King County Executive Dow Constantine visits North Bend, sees success of Trail Youth Coffee House

Wednesday afternoon, August 29th, was a chance for King County Executive Dow Constantine and other county employees to see first had what grant money administered by the county’s voter approved ‘Best Starts for Kids’ levy is doing in North Bend.

In October 2017 Constantine launched the newest Best Starts for Kids initiative – the Youth Development Initiative where 32 nonprofit organizations were chosen to partner with the county to provide leadership opportunities, mentoring, and other services that help young people.

Local nonprofit – The Trail Youth – was part of that initiative and received grant money that helped launch the Trail Youth Coffee House, which transformed a former barbershop into a vibrant, busy and cozy space for teens in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Knowing the Trail Youth story is one thing, seeing it in action is quite another.

Constantine and county employees were impressed with what three local ladies – Kristen Zuray, Wendy Laxton and Tonya Guinn – are accomplishing through their combined passion and county grant funding.

Before the coffee shop existed, these ladies would go to the kids – out on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail – bringing coffee and sympathetic, non-judgmental ears. They wanted these kids to know that they cared – which they say can be as simple as offering up a cup of coffee

It was that passion for helping, combined with grant money, that produced the innovative coffeehouse ‘home-base’ where kids now know each day at 2:30PM, they have a welcoming spot, free coffee and mentors wanting to help – no matter what they’re facing.

Program Coordinator Tonya Guinn said things have been going very well since they opened in June, saying the community has been very supportive, especially Scott’s Dairy Freeze located next door.

And it is community support that helps the innovative coffeehouse function, as all of the coffee drinks and food purchased during public hours helps supplement the afternoon programming that happens inside.

Last Wednesday was a chance to see it all in action – and on the first day of school – during teen-only after school hours. When school let out at nearby Two Rivers, kids started streaming in the door, dropping backpacks, grabbing coffee and slices of pizza. It was also open mic day. Musicians played. Poets read stories of struggle. There was a sense of connection and acceptance.

When discussing whether the Trail Youth model could be replicated in other communities, Executive Constantine said the county couldn’t just do it alone; that the organic component – like that which Kristen, Tonya and Wendy brought with them – has to be there.

It was quite clear, though, county officials were impressed with everything happening inside the barbershop-turned-teen-coffeeshop in downtown North Bend.

The Trail Youth Coffee House provides programming and mentoring to help kids from 13 – 19. It’s open to the public Monday – Friday from 7AM to 2PM. From 2:30PM – 5PM they are open to teens only – where everything is just for them. The kids don’t pay fo specialty drinks and can receive mentorship, barista training, leadership development and community connections.

 

Wendy Laxton welcomes Constantine. Also pictures: Tonya Guinn left, Kristen Zuray middle

 

Poetry reading during Wednesday open mic time at Trail Youth Coffee House.

 

Executive Constantine at Trail Youth Coffee House, 8/29/18

 

 

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