InvestEd moves headquarters to Renton

The nonprofit is hosting an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 24

Whether it’s shoes or an ASB card, some expenses are too much for Washington schools’ most vulnerable youth. It can leave them isolated, embarrassed or stunted in their learning.

That’s when InvestEd, a 55-year-old organization, steps in. InvestEd tries to help educators facilitate “small acts of kindness” to help those students, executive director Joyce Walters said. That’s what the company was founded on, she added.

“We believe the work is more relevant than it’s ever been,” Walters said. “With the number of students living in poverty, and the number of families struggling.”

InvestEd, the “best kept secret” in Washington state, has moved its headquarters from South Lake Union to Renton.

“For me, the move was really natural,” Walters, also a Renton resident of 33 years, said. “We’d really outgrown our old space.”

They looked at many places, but they saw Renton was becoming a hub of education, closer to Seahawks, and easy for their board to commute from SeaTac.

InvestEd serves 660 schools in Washington state, last year helping more than 25,000 kids with almost $925,000 given to schools.

“I think the real heart of InvestEd is we trust the educators to make the decision in the moment,” Walters said. “It’s very discreet. It’s a transaction that can happen in the moment. It’s immediate, so if the student needs a pair of shoes they don’t have to go home and get a paper signed, it’s ‘boom’ they can do that.”

Educators pay as much as a $1,000 out of pocket to help their students according to certain studies, Walters said, so InvestEd simply hopes to fund that.

She said they receive stories from educators about how InvestEd was able to help the students, without identifying students.

At one high school in South King County, a student showed up to school with the soles of his shoes falling off. He’d taken the laces out of his shoes and tied them around the breaking sole in order to walk to school.

“The hero of this story is not only the student that was determined to go to school, but the educator who noticed that. They went out and got him a pair of shoes. There’s so many reasons kids drop out of school, but we don’t put anybody between the student and the educator, we try to stay out of it, because that bonds the student to the educator and they’re more likely to stay in school,” she said.

Kids carry small acts of kindness in their hearts forever, and everyone remembers the moment they felt valued by someone in this way, Walters added.

In another example, one student’s father passed away, and when an educator asked her about the funeral, the student said she wouldn’t attend.

She said she didn’t have anything nice enough to wear to be respectful. So then she bought her clothes.

“That may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of issues in schools, but boy to her that meant the world,” Walters said.

Connecting with the Seahawks

For every Seahawks license plate, $28 out of the $40 special license plate fee goes directly to InvestEd.

When there was an opportunity to create a Seahawks license plate, they knew it could benefit a charitable organization of choice. In 2014, InvestEd just made sense.

“Where there is a gap is getting students engaged in programs like sports and school clubs. What we love about InvestEd is it’s a flexible program that puts the power to bring a solution to teachers and administrators that see these kids every day,” said Jeff Richards, Seahawks vice president for marketing and community engagement and board member for InvestEd.

The nonprofit was originally named the Saul and Dayee G. Haas Foundation after founder and also creator of KIRO radio Saul Haas.

Richards said Walters has driven the organization this year, and it’s refreshing to see an organization the size of InvestEd have a far reaching impact.

“I think (InvestEd moving) says a lot about Renton. Being an employee in Renton now with the Seahawks, it’s really cool to see Renton is on the rise,” Richards said. “It’s convenient for us, but it’s a nice feather in the cap for Renton.”

Future goals

In the next two years, InvestEd hopes to double the kids helped to 50,000. And with data, they know they could help as many as 75,000 students.

At the beginning of the school year they send out checks to a variety of different secondary schools in Washington.

To be selected, the principal has to call InvestEd and express interest and identify a school faculty who could administer the fund. Funding is distributed based off number of students and free and reduced lunch rates, but high schools get a boost due to their high fees.

Marcie Maxwell, former 41st District State Representative, Gov.’s Senior Policy Advisor and Renton School Board Director, said before she held any of these positions she knew about InvestEd under its old name — Saul and Dayee G. Haas Foundation. She then supported InvestEd in legislation and with the Seahawks license plate program.

Maxwell said she knew Walters for a long time before she began her time at InvestEd since their kids both attended Hazen High School.

One day at lunch they discussed the nonprofit and Maxwell said there was no reason for it to be in South Lake Union when they could be in Renton with the Educational Service District, close to the airport and closer to Olympia to advocate.

“Just a casual conversation that turned into an opportunity to have a statewide organization that truly makes a difference located in our community,” Maxwell said.

Walters said community members can give money directly to InvestEd, and they will match up to $500 per school per district. More information is at

InvestEd will also be having an open house in Renton on Sept. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at their new location, 606 Oakesdale Ave. SW, in Renton.