December 17, 2015 Mitchell Derrey

Season of Giving: Part 3

In the past, we’ve held our holiday party at venues that let us celebrate as a team, such as touring the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum and playing beach volleyball. While those were enjoyable, this year we wanted to do something a little different. Our interest turned to supporting a community based organization that helps those who are less fortunate. FareStart, a culinary job training/placement program for homeless men and women, was the perfect place to hold this year’s annual holiday party.

A week prior, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michelle McDaniel, the Chief Development Officer at FareStart, and as I received my coffee crusted beef tenderloin at the party, I thought a little bit about the story behind the meal.

The sad reality

As Seattle’s economy booms, the poverty level is increasing at unprecedented rates. The fastest growing city in the US in 2014, Seattle has been left with many who cannot afford the increasing cost of rent, putting many at risk of being homeless. Although we are fortunate to have many organizations in King County that provide emergency relief to those on the streets, FareStart has a different approach: to provide the homeless community the opportunity to transform their lives out of poverty, and to achieve a sustainable way of living life on their own.

Moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Over 70% of adults who come into FareStart’s culinary program are homeless. It’s important to address Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—and FareStart does exactly that. It’s a full time job being homeless. Many don’t know where their next shower will be taken, when they’ll get their next haircut, and don’t know where they will be sleeping, leaving most sleep deprived. FareStart helps students physiologically by offering assistance with housing, clothing, and hygiene kits made possible through their partners.

In addition to offering a culinary program, FareStart offers life skills training to its students. FareStart believes in taking care of the whole person, and addressing as much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as possible. For instance, students receive one-on-one mental health counseling and career counseling. They learn practical skills and participate in mock interviews via volunteers.

One of the most interesting things I learned through my conversation with Michelle is that the majority of the students starting the FareStart programs are used to receiving—whether it comes in the form of aid assistance
from government agencies, or kind strangers who donate necessities. As they spend time at FareStart, they have an opportunity to give and provide meals for others who are in need.

The challenge

Since the margin of poverty is increasing, FareStart would like to ensure their program continues to meet the needs of their students. Their vision is to shrink poverty, but the reality is that the homeless population is increasing, creating a need to expand the program and its fundraising efforts. Finding ways to become more innovative, inspiring those to invest and grow the program, are part of the process to shift people out of poverty, and help them get further and further above the poverty line.

How we can help

Since 1988, FareStart hasn’t missed a day providing meals to homeless shelters in King County. This is greatly due to the help of volunteers. Companies can donate their talents to FareStart by providing business consultation services or help spread awareness by creating videos, ads, etc. In addition, we as individuals can get involved by assisting in volunteer opportunities throughout the year prepping food for contract meals, serving at guest chef nights, or participating in fundraising activities. The holidays are a wonderful time to volunteer, but it’s important to remember that the summer months are when organizations need help the most—kids are out of schools, and parents struggle to keep them fed.

For this year’s holiday party, we came together to celebrate, laugh, and enjoy conversation. And this year we experienced a culinary delight that helped share and express the true holiday spirt.

We would like to thank all those at FareStart that made our evening memorable. For more information on FareStart, visit