Efforts by local pro sports teams to help those in need can be seen in places ranging from CenturyLink Field to the new Yesler Terrace Park.

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As the whistle blows at every Seattle Seahawks home game to mark the end of the first quarter, thousands of fans leave their seats and rush to the nearest concession stand to order a beer or grab a hotdog.

They rarely give a second thought to who is serving them, but many would be surprised that at CenturyLink Field, many of the 300 people who prepare, serve and clean up food and beverages at sports games and concerts work for the Millionair Club Charity.

Founded nearly a century ago in Pioneer Square, Millionair Club works every day to help people prepare for employment and transition out of homelessness. “We’ve always been about food and jobs,” says James Miller, Executive Director of MCC. Now located in the Belltown neighborhood, MCC provides job-readiness workshops and a variety of support services to people experiencing homelessness and chronic unemployment or underemployment. “These are people who want to work,” Miller adds. “Our focus is to get them job ready so they can be able to work the next day.”

While the focus is on jobs and job training, MCC still provides 100,000 meals a year to those in need, as well as showers, lockers and even free eye exams and eyeglasses. “We know it’s important to try to reduce stigmas around experiencing homelessness and chronic unemployment,” Miller says. “We want to make sure we help people go to work with their best self.”

Participation in GIVEBIG has helped Millionair Club fund programs that achieve their primary goal of creating a pathway to permanent employment. Through these programs, MCC places workers all over the city, from local hotels to Tom Douglas restaurants, and the Microsoft campus.

The CenturyLink Field partnership is a huge source of pride for MCC, which awarded First & Goal Hospitality, the company that runs the facility and vendors, with its Employment Partner of the year award in 2017. MCC hopes that its innovative employment program is also becoming a source of pride for the Seattle community.

A soccer connection

The tie between Seattle and its sport teams is undoubtedly strong. GIVEBIG has proven that the tie between nonprofits and the community is equally solid.

A new community effort by Seattle Sounders FC’s RAVE Foundation is highlighting that bond.

RAVE Foundation is investing in Seattle’s Yesler Terrace Park, building a special soccer field for the community. Located at the crossroads of Pioneer Square, the International District, and First Hill, the park will open this summer with the Foundation’s first RAVE Field, a smaller, urban soccer field with permanent goals. “We couldn’t think of a better place to begin,” said Ashley Fosberg, Executive Director of RAVE Foundation.

RAVE Field, at left, will be a smaller, urban soccer field located within the new Yesler Terrace Park.
RAVE Field, at left, will be a smaller, urban soccer field located within the new Yesler Terrace Park.

RAVE Foundation launched in 2016 as the Sounders’ charitable arm. Dedicated supporters of GIVEBIG since its inception, Sounders FC used the 2017 event as a way to amplify and grow awareness of RAVE Foundation and to raise funds for the Yesler Terrace Park Project.

“Yesler was the right place and the right opportunity to achieve our goal of investing meaningfully in densely populated neighborhoods of need,” Fosberg says. “RAVE seeks to build small, accessible fields in urban areas that provide free play to shape young citizens, strengthen communities and encourage physical activity.”

For this reason, this soccer field cannot be rented by third parties. “We want to guarantee the community it was built for retains ultimate ownership,” adds Fosberg. “We build with the community, not for the community.”

Working with Seattle Housing Authority, RAVE also invested in the Yesler community for more than a new field. As part of RAVE’s GOALS for Art program, students worked with a community artist and Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei to design ideas for the goals that are being installed at the field.

Seattle Housing Authority, RAVE Foundation and Sounders FC are dedicated to the core value of social equity and are insistent that RAVE fields are always free, so kids and families have quality fields on which to play.

These fields have already garnered national attention. In March, the U.S. Soccer Foundation awarded Seattle Housing Authority’s Yesler redevelopment with the 2018 Urban Soccer Symposium Innovative Award.

There are plenty of reasons to root for Seattle’s sports teams. Knowing how important it is for them to better our community makes it even easier.