By Chris S. Nishiwaki
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
After over two years of going dark, in theater terms closing for business, the Denise Louie Education Center held its first in-person gala since October 2019 on June 4—almost 1,000 days apart. Turning the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Denise Louie gala, dubbed “The Future is Bright,” met their fundraising goal of over $200,000 with over 100 guests attending the fete at Magnuson Park.
Jennie Cochran-Chinn and Denise Moriguchi co-chaired the gala. Alma Feldpausch, a former Denise Louie parent, board member, Action Council Member, and gala co-chair, was recognized with the “Individual Dream Award.” Sala Sataraka and the University of Washington’s JumpStart program were recognized with the “Community Dream Award.” JumpStart has collaborated with Denise Louie since 2003, serving over 14,000 students in that time.
“These events, pre-pandemic, generally take a lot of time to plan and execute. This year, with the extra protocols and the result of the pandemic, shortage in the workforce, the behind the scenes was chaotic,” said Nikki L. Huang, Denise Louie director of development and marketing.
“With annual events, there are so many pieces from volunteers, catering, guests, program, sponsorships, communications to all the behind the scene pieces. The hybrid component was challenging and this year, we implemented safety protocols where all guests and volunteers had to submit to us a negative covid test result as well as a vaccination card. These extra steps required a lot of oversight and we were short of staff.”
Denise Louie sustained its operation during the pandemic by decreasing expenses and raising corporate and foundation funding, according to Huang. She said the organization tripled the number of applications submitted to institutional funders, much of it driven by volunteer board members.
Corporate giving to the gala alone increased by 30%, including a selection of Pokemon gifts (valued at $1,000) donated by Tabletop Village that sold for $3,500—making it the highest selling item in the live auction.
Like many employers across the country, Denise Louie has had to contend with staff shortages. Relying on volunteers and flexibility from staff, they continue to thrive, providing early learning services to a diverse population of nearly 500 children. Of the families served, two-thirds speak a foreign language.
For example, Executive Director Susan Yang turned property manager the week leading up to its marquee fundraiser of the year, covering for absent staff at Mercy Magnuson Place, opened in September of 2019. Denise Louie will begin delivering services at Yesler Terrace in 2023.
“We all had to wear many hats due to the pandemic, the work increases but the capacity decreases so the need for community volunteers is essential,” Huang said.
Chris can be reached at email@example.com.