A little paint shows support for those turning lives around

Mary Knox, Anthony Porter and Corey Preugschat are with an accounting firm. On Friday they worked with paintbrushes, not numbers.

“One thing about accountants, we’re pretty efficient,” Knox said as she reached to paint an apartment wall.

In short order, a dingy wall at New Ground Everett was covered with a fresh coat. Near Silver Lake, New Ground Everett is a transitional residence that houses 12 young adults, ages 18 to 21.

It is run by Friends of Youth. The Kirkland-based organization provides shelter, counseling and other programs for young people throughout the region.

“This place is for young adults who have had a tough time. They’re integrating back into society. They just need someone who cares,” Knox said.

Hundreds of helpers showed they do by volunteering Friday and Saturday at projects all over Snohomish County. Neil Parekh, a spokesman for United Way of Snohomish County, said Friday that the agency expected 859 volunteers to help with 41 projects as part of United Way’s 2013 Days of Caring.

Knox and 12 colleagues from the Everett office of Moss Adams LLP, an accounting and business consulting firm, were one of 73 teams participating in Days of Caring, which shines a light on volunteerism.

Alyshah Jazzmynn Sanchez, 19, lives with a roommate in one of those freshly painted apartments at New Ground Everett. The oldest of five children, she grew up in the Skagit Valley. She said Friday she quit school early to help her mom raise her younger sisters and brother.

It’s time now to focus on her own life. Sanchez has worked at Auntie Anne’s, a pretzel shop at Alderwood mall. She’s aiming for more education and a better job.

Later this month, she’ll enroll in the Youth Re-Engagement Program at Everett Community College, which lets students earn credits toward a high school diploma and a college associate degree. She hopes for a job at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Greg Miller is the lead case manager at New Ground Everett, which opened in 1994.

Sanchez recalled “couch-surfing” with friends in Everett. Miller said a number of New Ground residents are “coming out of homelessness.”

There are six young men and six young women at New Ground Everett. The goal is self-sufficiency. Residents are allowed to stay up to 18 months. After their first month, they are asked to pay rent — 30 percent of their income.

An on-site employment specialist, Carmen Wilson, helps them write resumes and coaches them on interviewing for jobs.

There are rules — quiet hours and no guests. There’s a monthly class in financial literacy. And each resident works on an individual plan for success. Some have come from Cocoon House, the Everett agency that runs shelters, a drop-in center, and other programs for teens and young adults.

“To empower youth who have been homeless, to see them grow and see them move into their own places, it’s a gift,” Miller said.

At New Ground Everett, Sanchez said, “I’ve learned to stay on top of things and not fall behind. If you do, you pick yourself up and keep going,” Sanchez said.

Knox, the Moss Adams accountant, said this is her team’s seventh year volunteering with Days of Caring. Other years, the group has done landscaping for Housing Hope, cleaning at Cocoon House, helping at Sherwood Community Services, and painting at a retirement home in Bothell.

Knox has served on United Way of Snohomish County’s Families Matter Vision Council.

“Unfortunately, some kids don’t get that life-skills training from their parents,” she said. “To help families become self-sufficient, that really resonates with me.”

Sanchez had a telltale paint streak on her arm Friday. She couldn’t wait to get a peek at her brighter apartment.

“I’m so glad and thankful. It’s very nice to have a lot of support,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

More Days of Caring

See volunteers at other Days of Caring projects, organized by United Way of Snohomish County, at: www.tagboard.com/uwscdoc.

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