Our Island has a need for your help…

Personal letter to the community from MIYFS Foundation Board Member, Lisa Katsman.
Donate Online or Make a Gift of Stock

Dear Neighbor,

As I walked into the Luther Burbank parking lot, I noticed a parked Prius with ‘Student Driver’ sticker in the rear window. My first thought was “hmmm.” My second thought was “Wait, that person is parked in a Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) spot and they just left the food pantry.” Hunger doesn’t discriminate between race or religion, and it is a fact that 5% of Mercer Islanders – our neighbors, our friends, our kids – are hungry right now. Hunger is a pang that hurts; it is a pain that no one in THIS community, in THIS strong country, should ever experience.

Our Island has a need for your help – to provide emergency assistance.

After my time at the food pantry, I headed to work at the MI school district. I paid special attention to the kids’ school lunches. More specifically, I looked at who seemed hungry and who was not eating a lunch from home or a hot lunch. I could see neither – hunger hides itself.

As the self-appointed Friday food pantry supervisor for the last two years, I take my job very seriously. I need to restrain my natural urge to make everyone laugh so that I remain as discreet as possible. If I miss my Friday morning shift, I spend the weekend worrying that a family was left without the proper selection of items in the food pantry.

Watching people use the food pantry brings tears to my eyes because they look just like you and me. Hair groomed, stylish clothes, nails painted, and yet some life circumstance has brought them here out of necessity. Tears well up when I witness young families come to the food pantry and find we do not have the applesauce cups or proper size diapers for their baby. The parents leave with the wrong size diaper knowing they’ll have to make them work. The first time I watched a young adult slip into the food pantry, close the door for privacy, and stuff their mouth with every easy-to-open food imaginable, I froze in place. Imagine being homeless, hungry for a can of chicken noodle soup but recognizing that you have no can opener nor microwave or stove top to heat your meal.

Our Island has a need for your help – to extend lifelong wellness.

MIYFS provides many services beyond the food pantry. As with any provider of social services, the employees are overworked, programs are under staffed – and Mercer Islanders use these services quietly.

During one of my shifts, I ran into a peer of mine. She openly cried when she saw me and then shared the personal story of her child’s need to see MIYFS counselors. I realize now that every one of us has a child or children or knows a child in this renowned school district who could be screaming for some type of help. No one is shielded from this possibility, and MIYFS counselors are available to all of our kids, at their school or at the Luther Burbank offices. That day, after working in the food pantry, seeing my friend and countless others waiting for their appointments, I left with tears in my eyes, feeling forever grateful for what our community has to offer through the eight Mercer Island Youth & Family Services programs. By law, I cannot ask any questions or give any advice; I can only offer a hug, shake a hand, and give well wishes. But I always hope it helps each person feel less alone.

Think for a moment about the ease of many of our lives: planned vacations, housecleaners and yard maintenance crews, select coaches, and extra teachers for our children.

Now come back to the reality of our community. The reality that there are people, families, who are hungry – in this community of million-dollar homes, hundred thousand-dollar cars, housekeepers, personal trainers for ourselves and our kids. Some are hungry on a regular basis, some are hungry temporarily due to divorce, job loss or illness. People are homeless on our Island and they use YFS services on their road to getting back on track. Mercer Islanders are not exempt from the pain of hunger, isolation and the need for housing.

Our Island has a need for your help – to foster strength and resilience.

We are asking you to open up your hearts, souls and wallets this year. Our community has needs every year. They never disappear. Remember your vacation this midwinter break; think about the Whistler snow, Maui sand, Palm Desert golf. Now think about 5% or more of your fellow Islanders who need help, who worry where their next meal will come from, or how they will pay rent. And think about the other hundreds who will use school services, services to seniors and other vital MIYFS programs.

As a Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation Board Member, my one job is to raise money for MIYFS, so they can do their job. I am proud to serve on the Board, and I love volunteering for the food pantry every week. This is my personal form of Tikun Olam – repairing the world – making Mercer Island a better, brighter place and keeping myself connected with the pulse of the community.

The owner of the Prius in the parking lot, hmmm, this person has school age kids, wondering where their next meal is going to come from and if they have the clothes and shoes they need. As the Prius drives off, I know there are many stories I’ve yet to learn.

Please help today and join me in making a year-end gift today so that MIYFS is able to provide emergency assistance, extend lifelong wellness and foster strength and resilience in every Mercer Island resident. Donate Online or Make a Gift of Stock.

If we don’t help, who will?

Thank you,

Lisa Katsman,
Wife and mother who raised two daughters on Mercer Island
MIYFS Foundation Board Member and Food Pantry Volunteer
Certified Pilates Instructor and MI School District Substitute Teacher