Chef and Seattle-area native Mario Batali shares one of many food-related stories at Hopelink’s Reaching Out Luncheon on Monday at the Meydenbauer Convention Center in Bellevue. Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Batali shares penchant for public service at Hopelink Reaching Out luncheon

As a human services provider, Hopelink has helped families throughout King and Snohomish counties out of poverty and into more stable situations since 1971.

As a human services provider, Hopelink has helped families throughout King and Snohomish counties out of poverty and into more stable situations since 1971.

From adult education and emergency financial help, to food assistance and financial literacy programs, the organization serves about 64,000 people annually, according to its website.

At its 21st annual Reaching Out Luncheon on Monday, the organization — which has centers in Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline and Sno-Valley — highlighted these services and how it puts the “hope” in Hopelink for its clients.

Chef, restaurateur, writer and TV personality Mario Batali said Hopelink trains people to become valuable cogs in society, helps them become self sufficient and show them that they have not been disposed.

“Hopelink is a remarkable, local…smart way for Washingtonians to help Washingtonians,” he said.

The Seattle-area native, who grew up mostly in Federal Way, was the keynote speaker at Monday’s fundraising luncheon at the Meydenbauer Convention Center in Bellevue. The event brought in more than $1 million, with additional donations and matching funds still expected to come in over the next few days.

Event organizers contacted Batali about seven months ago, asking if he would be interested in speaking at the luncheon. He said once he learned more about Hopelink, he saw that the organization’s mission runs parallel to his philanthropy work through the foundation he founded in 2008.

The Mario Batali Foundation has three focuses: children’s hunger relief, children’s disease research and literacy guarantee.

For Batali, hunger relief takes priority as it is an investment in the future. Kids who are hungry cannot learn and hungry adults cannot work or function to their full potential, either. He said the squandering of human potential is the worst thing a community can do.

And unlike other causes such as cancer research, “we know the answer,” Batali said about solving hunger: food.

“It’s amazing that hunger still exists,” he said.

Batali has also worked to pass his penchant for public service and philanthropy to his two kids, who are 18 and 20. Throughout their upbringing, he said they would volunteer at the Food Bank for New York City — for which he is a board member — once a month.

Batali extended this challenge to the crowd at Monday’s luncheon, encouraging people to help someone they don’t know one day a month. He even channeled a little hometown pride to get people in the charitable mood.

“This is a special place…Pete Carroll still loves the kicker,” Batali said, referring to the Seattle Seahawks coach’s reaction to Stephen Hauschka missing his 28-yard field goal, which prevented Seattle from winning the game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

In addition to helping clients who are hungry, Hopelink helps them move toward stability through its various programs.

Maria Trujillo can attest to this. At Monday’s event, she shared her story about a hard time she and her family went through a few years ago when her husband got really sick, she lost her job and they were evicted.

“I was scared,” she said about that time in her life. “I felt like a loser. I couldn’t even take care of my own kids.”

Trujillo shared how Hopelink helped them get a new start by providing them with a roof over their heads and connecting her to classes on resume building. The organization also provided daycare for her children and showed her to a closet filled with interview clothes from which she could take whatever she needed — and keep.

Trujillo said Hopelink helped her feel normal again.

In addition to clients’ stories, the luncheon also featured an announcement about the organization’s future.

The event’s co-chairs announced that the Boeing Employee Community Fund (ECF) donated $500,000 to Hopelink, which will go toward its Campaign for Lasting Change. The campaign will help the organization expand its services.

Phase 1 of the campaign has a goal of $20 million. Kris Betker, senior public relations specialist for Hopelink, said they have reached about $15.2 million so far.

The funds from the campaign will go toward renovating the organization’s shelter in Kenmore, building new service centers in Redmond and Shoreline and expanding its food program to serve an additional 6,000 people by 2020.

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