By Alize Asplund
UW News Lab
Despite the growing number of homeless people in Seattle and the greater King County area, one high school senior and his peers have made a day where those less fortunate can get basic necessities and enjoy some entertainment at the same time.
Tyler Zangaglia, a senior at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, has come together with his peers and community members to support and host the group’s HopeFest this March. HopeFest was originally adapted from Sammamish’s original Harvest Fest.
This program has been an opportunity for lower income people and families to receive supplies like food, clothing, books and toiletries while enjoying some entertainment.
This year, it will be held at the Bellevue Highland Community Center.
HopeFest combats homelessness on the Eastside in a time where King County has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. A survey found that nearly 5,000 people lacked basic shelter in 2017, according to the Applied Survey Research and Count Us In report.
The event will provide a day where anyone in need can receive supplies that can help them through the struggles of homelessness. This year’s event will feature different local youth bands and music groups. Eastlake High School Drama Club will also be dressing up to entertain children that come to the event.
Last year the festival donated to around 800 people. This year Zangaglia says he is hoping to be able to provide between 900 and 1,100 people in the Eastside cities, as well as some of the surrounding areas with basic necessities.
“It is a year-round effort. Besides this event we are a bigger nonprofit run by me and three other seniors from Eastlake, but for this event specifically we do year-long drives and sorting as well as other volunteer activities,” Zangaglia said about the groups year-round commitment to HopeFest.
Throughout the year the group has collected three full storage units of supplies through different drives and fundraisers along with the help from collaborating volunteer groups.
“Living in an area where there’s need but it’s not too often seen or visible in this area, then being able to step out into the greater King County and truly realizing the struggle in our community inspired me to get involved,” said Zangaglia, outside of the storage facilities that they use to house most of their donations.
Zangaglia and his peers provide resources by holding year-long drives and fundraisers. They also provide dental work and haircuts.
“We definitely had to start from the bottom and the people that we work with have been a huge help. We have had some key people that have really gotten us connected with people in the community,” Zangaglia said.
Some of the local businesses and groups to help contribute advice and monetary support are the Sammamish Rotary, Boys and Girls Club, Kids Without Borders and Sammamish Kiwanis.
Sammamish Kiwanis is a sponsor of HopeFest.
“Every year we have a small putt-putt golf course that was made by volunteers and help send volunteers to man the course and help where they are needed,” said active Kiwanis member, former president and liaison Beth Sanford.
Sammamish Rotary has also helped provide guidance and funding for Zangaglia and HopeFest. Every year the Rotary has a granting process that donates money to organizations, and HopeFest usually receives enough funding to cover the cost of the venue in which they hold the event, according to Cary Young, assistant governor of Rotary district 5030.
“Tyler was so enthusiastic and always willing to help,” Young said. “He has now matured into a junior businessman. I mean, he’s running a small business and has really taken on a large responsibility by becoming the driving force behind this program.”
After graduating, Zangaglia is hoping to either attend Gonzaga University or the University of Washington. In the meantime, he is helping the next generation of students take on larger roles in the project to ensure HopeFest will continue for years to come.
HopeFest will run from 3-7 p.m., March 3 at the Bellevue Highland Community Center, 14224 Bel-Red Road. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Hopefest.