By Aly Brady
Situated in a cozy Victorian home on Capitol Hill, Lambert House has been a home away from home for LGBT youth since 1981.
Like many nonprofits, Lambert House is dependent on outside funding to maintain itself, and it is no stranger to financial pressures.
Originally, Lambert House leased its Capitol Hill home through two generations, but later, when the grandchildren of the original landlord wanted to sell the property, Lambert House had to make a new plan.
Luckily, an angel investor and longtime supporter of the organization, offered Lambert House a $2 million, zero percent interest loan. Now, Lambert House has to pay back the loan, and Tito’s Vodka has decided to help.
Lambert House’s goal? Raise over $5 million, with the first half due in September 2020. The rest of the money will be used for renovations on the property, such as replacing the original brick foundation from 1901.
Tito’s Vodka is working with local bars and restaurants to help raise money. Tito’s has long supported causes in the LGBT community as well as other nonprofits. In 2017, Tito’s movement “Love, Tito’s” gave to about 6,000 charities.
More than 20 of the bars and restaurants that serve Tito’s Vodka in Seattle are participating. For every cocktail that’s sold, $1 will go to Lambert House, and Tito’s will match that for up to $5,000.
“We love their cause, and we wanted to get involved,” Amanda Hardman, Tito’s Vodka Washington sales representative, said.
Lambert House has deep roots in the Seattle community, but it’s globally recognized. It was among the first stand-alone LGBT youth social services organizations.
Lambert House depends on financial support provided by grants and private donations. It is almost entirely run by adult volunteers, with only six paid staff members. About 75 volunteers work each week. All volunteers make a commitment of a year, and they work with youth daily to build relationships, facilitate programs and provide support.
Lambert House is a safe space for youth. It offers 30 ongoing programs from support groups, to nightly meals, to movie nights and outings. It also has a library featuring over 3,000 LGBT titles, as well as a place to curl up on the couch.
“Youth do not want to be in a sterile office space. It doesn’t feel comfortable,” Program Manager Brandon Knox said.
Lambert House is truly a home.
Michael Mackay, a county transit operator, has been a part of Lambert House since its beginning. Growing up in the suburbs in the 1980s and going to Catholic school, Mackay had not been exposed to the LGBT community. He came to Lambert House shortly after coming out.
“So much of the world is heteronormative,” he said. “I have to come out on a daily basis.”
But Lambert House was a place that Mackay felt he could be himself. Now, serving as a volunteer, he is able to build relationships with youth so that they can feel comfortable and at home like he did.
This is something Executive Director Ken Schulam stressed as well.
“If you’re queer often times you don’t have a peer group that you feel safe with,” Schulman said. Lambert House creates that needed peer group. It’s a place where being a part of the LGBT community is normal.
Knox, the program manager, agrees.
“Here, LGBT youth are in the majority, the vast majority. They are what’s normal in this space, and they get to feel normal in who they are. They don’t have to put up walls or put their guard up,” Knox said.
So far, Lambert House has raised $700,000 for its capital campaign and is well on its way to maintaining the community it’s worked hard to build.
“I’m counting that as a really good start,” Schulman said.
The Tito’s campaign runs through May 31. For more information on donating to Lambert House, check out its donations page. You can also learn more about Tito’s Vodka “Love, Tito’s” charity movement on its website.