DHL Express and WE charity recently honored its winners of the second annual DHL Youth Volunteer Fellowship Award with a trip to Ecuador.
The award celebrates six young Americans — including one from the Eastside — who are leading the charge in service with their transformative actions. The two organizations’ goal is to help jumpstart the futures of these young leaders by providing them with the tools and support they need to continue being change makers in their community.
Youth ages 13-18 who live in Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Washington or California are eligible. Candidates must highlight how they have successfully influenced their community by taking action on issues they are passionate about. A judging panel of influential thought and community leaders, led by Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express U.S., and Marc Kielburger, co-founder of WE, selected the winners.
This year, Eastlake High School graduate, Tyler Zangaglia, was among the six youths selected for his development of the Hope Festival organization.
HopeFest offers low-income and homeless people necessary supplies such as food, clothing and hygiene products and services such as free dental care and haircuts. Zangaglia and fellow volunteers work year-round to gather the supplies and organize the services to host an annual day-long event, open to anyone experiencing poverty or homelessness in King County. HopeFest held its fourth annual event in March.
Inspired by seeing the reality of homelessness in King County, the third-highest county of homelessness in the United States, Zangaglia knew he wanted to do something to help.
“I had gone to a similar event in the area and it was the first time for me really stepping outside of my comfort zone — being able to step outside of our community bubble and getting to see the reality of homelessness and poverty and getting to talk with those in my community who were experiencing it,” he said. “It just made it a very real issue. It was that moment, that day that really sparked the idea that I really need to do something.”
Two years ago, HopeFest became a nonprofit. This opened the doors for applying for grants and working with bigger partners.
Since 2014, HopeFest has served 6,500 people, worked with 1,400 volunteers, partnered with 200 organizations and has raised $35,000 in grants and scholarships.
Zangaglia said one of his favorite things about the organization is that it’s completely youth operated.
“Of course we couldn’t have done it without our incredible partners, but all the planning and execution really comes from a group of four students including myself and we kind of branch out from there and recruit even more students and team leaders,” he said.
They have about 300 volunteers on the day of HopeFest and about 80 percent are youth.
“It just really has kind of united and brought about excitement for volunteering and serving our community and that’s been very cool to see over the past few years,” he said.
Leading an organization isn’t easy when it comes to balancing homework, sports and school leadership clubs but Zangaglia said seeing how the supplies and services help others is worth it.
“There was this local woman who was incredibly kind and nice and I remember her coming in. She had come in and was very excited and she had this long hair that was almost down to her waist and she had said she was very excited to get her hair cut because it was the only place she could get a haircut for free. She had waited an entire year to receive this haircut,” he said. “It was really powerful to hear her story and be able to watch her get that haircut and it was just really impactful and it just made it very real. There’s just so many stories like that. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and the logistics but it’s important to remember that there’s a story behind every number.”
The DHL Youth Volunteer Fellowship Award allowed Zangaglia and five other youths to travel to Ecuador and work alongside community members to help others.
“It was really eye-opening to travel there and be able to see another part of the world,” he said. “We spent two weeks working alongside community members there and helping out people.”
Since Zangaglia has graduated from Eastlake High School, he plans to still run HopeFest but has handed off the organizing of the annual event to younger students.
“It’s really cool to give them the opportunity to make it their own,” he said.
He is also planning to create an extension plan of the HopeFest to help other groups replicate it and keep “the good going forward.”
Zangaglia plans to attend Gonzaga University and pursue a degree in business.