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May 29, 2018

Seasoned nonprofit leader Steve Lewis named executive director of Friends of the Children–Seattle

Lewis brings more than 20 years of youth advocacy and nonprofit management experience to the chapter

Seattle Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children facing the highest risks with a salaried, professional mentor—called a Friend—for 12 ½ years, announced today that seasoned nonprofit leader Steve Lewis has been selected as the new executive director of the Friends of the Children - Seattle.

“We are thrilled that Steve is joining Friends of the Children at such a pivotal moment,” says Terri Sorensen, national president of Friends of the Children. “As we expand across the country, our Seattle chapter remains an example of what can happen when our model is replicated. Steve’s vast experience will be essential to the continued success in the chapter.”

A lifelong Seattle native, Lewis is a product of Seattle Public Schools. Prior to joining Friends of the Children, he was the executive director of the University YMCA where he collaborated with local social service providers to build and strengthen academic enrichment programs, summer literacy programs and coding programs for youth in low-income housing.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to the work I love doing most,” says Lewis, who spent the past four months volunteering with his family in Guatemala. “This was the right opportunity at the right time. I am excited to be closer to the kids and to be part of a movement that is rapidly expanding and transforming the lives of children facing the greatest risks.”

The Seattle chapter, which was founded in 2000, employs 26 full-time Friends. Friends of the Children, founded 25 years ago in Portland, Ore., is in 15 locations across the country and in the U.K. and will be expanding to 25 cities by 2025. Evaluations on youth who complete the program show that:

- 83% graduate from high school, although 60% had parents who did not graduate high school

- 93% avoid the juvenile justice system, although 50% had parents who were incarcerated

- 98% avoid early parenting, although 85% were born to a teen parent

“In my new capacity, I’ll be able to build deeper relationships with child welfare advocates, the K-12 education community, public systems, philanthropists and corporate leaders to collectively amplify our work and broaden our base of support,” says Lewis.

Lewis will also develop Friends of the Children’s comprehensive strategic plan, which includes fundraising, communications, and partnerships. Lewis has a commitment to the mission and core values; and a capacity to guide this organization forward. The board of directors has great confidence Lewis will develop rich and meaningful relationships with existing and new partners in the Seattle area.

“We are very excited that Steve is joining Friends of the Children—Seattle as the Executive Director,” says Jerin May, board of directors president. “We believe he has the vision and skills needed to lead an organization that empowers children facing the greatest challenges to be resilient and thrive. He will be leading an amazing team of committed mentors and staff as we continue to increase the number of youth being served in our community.”

Lewis attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington in Seattle. Lewis lives in Seattle with his wife, Sarah, who is a pediatrician in the Seattle area, and they have two children – Noah and Anya.

Additionally, Mary Rennekamp, who has been with Friends Seattle since 2011, has been promoted to Chief Advancement Officer.

“Mary has been an integral part of our success, leading fundraising efforts and opening new avenues of philanthropy that have enabled us to grow and serve more youth,” says May. “With the strengths of both Steve and Mary’s leadership, the mission is well positioned to meet our goal of doubling the number of youth served by 2020.”

Friends of the Children was profiled in The Chronicle of Social Change for the work they are doing in Los Angeles and around the country. They are also being featured in a national public television documentary series called The Visionaries, which began airing this spring.

For more information about Friends of the Children Seattle email Steve Lewis.