Bike laying on grass

Mission and History

A Vision Realized

We all want to make a difference in the world, even in some small way. The story of Friends of Youth is clear proof that ordinary people can come together to create something extraordinary–transforming dreams into reality.

In 1950, a Washington resident named Iva Matsen saw the challenge faced by her community: not enough quality foster homes for at-risk youth. She and her husband joined with other members of the University Congregational Church to take the critical step from concern to action.

That was the beginning; in 1951, Friends of Youth was officially incorporated. It was a place where young people could find a sympathetic ear, grow personally and contribute positively to their communities. Since then, Friends of Youth has grown into a leader in developing, providing and advocating for services for children, youth and their families. To this day, members of the Matsen family continue to be active and involved in the organization.

Throughout the decades, the list of donors, volunteers, friends and staff of Friends of Youth has continued to grow. But while the organization has expanded impressively since its humble beginnings, its founding principles have endured: an unwavering dedication to providing quality services; the flexibility to meet new and emerging needs; and most important, a commitment to securing the futures of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Mrs. Matsen and her co-founders were ordinary individuals, with a vision and a shared commitment to changing the world, one life at a time. More than 50 years later, each person who becomes involved with Friends of Youth has an opportunity to build something just as extraordinary.

Read more about the agency’s founding, in Mrs. Matsen’s own words

Discover important milestones in Friends of Youth history

Read “the sermon that started it all”

See the Friends of Youth 501(c)(3) letter, dated 1956 (PDF)