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Stories / Partners

A decade ago, an eight-year-old named Tori changed an architect’s life.

Tori and her professional mentor, Alicia, had signed up for Community Friends, a program where Friends youth meet professionals to learn about different careers.

Alicia took Tori to Baylis Architects, where Meredith Everist taught her how to sketch simple drawings. Tori loved it so much that every few months, she and Alicia met with Meredith to talk about architecture.

“Tori was my first exposure to Friends of the Children, and she had such a fantastic spirit,” Meredith said.

During one of her visits, Tori sang a song just for Meredith. “I later found out she really wanted to make sure I heard her sing, and it was very moving for me,” Meredith said. “That was when I asked how I could get more involved.”

Meredith started by volunteering for the Inspiring Greatness auction committee. Then she joined Friends’ board of directors. Meanwhile, she stayed in touch with Alicia and Tori. They went to the Bellevue Botanical Garden together, and Meredith watched Tori perform at a Friends poetry slam.

The love didn’t stop there. Meredith’s husband, Steve, hires a publisher every year to turn the poems from the poetry group into a leather-bound gold-leaf book. The result, Hearts Out Loud, sells for over a thousand dollars at the annual Friends auction. While Meredith no longer serves on the board of directors, both she and Steve continue to donate and remain very involved.

Ten years after their first encounter, Meredith was there to congratulate Tori when she graduated.

“It has been such an amazing experience for me watch to Tori grow up as I grew with the organization,” Meredith said. “Friends ensures that vulnerable kids can have some kind of stability and security in their lives. The kids are amazing, and it is pretty heartwarming to see them grow in such a positive fashion.”