Nearly 1,500 guests gathered at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center Monday to hear speakers, including actor/activist Edward James Olmos, Sen. Maria Cantwell and former Washington first lady Mona Locke extol the virtues of the Redmond-based social service agency Hopelink — and to drive home the urgent message that the need to support Hopelink is greater than ever.
“The strength of the community rests with the individuals here,” Locke stated at Hopelink’s annual “Reaching Out” benefit luncheon.
“For more than 35 years, Hopelink has helped the homeless, the disabled and the low-income get back on their feet,” Cantwell noted.
POVERTY IS GROWING
Ally Svenson, who co-chaired this year’s luncheon with her husband Scott, described the organization’s most vulnerable clients. Forty percent of Hopelink’s clients are children. Another 20 percent of clients are seniors or the disabled, she said.
Thus, 60 percent of the population served by Hopelink is “too young, too old or too sick to work. The rest are the working poor.”
Furthermore, “homelessness has no address,” she remarked. People in desperate need come from Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Bothell and other Eastside neighborhoods.
Compared to this time in 2007, Hopelink has seen a 71 percent increase in requests for emergency food bags. Daily inquiries for housing assistance have increased 67 percent.
“The sad but empowering fact is that we are their last line of defense,” said Scott Svenson.
While the growing numbers of the Eastside poor are frightening, an uplifting video presentation featured people whose lives have been dramatically changed by Hopelink.
“Hopelink not only helps with the crisis but with the recovery,” said Scott. More than offering groceries and a place to stay, the agency provides tutoring, job coaching, financial management skills and other vital literacy programs to help clients become self-sufficient.
Keynote speaker Edward James Olmos, star of the movies “Stand and Deliver” and “Selena” and TV shows “Miami Vice” and “Battlestar Galactica,” took the stage saying, “It’s monumental what Hopelink has done. … I wish I could bottle it and push it all across the Unites States of America.”
He was born into poverty in East Los Angeles, but since Olmos achieved success in Hollywood, he has worked on behalf of numerous humanitarian projects, from gang prevention to hurricane and famine relief and research for juvenile diabetes.
He talked about “what knocks self-respect and self-esteem out of you” —having to ask for help. It isn’t easy, he said. “I know men who can’t ask for directions,” he pointed out.
What he admires about Hopelink, said Olmos, is its “understanding of how to gain self-respect and self-esteem in the hearts of those who need it most. …Self-worth is something you can not buy.”
He urged the luncheon attendees, “Forget about the pressure of the Depression. Give! Give today and I promise you will walk out of here with more self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth than when you came in.”
He reminded the crowd that Hopelink’s efforts are twofold: “Help the people that need help immediately and prevent this from happening to them again. How do you help people? By giving them a fish or teaching them to fish? Literacy is omnipotent. … This is not the time to think of yourself. Think of others so you can face yourself. There’s no way you can leave this place without seeing the opportunity you have to advance yourself and those around you.”
To help Hopelink continue its mission or learn about its services, call (425) 869-6000 or visit www.hope-link.org.