said. These could be clothes, food, toys, or hygiene items, all of which will be provided free of charge at this year’s HopeFest on a first come first serve basis. Some items such as laptops, bikes, and gift cards will be raffled off as well.
Osborn explained that the second part of their mission is to connect people with organizations through mobile clinics.
“It’s a more long-term provision,” he said, adding that this year the mobile nonprofits include King County Public Health, Swedish Hospital, and the Hepatitis Education Project. These nonprofits will provide information and medical services. Local agencies will also be present to provide guests with long-term solutions for their situation.
Along with free items and mobile organizations, guests can gain access to complementary services such as haircuts, health screenings and vaccinations. There will also be various entertainment options such as mini golf and games.
The third part of their mission is youth empowerment.
“We want to help the kids and volunteers understand that it is possible to help chip away at the problem of poverty within our area,” Osborn said.
Osborn said they have hosted six annual HopeFest festivals at this point. With the support of local sponsors such as Sammamish Kiwanis, they are able to gather the resources needed for their annual festivals.
The event requires the help of many people, which led the students to build connections with lots of volunteers, particularly from Eastlake High School. Together, they have served almost 8,000 individuals through their yearly festivals and hope to continue increasing that number.
“We want to make an impact on our community and on our volunteers,” he said. “We want them both to walk away with a feeling of hope that things can change.”
For more information about Hopefest 2022, please visit their Facebook page.