Louis Guiden is known as the “hope dealer” in Federal Way.
Since 2008, the Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way has provided mentorship and character development skills to local youth. When the pandemic struck, the nonprofit pivoted their mission to address food insecurity among Black and brown families in Federal Way.
“With their kids at home, families are running out of food … that was the urgency for us,” said 47-year-old Guiden, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We have to fulfill the need which, right now, is hunger.”
Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way is one of six West Region finalists in the 2022 Chick-fil-A True Inspiration awards contest.
The True Inspiration awards started in 2015, honoring Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy. Grant prizes celebrate and support nonprofit organizations addressing the areas of education, hunger or homelessness and that are Black-led or serve communities of color, according to the organization.
Voting began Sept. 4 and runs until Sept. 25 via the Chick-fil-A app.
Good Shepherd Youth Outreach of Federal Way was founded by Guiden in 2008. The organization’s goal is to provide mentorship for young people of color by academic support, character development, teaching life skills, and prevention and intervention support.
Feeding Our Community launched in April 2020. Since then, about 2.5 million pounds of food and over 28,000 meals have been served to local families from the weekly drive-thru style distribution program Guiden began at the Boys and Girls Club in Federal Way.
A team of about 15 people make the drive-thru distributions happen every week, including youth from local middle and high schools who are paid a stipend for their work, and additional volunteers from the community.
“It went from 15 to 20 cars a week to 120 cars a week,” Guiden said. The pandemic allowed Guiden to refocus his program’s mission, shifting to address the community’s most immediate need.
Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) families make up about 80% of those served by the nonprofit, Guiden said. Food is provided through partnerships with the Peacekeeper Society, Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest.
Not many food banks or distribution centers are Black- or BIPOC-led, Guiden said, which leaves a gap in providing culturally relevant and culturally appropriate food.
Guiden and his team understand the needs of the people they provide food to, and in turn, there’s a sense of understanding.
“As a Black African American man living in Federal Way for 22 years, this really gave me a deep connection to my community, serving food,” he said. “This is connecting me to the broader community … Addressing food insecurity has given me so much hope, so much excitement, so much love.”
While Guiden and his team feed the community, people will often drop off homemade meals, treats and other tokens of appreciation to the distributors.
The True Inspiration award nomination has allowed Guiden to sit back and realize the power of his work. If his nonprofit won, the funds would be used to further develop the Community Empowerment Center, Feeding Our Community and Brothers Bout Business programs.
“This gave me the fuel I needed … I’m like, ‘what else can we address in Federal Way? What can we do as an organization now to address issues in this community?’”
Moving from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest in 1993, Guiden said he arrived with five dollars in his pocket. A work-related incident shortly after his move left him with a traumatic brain injury, a fractured ankle requiring 12 reconstructive surgeries and constant pain.
He found strength in his story through his faith and his wife. Guiden sees himself as a Sankofa bird, a symbol in his West African heritage which reminds people that “we must continue to move forward as we remember our past,” Guiden said.
While embarking on his own journey, he’s made sure to plant a seed to build capacity for future generations.
In his 22 years of mentorship and dedication to the community’s youth, Good Shepherd Youth Outreach has served over 180 youth and families.
“I’m the hope dealer,” he said. “I help people Handle Overwhelming Pressures Effectively.”
For more information or to get involved, visit www.gsyowa.org.