The non-profit West Seattle Hi-Yu organization has been suspended
By Gwen Davis
West Seattle Hi-Yu is suspended. The non-profit organization established in 1934 by West Seattle's service clubs to produce a summer festival for the West Seattle community and whose royalty and volunteers have served the community for 82 years just ran out of support. Perhaps the victim of changing times, the organization’s history of talent shows, Spring Tea's, queens and princesses as part of Seattle's Seafair celebration had seen diminishing support and declining membership.
The October general meeting was held Monday evening, where the decision to suspend the organization was made.
“At this this point, Hi-Yu does not have a product we are willing to put forth,” one of the officers said. “We surveyed the West Seattle community and out of 116 responses, the products available did not meet the needs of the community, " officers explained.
“The reason I’m here is because Hi-Yu is a big part of West Seattle and I’d hate to see it die,” one of the attendees stated, at the beginning of the meeting. “But no one knows what it really is. What is going to need to happen is you’ll have to go to the business community in person,” in order to get businesses to contribute money.
“From a business standpoint, we need to tell the businesses what you’re going to give them,” he continued.
One of the officers said: “There was a core group of people who had their daughters in the organization, but there was never a lot of long-term strategizing, outreach to businesses, or to get us into a more advantageous category with the IRS and whatnot.”
“It’s put us into a challenge, where we have enough people to keep and maintain those things, but just barely,” he said. “Beyond that, it seemed like this wasn’t happening. Some people involved wanted to take a calendar year and go from there.”
There was much discontent in the meeting.
“We need to look at the organization, and see what we have to offer,” another one of the officers stated. “When you look back in the past six years and only one girl wanted to participate in the senior court, we couldn’t even get them back at other times in the year… What we have right now is something families aren’t interested in. We need to re-tool what the program is.”
Hi-Yu needs to change, everyone in the meeting agreed.
“You need to strip it down and rebrand yourself,” one of the attendees said.
Hi-Yu has become just a scholarship program, one of the officers said, but it needs to be bigger than that.
“Furthermore, we can’t rebrand and manage operations. There are not enough hours in the day.”
However, several of the 20-some attendees were angry. They said Hi-Yu really helped to empower youth in West Seattle and did not want to see it go down.
“To say that the organization is just riding on the float — it’s more than that,” one of the attendees said.
Other people were resentful. They said they put so much time and energy into the organization, and feel it’s valuable.
Attendees said that they didn’t realize the organization needed that much help, and officials should put out a call.
“There was no one stepping up to be board members,” one of the officers said. “We need to take a year to re-invent Hi-Yu — we need someone who can be a leader in approaching businesses. This is an opportunity to rebuild so if you got people who are interested, or children who might be interested in the future, don’t wait for us to tell you about it.”
A representative from the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine said the executive wants to be involved. The call for help is out, she said.
“We need bodies and we need money,” another officer replied. “We need to have time to get a plan and agenda out there.”
There were not the resources for a part-time administrator, and other crucial needs.
“It’s those kind of things we need more help with, as well,” the officials said.
Hi-Yu has also had a major problem with public outreach.
Not everyone reads the local news, not everyone comes to the meetings and the Hi-Yu social media is not up-to-date.
“We want to continue the program, but we need a lot of help and we don’t have any money,” another officer said. “We can’t reach out to the community, so we can’t get the money. We don’t have the people to get the word out. We are not getting the response we want.”
One of the attendees said she supported the decision to suspend the organization. A board meeting between now and January will most likely happen. If anyone from the community has suggestions, they should email the organization.