Youth and Family Services Holds Reaching for the Stars

Event Proceeds Support Programs for Homeless and At-Risk Youth

Speaker and YFS program participant Avanti Alias and My Home Program Coordinator Kaylie Reynolds.

Gail Arnold

Speaker and YFS program participant Avanti Alias and My Home Program Coordinator Kaylie Reynolds.

Only a truly exceptional organization — Youth and Family Services (YFS) — could motivate a dozen of the areas top chefs to come together to put on an exquisite five-course meal paired with wine from area wineries. On April 26, a sold out crowd of 160 supporters gathered at the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club to indulge in this meal and raise funds for YFS’s critical services for homeless and at-risk youth. At this 19th annual event, chefs and wineries donated their time, food, and wine, enabling YFS to net at least $60,000.

Guests mingled on the scenic patio while enjoying wine and hors-d’oeuvres and visiting with adorable, docile alpacas from Canzelle Alpaca Farm in Carpinteria, the subject of one of the raffle prizes. Upon being seated in the tastefully-decorated dining room, guests were welcomed by Board Chair Yonie Harris and entertained with a song and dance performance by the talented Outburst from La Colina Junior High.

Keynote speaker Avanti Alias, a former foster youth who has spent several years in YFS programs, living at Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter and then participating in the My Home program, explained how My Home assists transitional age youth with housing and case management. She shared how coming from a family torn apart by domestic violence and then being placed in the foster care system, she struggled in many ways. She praised the My Home program staff for its “unparalleled love and supportive compassion,” which were crucial to her success. Alias pointed to unrelenting case management practices that kept her motivation strong and enabled her to recently complete an MBA program at Antioch University. In expressing her gratitude to the My Home staff, she closed by saying that “the most important lasting investment one can make is in one another.” A standing ovation followed.

Chef Vincent Vanhecke, who has been leading the event's chef team for 14 years, related how he and his fellow chefs really enjoy this evening, where they can cook at the highest level, an opportunity he noted that has become rarer and rarer. He shared how he supports YFS to let the youth served know that the community cares about them. Among the Star Chefs were Greg Murphy (Bouchon), Eric Widmer (La Cumbre Country Club), and Mossin Sugich (SB Yacht Club).

Formed in 2001, YFS is the independently managed and funded social services branch of the Channel Islands YMCA. It operates four core programs that serve homeless and at-risk youth and young adults. Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter is a licensed residential group home for children 10-17 years old, which also provides outreach to youth and young adults and counseling to families. Last year, it served 170 youth and provided counseling services to 153 families. Youth are referred to the shelter from the foster care system, the probation system, law enforcement, schools, families, and the youth themselves.

Founded in 2011, My Home provides housing and support services for youth age 17 to 26, many coming out of the foster care system. It is a collaboration with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara and County Child Welfare Services, with YFS providing case management. Currently, there are 15 youth housed and 17 on the waitlist, but those waitlisted still receive case management services, which are comprehensive, and as Alias attested, highly successful. The statistics are impressive, for the most recent quarter reported (December 2017), 86 percent of those housed were employed and 93 percent were enrolled in an educational program.

YFS’s Support and Outreach Services assists homeless teens and those at risk of losing their housing with a plethora of services at its Drop-In Center and through mobile outreach. Last year, 120 youth received services. Its St. George Youth Center provides educational, recreational, cultural and leadership opportunities in an after-school program for teens in Isla Vista and Goleta. Last year, more than 700 students participated. Our community is so fortunate to have all of these programs.

For more info about Youth and Family Services, click here.