Youth portrait

Mrs. Matsen’s Story

The Beginning

By Iva Matsen (Written in 1980)

Dr. Clinton Ostrander, the pastor, must have known it was a gamble. He didn't know this Iva Matsen who had come to him while belonging to another church that had turned down her suggestion. But she seemed sure of her cause and willing to work, so he was tempted to let her try anyway.

After long discussion, he said, “Come over and join our church and I'll make you the Work Projects Secretary (a new position). We'll give it a try.”

So she and her husband Joe left their small Presbyterian Church and became Congregationalists at Dr. Ostrander’s University Congregational Church on Brooklyn Avenue. All for what reason? She had an obsessive idea that too few church members follow through on the sermon and become active Christians in meeting community and world needs. She thought that churches should follow the sermon with help in practicing Christianity. And she thought that this was what Jesus meant when He said “Follow me.” He went about doing good. And the crowds could not get into any church.

This plain little middle-aged woman, still retaining a lot of youthful shyness, had tried other churches, large and small. Three successive pastors in her own church gave different reasons for their refusal. One of them said, “Such a program should begin in a large church.” The pastor in a large downtown church told her, “Your idea is a good one, but it should start in a small church.”

So she tried a middle-sized church with a pastor who had been willing to try another idea novel at the time, the Character School. Now, after considering all the pros and cons they could think of, Dr. Ostrander finally said, “yes” to Iva, and in addition proposed:

"Some Sunday I'll preach a sermon entitled “The Church Can Do It”. I'll tell them about the need of persons willing to take an interest in inmates of mental hospitals and residents of old folks' homes who have no friend or relative on the outside. I'll tell them of the need to study methods of promoting world peace, the need for more Christian foster homes for pre-delinquent boys and girls, the need to work against alcoholism, and to encourage the better radio and television programs by writing letters, etc.

"Our bulletin that Sunday will enclose a flier listing about ten of these unmet needs and I'll ask those willing to work in the field of their choice to sign and give their address and phone number."

The response was surprisingly good, and before long, after much telephoning and preliminary meetings, there were several different working groups, each with its own officers and plans for procedure.

You guessed it! The group became interested in preventing juvenile delinquency became Friends of Youth thirty years ago with a small group of nine as its actual founders. These were:

Of the nine founders, there are now only George Apostol, Attorney for the King County Council, and Iva Matsen living in Seattle, Mrs. Gerow having died very recently. Iva and her husband are both tottering dangerously near the age of ninety.

A year later the organization incorporated, 13 more members (22 in all) signed the Articles of Incorporation prepared by Joseph Matsen, Sr., who continued to handle all legal matters for many years, gratis, of course. These were times of very little money and more dedication than funds. The very first meetings were held beside a cold fireplace in the rear of the sanctuary or in Sunday School rooms or in private homes.

About the time of incorporation a date was set which all others becoming members would be considered Charter Members. Therefore there were many charter members from various churches.

Attorney George Apostol was elected the first president and he remembers that only three attended the first meeting. As to plans for procedure, the Friends of youth took months to decide. At first they met once a week for discussion or to listen to those who knew the problems, viz. social workers, school administrators, Judge Long of the Juvenile Court, George Gannon, a founder of the Boys’ Ranch in the Yakima Valley, and many others. Some of these came more than once and spoke to larger groups urged to attend.

The two presidents following George Apostol were Judge Donald Niles and Shurly McNamee. Years afterward these fine leaders were followed by Capt. Florence Ross of the county sheriff's office and others just as fine. As to active members there were simply too many dedicated workers to list more than a very few like Lulu Fairbanks, Mrs. McNamee, the Moyers, McTagues, Eifferts, Wm. Little, Axeline Istas, the Moffitts, and Hazel Turman who leased her home for a nominal sum to be used for our very first group foster home. It was for grade school boys and girls and was view property near Green Lake.

Our original plan was for each work group to cooperate with already existing organizations dealing with the same problems. The Welfare Department of King County was very cooperative and trained several women to interview prospective foster parents. So this became quite a part of the earliest activities - finding good foster homes for the Welfare Department to use. Over 150 homes were recommended.

Meanwhile several means were used to obtain members. First in our own church and neighborhood. Each pastor in the University District was interviewed and (where agreeable) speakers were sent to the ladies’ circles or other church groups that might be interested.

Then letters were sent to many pastors citywide asking their cooperation and particularly the privilege of speaking in their churches to tell about Friends of Youth. We also interviewed the local Council of Churches and spoke before two or more state conferences. None of us were experienced speakers, but we had a story to tell. Also, we needed their help.

This was not a project of any one denomination, but of Protestants mostly, because the Catholics already had their own similar programs.

After moving to the beautiful new Congregational church on NE 45th and 16th Ave NE a major catastrophe happened. Our beloved Dr. Ostrander, who had helped us get started and had retained his enthusiasm for work projects under church sponsorship, became ill, retired from his pastorate, went to Hawaii and not long afterward, passed away.

This was a blow, along with the illness of the Work Projects Secretary, that led to the early demise of all the other projects except the one interested in world peace. This one flourished for several years during Dr. Dale Turner's pastorate, and the leadership of E. B. Stevens of the U. of W. staff.

Fortunately, Friends of Youth was a going concern with good leadership. It prospered. It wasn't long until a Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial asked, “Where's the Home?” They meant a wayside home for boys released from the training school at Chehalis and having no place to go, no jobs.

At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Ward Griffin, driving along the southwest shore of Lake Washington, saw a “For Sale” sign on an old 17-room house. “Stop, that looks like just the home that would answer our prayers for a place to do something for boys in need”, said Mrs. Griffin. They had no idea where they would get the boys.

At the time Mrs. Griffin was employed by Western Union and her husband had a small grocery store not far from Renton. To make a long story short, they sold the grocery store, bought the house and answered the P-I editorial, Friends of Youth sent three representatives to talk to the Griffins, and the very first Griffin Home came into existence with the houseparents at first donating their services.

The source of young men residents soon changed, as well as the location of the home. But that's another story. However, I must not stop without saying that our Griffin Home, have room at present for over 40 young men, has barely scratched the surface of the need. Judge Long used to make that point emphatic. There is need for many more homes for both young women and young men.

And so this–as briefly as I can tell it–is the story of how Friends of Youth and Griffin Home were born so long ago.