December 2018

Dear friends of the Boat Shop,

As the holiday season gears up, we want to pause and give thanks for YOU!
It’s been quite a year at Tacoma Boat Builders. We want to share a few of the highlights with you. 

Together with your generosity and the support of our volunteer mentors more than 100 youth were able to experience Tacoma Boat Builders core programs this year. There were also wonderful opportunities to try new things and extend our programs out to even more young people in our community. In addition to our newly enrolled youth, 26 alumni returned to the boat shop to check in with us and report their progress and successes. Their stories are the kind that make your day! 
The numbers only tell a small part of the story. The bigger story is about the true impact of our program—youth discovering their strengths and traveling down the road to a successful life.
From the start, we’ve believed that the youth we serve have inherent strengths—that although they have problems, they are not “problem youth.” 
Woodworking, boat building, and on-the-water programming, under the guidance of mentors, are the tools used by Tacoma Boat Builders. The magic happens when youth feel safe and supported to explore their interests, build competencies, develop positive relationships with adults and peers, and discover their own path forward.
Hearing it from the youth is where it really strikes a chord for me, these are some of the comments we’ve heard recently: 

“I felt very welcomed and not judged.”
“I learned to make something I’m gonna use.”
“I learned to take a breath before starting something new.”
“Now I can use power tools and help my mom at home.”
“I learned to be less shy and that the more outgoing I am, the more fun you can have.”
“It’s a good way to meet new people. People are nice here.”
“We get to be creative and use those big machines to cut things!”

Just as we encourage the youth to try new things, to stretch beyond the comfort zone of what they already know how to do, we tried some new things too, here are some highlights

We piloted our program for young women involved with the justice system. Named after Tacoma’s own Dawn Lucien, the Sharp Sisters popup brought together 12 young women, a handful of adult women who volunteered to be mentors, and a select group of our seasoned mentors. Shoulder to shoulder, we leaned into this new project with curiosity and open hearts.  Few experiences could have been more rewarding.  

Together each participant made a bent wood tray. The project required learning how to use shop tools, steam-bend wood, and other skills used in the craft of woodworking. They faced challenges, got to know each other and us, and we them. Each day was better than the day before as the young women felt more at home. 

In addition, each day many of the young women joined us out on the water, where they learned as a team to row together. In the end, all 12 girls completed their projects and received the first-ever Sharp Sisters certificate and canvas tote bag. The smiles were contagious! They’ve asked us to do it again. We intend to!
This was also the year we partnered with the staff of Sound Experience and Schools Out Washington to offer more than 60 youth—some of them experiencing deep instability in their lives — the chance to sail on the tall ship Adventuress. With support from the No Child Left Inside grant from the Washington State Parks we were able to begin this ambitious undertaking new to all who were involved. And again, we returned from each sail convinced that looking to the sea for learning, growing and transformation makes sense! 

Participants were invited from many of Pierce County’s Juvenile Court programs, the Tacoma Rescue Mission youth programs, as well as our own programs. All got to experience a 3-hour cruise, and 14 joined a 2-night/3-day program out on the Salish Sea! For many it was their first night away from family. 

Together we learned about marine ecology, navigation, life aboard a tall ship, and more than anything, about building a community of trust and mutual respect. Those who came on the overnight voyage took turns through the night keeping watch over the ship and all who slept within. More than one remarked on feeling at peace as they walked the decks in silence. The night sky, away from city lights, inspired awe and curiosity – “No way! All those stars are always out there?” It’s amazing what you can see when not in your usual environment. That is part of what we offer the youth we work with: New experiences and new perspective.

In 2019 we will continue this project, starting with at least 40 youth coming for day sails. We hope this will evolve into an annual opportunity for Pierce County youth. Wouldn’t that be amazing for the youth and families of this community? Let us know if you want to get involved! 
At Tacoma Boat Builders, the search for opportunities to serve youth in need of our unique touch is ongoing. Thanks to your support we’re more able than ever to extend the reach of the boat shop programs through mentoring, hands-on learning, and looking to the sea for learning and growth…In just a couple of weeks we will host another group of youth in partnership with the Tacoma Rescue Mission. This time the youth will learn to build a small drum fit to call in the new year with joyful noise. 

None of this is possible without your support and the support of our community.
We are buoyed by our community in so many ways! 2018 has been a year of tremendous growth. It’s been challenging to meet the needs, but you came out in numbers to make it all possible. We count on you and you have not let us down.

At our annual fundraiser in September, more than 250 community members helped us raise $91,000 toward our annual fund goal. That’s amazing!! 
Service to community is a founding value at the Boat Shop. Our programs wouldn’t be possible without the support of our 26 volunteer mentors, who donated more than 4,500 hours to our programs last year! The lessons taught start by walking in the door and expand to fill the entire environment. But it’s not only our mentors we celebrate and share time with, others from the community stepped forward to help make the beautiful things you found at our auction, or to keep the boat shop running by helping with maintenance projects that quite literally keep the lights on.

Tacoma Boat Builders is a living example of the old adage – it really does take a village! We are grateful to be joined by you in the conviction that supporting our community is what strengthens and betters it for all. 

Dedication to Tacoma’s Youth, something we celebrate officially now!

In 2017, Paul Birkey was honored with our first ever Lifesaver Award, in 2018 it became clear there are many people in our community who have dedicated years of service to the youth of Pierce County. This year at our annual fundraiser, we celebrated one of our founders and a champion of juvenile justice reform, The Honorable Thomas P. Larkin, Pierce County Superior Court Judge (retired), with our annual Lifesaver Award in recognition of a life spent in service to Pierce County youth.

Who will it be in 2019? You tell us! More to follow as we move into the new year. 
Tacoma Boat Builders is a values-led, mission-driven organization. We believe in community, in learning by doing, in being good to one another. Not long ago we started printing t-shirts and hoodies with a declaration we’ve decided to stand by: In Favor of Kindness and Human Decency

Would you like to get on board? These hoodies are delightfully cozy and make a statement, and only cost $45 (tax included).
Buy Now
As seen on Shannon and her folks, Mary Kay and Dawes Eddy! Fit for the whole family. :)
We are grateful every day for the vision of all those in the community who believed from the start in the power of boat building, woodworking and positive mentorship to transform young lives. 

Together, we are enriching lives through craftsmanship for Pierce County’s youth.

With much gratitude,
Shannon Shea
Executive Director
Photo Credits: Robert Boyle and Pat Albuquerque


Creating transformational opportunities for marginalized and underserved youth through boat building, woodworking, and positive mentorship.



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1120 East D Street
Tacoma, WA 98421

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