Louis Guiden is known as Federal Way’s “hope dealer”.
Since 2008, the Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way has provided mentoring and character development skills to youth in the area. When the pandemic struck, the association pivoted its mission to tackle food insecurity among black and brown families in Federal Way.
“With their children at home, families are running out of food… it was the emergency for us,” said Guiden, 47, executive director of the association. “We have to respond to the need which right now is hunger. ”
Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way is one of six finalists from the Western Region in the 2022 Chick-fil-A True Inspiration Awards competition.
The True Inspiration Awards began in 2015, in honor of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy. The grant awards celebrate and support nonprofits dealing with education, hunger or homelessness that are run by black people or serve communities of color, according to the organization.
Voting began on September 4 and continues through September 25 through the Chick-fil-A app.
Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way was founded by Guiden in 2008. The aim of the organization is to provide mentorship to youth of color through academic support, character development, life skills education and training. support for prevention and intervention.
Feeding Our Community was launched in April 2020. Since then, approximately 2.5 million pounds of food and over 28,000 meals have been served to local families from the Guiden drive-style weekly distribution program started at The Boys and Girls Club of Federal Way.
A team of about 15 people organize the drive-thru distributions each week, including young people from local middle and high schools who receive a stipend for their work, and additional volunteers from the community.
“It went from 15 to 20 cars a week to 120 cars a week,” Guiden said. The pandemic has allowed Guiden to refocus the mission of his program, moving to meet the most immediate needs of the community.
Black, Indigenous and Colored (BIPOC) families make up about 80% of those served by the association, Guiden said. Food is provided through partnerships with the Peacekeeper Society, Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest.
Few food banks or distribution centers are run by Blacks or BIPOC, Guiden said, leaving a void in the provision of culturally relevant and culturally appropriate foods.
Guiden and his team understand the needs of the people to whom they provide food, and in return, there is a sense of understanding.
“As a black African American man living in Federal Way for 22 years, it really gave me a deep connection to my community, serving food,” he said. “It connects me to the community at large… The fight against food insecurity has given me so much hope, so much enthusiasm, so much love. ”
While Guiden and his team feed the community, people often drop off homemade meals, treats and other tokens of appreciation at distributors.
The True Inspiration Award nomination allowed Guiden to step back and realize the power of his work. If his nonprofit wins, the funds would be used to further develop the Community Empowerment Center, Feeding Our Community and Brothers Bout Business programs.
“It gave me the fuel I needed… I’m like, ‘What else can we fix in Federal Way? What can we do as an organization now to solve the problems of this community? ”
Moved from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest in 1993, Guiden said he arrived with five dollars in his pocket. A work-related incident shortly after his move left him with a traumatic brain injury, an ankle fracture requiring 12 reconstructive surgeries and constant pain.
He found strength in his story through his faith and his wife. Guiden sees himself as a Sankofa bird, a symbol of his West African heritage that reminds people that “we must keep moving forward by remembering our past,” Guiden said.
By embarking on his own journey, he made sure to plant a seed to strengthen the capacities of future generations.
In its 22 years of mentoring and dedication to the youth of the community, Good Shepherd Youth Outreach has served over 180 youth and families.
“I’m the hope dealer,” he said. “I help people deal effectively with overwhelming pressures. ”
For more information or to get involved, visit www.gsyowa.org.