Celebrate 18! provides stepping stone for girls aging out of foster care

Eileen and Callie’s Place to host county-wide birthday party on July 13.

Aging out of the foster care system at the age of 18 can be a frightening and anxious time, but Eileen and Callie’s Place is setting young ladies up for success in the next stage of life.

The first-ever Celebrate 18! event is a countywide birthday party to be held July 13 for more than 100 girls turning 18.

The event will also provide employment and transitional resources, along with gifts for each girl and traditional birthday celebrations.

“We want these girls to know they are not forgotten. They are cared about and valuable,” said Dr. Natalie Ellington, founder and executive director of Eileen and Callie’s Place. “We want to celebrate an event and birthday that is so important as we transition from being a teenager to an adult. And very importantly, we want to connect these young ladies with mentors who can support them on this journey.”

The Kent-based nonprofit organization Eileen and Callie’s Place, created by Ellington in 2014, is committed to empowering, educating and training young women who have aged out of foster care on how to develop life skills and use community resources to sustain an independent lifestyle.

At Celebrate 18! each young lady will receive a new outfit, a makeover, and a 22-inch duffel bag with wheels to help transport their belongings as they move around, thanks to the support of local sponsors. Each birthday girl will also receive a swag bag filled with everyday necessities, a journal, and a Celebrate 18! T-shirt.

Employers able to hire on the spot and schools and training centers accepting applications will be at the event, along with social service organizations able to answer questions and provide guidance.

Attendees will also spark their creativity at the Vision Board station, a spot to help plan their goals for the future.

Mentors, foster care alumni, and representatives from various professions will be available to connect with the girls and share their own stories of struggle and success.

What’s a party without birthday cake? A catered dinner along with traditional birthday song and dessert will wrap up the evening.

Ellington serves on several boards in the South King County, including the King County Women’s Advisory Board. While serving, she was made aware of the lack of support for young girls who have aged out of the foster care system. In 2010, Ellington devoted her time to finding solutions for these ladies throughout the state.

The organization is named after Ellington’s mother, Eileen, and her mother-in-law, Callie, because of the devotion these ladies displayed in helping others aside from their immediate family, according to the website.

While Ellington’s initial plan was to provide a two-year transitional home, conversations with young ladies experiencing this hardship made it clear that the resources they needed were more than a roof overhead; the ladies needed genuine relationships with mentors who were truly concerned about their well-being and their future, Ellington said.

Celebrate 18! will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 13, at the Auburn Community and Event Center, 910 9th St. SE, Auburn.

For more information or to donate, visit the eileenandcalliesplace.org.