Summer 2015 Groundviews: Volunteers, making a direct impact

Below is the lead story of our Summer 2015 Groundviews newsletter. To read the entire newsletter or past issues, please visit our Groundviews webpage.

Through 12 years of volunteering, Matt* has tutored scores of students at our Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing for women and their kids who are leaving domestic violence. Along the way he’s helped students get into major universities, and provided vital witness and support to others.

Matt, a longtime volunteer tutor at Broadview

Matt, a longtime volunteer tutor at Broadview

Matt began volunteering at Broadview in the fall of 2003, when he relocated to Seattle to pursue a tech career after graduating from Duke University. “I had done various volunteering opportunities when I was in college and high school; I was just looking for a way of getting involved out here,” he says.

Comfortable with math and a steady role model, Matt became a weekly tutor with middle and high school kids, many of whom face considerable challenges. In addition to overcoming domestic violence, Broadview residents include refugees and other families who have suffered additional trauma.

A flawed system
In Matt’s experience, the public education system often fails to adequately support these students. “They might be in huge classes where the teachers just don’t have time. I don’t fault the teachers. The system is not set up to help kids who may have been in a different school every year because of their homelessness. They can be three grade levels behind and getting pushed forward because we don’t hold kids back anymore. So they are pushed forward, pushed forward, pushed forward, and they wind up in middle school and high school.

“I’ve seen kids in high school probably at a fourth or fifth grade level. I think a comparatively small amount of input time can yield really large benefits for some of these kids. And the earlier that you can get them academic help can have really profound impacts on how they do later on.”

One of Matt’s students now goes to the independent Lakeside School, another attends Stanford University, and another graduated from University of Washington. The Stanford student now volunteers at Broadview as well. “Which is really awesome,” Matt says. “But here is the thing: Those kids, they needed a lot of help, but they really cared. They were passionate, they worked really hard. So I helped a lot, but I didn’t have to necessarily sit and explain, ‘Doing homework is important’ or ‘This is why we would do this.’ They really cared.

“The flipside of that is I’ve had many kids where the conversation ends up being, ‘Well, why am I doing this, why don’t I just drop out of high school?’ It ranges all the way from kids like that to kids who – it makes me sad – who are juniors in high school and will say ‘I want to be a video game designer’ or ‘I want to be a rocket scientist’ or something like that – but they can’t add.”

Opening doors
Matt says, “I think education is just super important. It is super important at least to empower people to have whatever opportunities they might want. I mean, people can go and choose to do anything with their life, but without certain basics, there are certain doors that I think will forever be closed.

“I think education is just super important."

“I think education is just super important.”

“I am very privileged and I recognize that. Good education, good job. I think coming here actually helps ground me in some of the realities that not only go on in this city, but go on elsewhere. I am personally upset by the increasing income inequality in this city.”

A positive impact in the local community
“My wife and I both feel that it is important to engage with the local community where we live. I’ve always been pretty impressed with Solid Ground. I feel like I am having some positive impact.

“We donate money to Solid Ground and we donate to other places. But I don’t think it is the same as donating your time. The dollar value of coming here one hour per week is not necessarily huge compared to what a check can give. But I feel like I am actually having a real direct impact in someone’s life.

“I think when I was younger, and maybe a little more gung-ho, I would have said, ‘We can bring any kid up to grade level!’ Or something like that. And now I don’t think that. I am more pragmatic in the sense that if I can come – and with some of the more difficult kids, if I can just show them that I am a responsible adult willing to come here once a week and care – that might be good enough. That might be really important; that’s the best that I can do with that kid.”

Visit Broadview’s webpage for more info.

*Matt requested that we not use his last name.

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1986

Broadview 1986


Redeveloped an apartment building and relocated the Broadview Emergency Shelter there, adding transitional housing with comprehensive case management and support services for residents.



Seattle Housing Levy

Led the effort to pass the Seattle Housing Levy, preserving and creating low-income housing and providing services to move people beyond shelter. To date, the Levy has funded construction of more than 10,000 affordable homes, provided down-payment loans to more than 600 first-time homebuyers, and rental assistance to more than 4,000 households.


Seattle Workers Center


Started the independent Seattle Workers Center, creating union jobs and organizing displaced or laid-off workers to protest unfair labor practices (e.g., lockout from unemployment benefits).

The Mariner Moose & Toys for Kids bring holiday cheer to families in need across King County

The holidays can be a stressful time for many parents who want to celebrate with their children but face the harsh reality of limited budgets. And for moms experiencing homelessness over the holidays – like those staying in our Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing facilities – making the holidays special is an even greater challenge.

The Mariner Moose, along with former Mariners Julio Cruz, Dave Henderson & broadcaster Rick Rizzs, provide a joyous annual holiday party for Broadview families.

The Mariner Moose, along with former Mariners Julio Cruz, Dave Henderson & broadcaster Rick Rizzs, provide a joyous annual holiday party for Broadview families.

So imagine the joyfest (i.e., happy chaos) that ensued on December 9 when the Mariner Moose himself – dressed in a Santa suit sporting the number “00” – burst into the room during a Broadview holiday pizza party, handed out signed posters, and took photographs with each kid!

