From left, Martin Shaughnessy, TAFY volunteer, holding Mara Northrop; Karen Beck, TAFY volunteer; Betsy Wharton, TAFY volunteer registered nurse and gardener; Mara’s sister Mackenzie Northrop; Susan Hillgren, TAFY executive director; and Pam Fosnes, TAFY volunteer financial director. (Vivian Elvis Hansen/Peninsula Daily News)

The Answer for Youth to host public open house at new Port Angeles location

PORT ANGELES — The Answer for Youth has moved — and the public is invited to see the new quarters and the Sprouting Hope Greenhouse on Saturday.

A free, public open house is planned at the new location at 826 E. First St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The open house will feature plant displays, barbecue, hot dogs, sodas, activities for children and demonstrations about seedlings, cuttings and moss baskets. Door prizes will include a meat package from Evergreen Meats, a large laceleaf maple and a Victorian moss basket.

The Answer for Youth (TAFY) bought the building, which was formerly Gross’s Nursery &Florist, after the business closed late last year, using a $100,000 anonymous donation to make a down payment on the $250,000 structure and put money into remodeling, said Susan Hillgren, executive director of TAFY.

TAFY, which offers help to youth and young families that are homeless or at risk for being homeless, moved from 711 E. Second St., and has operated in the new location since Dec. 26, Hillgren said.

“The community didn’t want us in a residential area,” Hillgren said. “We’re now in a more favorable place for our clients.”

TAFY, a privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit owned by Hillgren and Pam Fosnes, serves clients up to the age of 35, providing hot meals and showers, cold food, laundry facilities, clothing, shoes, blankets and tents as well as help in acquiring general educational development (GED) certificates, food handler cars, identification, birth certificates and eyeglasses.

It also offers 22 Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week and celebrates birthdays, weddings and holidays.

Since it opened in October 2009, TAFY has served some 1,200 people, 15 of them children younger than 10, Hillgren said, adding that the facility sees about 55 people per day it is open.

Hillgren is the only paid member of TAFY — earning $1,000 per month — with some 20 volunteers providing free services.

Among the volunteers are Wayne Roedell, who retired from the nursery business after some 40 years. Roedell is running the greenhouse and gardening aspects of TAFY at the new location and will not only grow plants TAFY can sell, but also will provide “mentoring, gardening skills and hopefully, an immediate feeling of success” for some of the clients, Hillgren said.

A new greenhouse, funded by a nearly $6,000 grant from the Port of Port Angeles, is now germinating seeds that were planted at the March 3 Project Homeless Connect and by children at the March 4 Kiwanis Kids Fest, Hillgren said.

Another volunteer is Betsy Wharton — a Port Angeles Farmers Market vendor, Washington State University Extension food preservation information assistant, columnist for the Peninsula Daily News and a registered nurse at First Step Family Support Center.

She works with Fosnes, also a registered nurse and TAFY’s financial manager.

“So at all times, we have a nurse [clients] can talk with,” Hillgren said.

She said that the agency is working with VIMO — Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics — “to get our clients signed up so they can get their doctor’s appointments, get check-ups and get regular doctors instead of going to the emergency room.”

The facility has a room upstairs “for sober parents and children to spend time with volunteers one-on-one.

“Eventually, we will offer drumming and yoga free to the public,” Hillgren said, adding that volunteers to lead such activities are being sought now.

Other activities include basketball and ping pong.

“We’re trying to make it a little more normal for them,” she said.

Hillgren said that those interested are urged to bring family and friends to the open house.

She also said she hopes that those who have criticized TAFY “can come in and see what we are doing to help people.”

Hours are 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.

Those who want to donate time, skills, goods or money can call Hillgren at 360-670-4363.

For more information about TAFY, see www.theAnswer4Youth.org.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.