Adding to the fun and mayhem, longtime Seattle Mariners baseball broadcaster Rick Rizzs, former M’s centerfielder Dave Henderson and second baseman Julio Cruz greeted the kids at their eye level – resembling gentle giants as they sat on tiny child-size chairs – and did art projects with the kids and autographed photos. Dave gamely played along as one small boy with a basketball (and a very strong toss!) launched the ball high and Dave headed it back. One mom dressed her one-year-old in a pink Mariners outfit for the occasion. “Christmas came early!” exclaimed another grinning mom, “Merry Christmas to me!”

An annual tradition at Broadview for almost two decades, this party (and others like it) is part of Rick & Dave’s Toys for Kids. Eighteen years ago, Rick Rizzs and Dave Henderson sat enjoying a cold beer at F.X. McRory’s in Pioneer Square a few months before the holidays. A news story came on the pub’s TV reporting on the more than 8,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County at the time. Rick and Dave wondered, “What about the kids? What kind of holiday celebration could their families afford?” The guys decided they wanted to do something to ensure that even kids without a place to call home had a way to celebrate.

So they rounded up a group of then-active players – including Jay Buhner, Raúl Ibañez, Bill Krueger, Edgar Martínez, Jamie Moyer, Jeff Nelson, John Olerud, Matt Sinatro, Omar Vizquel and Dan Wilson – and they held a fundraising dinner which raised $18,000 that first year to buy toys for kids for the holidays. They did some research to find out how they could get the toys to kids in need, and Broadview was among the first three organizational recipients.

The next year, the Mariners RBI Club members got involved, including Bill King, Virg Fassio and Bob Simeone, and they added an auction to the dinner. (RBI stand for “Real Baseball Involvement;” the Club consists of volunteers who connect the Mariners with local community and charity activities.) Each year since, the amount raised and the number of organizations supported have grown. This year’s event was held at the The Harbor Club Bellevue. $225,000 was raised, resulting in 7,000 children – all of whom are accessing services at 19 different local human service organizations – receiving holiday joy via Toys for Kids.

Left to right: Julio Cruz, Rick Rizzs, Solid Ground Residential Services Director Dee Hillis, Dave Henderson, Bill & Sarah King

Left to right: Julio Cruz, Rick Rizzs, Solid Ground Residential Services Director Dee Hillis, Dave Henderson, Bill & Sarah King

While Toys for Kids connects with thousands of kids each year, parties with the Mariner Moose are special and only happen with a handful of smaller organizations such as Broadview. At this year’s party, the RBI Club’s Bill King and his 17-year-old daughter Sarah served pizza and treats to the Broadview families. Bill says that Sarah has been helping out since she was seven years old, and the annual event has made a big impact on her. He recalls that one year, as he and Sarah left the building after a Broadview party, a young teen boy opened his window and called out to them, “Thank you! This has been the best day of my life!”

Rick Rizzs & Dave Henderson would like to thank the many sponsors who contribute to making Rick & Dave’s Toys for Kids an ongoing (and continuously growing) organization:

Christmas in July at Safeco supports Broadview

The Seattle Mariners and Rick’s Toys for Kids are presenting the first ever Christmas in July on Thursday, July 25 at Safeco Field. The Mariners will take on the Minnesota Twins with a 7:10pm first pitch.

ChristmasinJuly-1_mooseA portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Toys for Kids, the charity started many years ago by M’s broadcaster Rick Rizzs and former M’s centerfielder Dave Henderson. Toys for Kids supports children and families who are homeless and surviving domestic violence, including the residents of Solid Ground’s Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing and Brettler Family Place programs.

Toys for Kids has provided loving, generous, magical year-end holiday celebrations for hundreds of Broadview residents. Rizzs and Henderson are truly revered for this work by everyone connected to Broadview and the other programs involved.

So, come on out to Safeco Field and enjoy a night of baseball while supporting a great cause. Tickets are $20 with $8 going directly to Toys for Kids!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to
  2. Select “Buy Tickets” then enter “Christmas” as your Special Offer Code.
  3. Purchase and print your tickets instantly!

The deadline to purchase is July 24!


Investing in success

Solid Ground’s 13th Annual Building Community Luncheon was a resounding success! Over 650 people attended and we have raised in excess of $220,000 to help turn generational poverty into generational thriving!

Johnnie Williams

Johnnie Williams

Thank you to all of you who gathered with us on Friday, April 5. You are actively changing the story for 50,000 people a year: people like Johnnie Williams, who as a teen at Broadview learned to draw on his skills and strengths, build new ones, and land in a place of stability, where he could give back to the community and mentor others. Your investment in this work makes our community stronger.  You are our partners in this work and we are incredibly grateful.

Zufan, Sarah, Senit

Zufan, Sarah, Senit and Winta (l to r)

It was inspiring to shine a light on the personal stories of the generational successes from families who have lived at Broadview Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing. Several case managers sat with the families as we screened the video at the Luncheon, and one shared some lovely comments on the experience:

“It was really wonderful and touching to see Zufan and her girls honored in such a way. Having known their family since they first came to Broadview and having the honor and privilege of working with them and seeing them rebuild their lives over the years it was really special. Zufan and Senit and Winta were literally “lit up” and smiling and laughing and so happy as they watched the video! It was really touching and special for me to be a part of their celebration.”

You can watch the full story of Zufan and her daughters, as well as youth mentor Johnnie Williams here.

Paul Tough, best-selling author

Paul Tough, best-selling author

We were also delighted to invite Paul Tough to discuss the ways an organization like Solid Ground can help children living in poverty succeed. The highlight of the program for me, personally, was when Paul was asked how he would invest $500 million to close the achievement gap and asked, “Could I just give it all to Solid Ground?” My answer to that is a resounding yes! (Paul, we’ll be following up with you on this later).

Most importantly, the Luncheon would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. By underwriting the cost of the event, every dollar raised by our guests goes directly to Solid Ground.


We’d like to give a special thank you to AT&T, the Presenting Sponsor of the Luncheon this year. AT&T has had a strong legacy of investment and impact in the communities they serve for over a quarter century, and Solid Ground is delighted to be amongst AT&T’s partners.



If you are interested in getting involved with Solid Ground events as a table host, guest or sponsor, email me at

March 2013 Groundviews: “A place where you can begin”

Groundviews is Solid Ground’s quarterly newsletter for our friends and supporters. Below is our March 2013 lead story; visit our website to read the entire issue online.

Johnnie Williams: Scholar, track star, coach, mentor (John Bolivar Photography)

Johnnie Williams: Scholar, track star, coach, mentor (John Bolivar Photography)

A collegiate academic and athletic star, Johnnie Williams is a nationally-recognized track coach and mentor to thousands of at risk young people. But years ago, while he himself was at Eckstein Middle School, his mom was getting untangled from drugs and a violent relationship. Williams was close to failing out and getting sucked into the vortex of generational poverty. But when he moved with his mom and siblings to Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing for women and their children – escaping her husband and the drugs – the family began to rebuild their lives.

A safe space for a new start
Williams says one of the most important aspects about Broadview was that “it was a women-only shelter, and there was no way my young brother’s dad could have any more impact on my family. For me, that was the turning point: the safety and security.

“It was a complete 180 for us. Our grades turned around. There weren’t as many distractions in the home. My mother wasn’t on drugs anymore. We had people down at the [Broadview] front office we could talk to. And all the staff knew; they seemed to care. I felt like I wasn’t the only kid who grew up in this type of situation. I had people that I could relate to, so I didn’t feel singled out.”

Declining a prep-school academic scholarship, Williams went to Nathan Hale High School. “It was where a lot of my friends were. And a couple of Hale students were living at Broadview at the time, so I wanted to keep the connection with them.” As a young boy, Williams had taken up recreational running. By high school, he was a local track star destined for a big-time collegiate career, maybe more.

Overcoming obstacles
Williams started college at Washington State University (WSU), far enough from his family to focus on his studies, but close enough to help if needed. Academics at WSU and then Eastern Washington University did not prove enough of a challenge, so he ultimately transferred to Columbia University, where he earned a degree in Forensic Anthropology in 2003.

After graduating, he ran professionally for two years, but then another enormous life challenge knocked him off track when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Yet he even took this in stride: “I think that all of the struggles we went through made me a stronger person in general. Dealing with what I had to deal with, I feel like, if I can overcome something like that, there is nothing in my life that I can’t overcome. Whatever I do, I don’t want to fail.” So Williams regained his health and turned his energy and skills to coaching.

Johnnie Williams trains with one of his students (John Bolivar Photography)

Johnnie Williams trains with one of his students (John Bolivar Photography)

From mentee to mentor
While coaching at Garfield High School, the City of Seattle recruited him to work with their youth programs. He says, “I would only take it if I was working with youth who grew up in the same situation that I did. They placed me at Yesler Terrace Community Center. Ever since then, I’ve been working at all the low-income sites in Seattle Parks and Recreation.”

Thirteen years later, young athletes come from across the country to work with Williams’ High Voltage Amateur Athletic Union Track Club. “As a coach and as a person, I’ve become very protective of my kids. I am understanding of a lot of situations; I know what goes on in certain households.

“I’ve become a mentor to a lot of my kids and I have the same perspective as the Broadview Shelter staff: If there are issues – and there are – well you can come and talk about it and we can provide a safe environment for you. If you are looking for a turning point in your life, this is a place where you can begin.

“We work with a lot of kids that are homeless. We work with a lot of kids that are HIV positive, [or] that grew up in the same situation that I did, with their parents on drugs, with domestic violence,” he says. “If you save one kid, you have done your job. And I can name 14 kids right now that, under my coaching, are on Division One college scholarships. Two of them are running professional track and field; some of them are in Division One universities now. I have national champions in the high jump and long jump.”

What makes the greatest difference in their lives? Williams speaks from firsthand experience when he replies, “Just having somebody to talk to, someone that they know, that cares that they can make the best out of that situation. I think the kids appreciate that more than anything.”

For more information about Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing, visit

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