When a former Franciscan priest named Dick Brugger came to Auburn in 1976 to assume the leadership of Auburn Youth Resources, then a fledgling, struggling organization that had launched three years earlier to counter an epidemic of youth drug use in the community, he gave its cause everything he had.
Over the years, Brugger found it a cause worthy for a man to pour every drop of his life’s energies into: helping kids, helping families, helping the community.
The engine that drove his father always, said his son, Josh Brugger, was his Catholic faith — faith that kept undimmed to the end his passion for giving voice to the voiceless and marginalized.
“I think he saw the best in humanity, and he knew his own human strengths and weaknesses,” said Brugger. “It allowed my dad to see and focus on the beauty in other people.”
Brugger died on Oct. 23, 2020, at his home on Auburn’s Lea Hill.
On June 4, AYR’s successor, the Y Social Impact Center, dedicated the former L-support building on its main campus on Auburn Way South to the man all honored as the heart of the organization.
Under Brugger’s leadership, AYR began the first outreach, emergency shelter and residential programs for homeless and abandoned youth in the area. Working with the City of Federal Way, Brugger helped establish a drop-in center near what was then called the SeaTac Mall for youth in need of shelter and protection.
The 2020 merger with the YMCA was what recently gave the Y’s movers and shakers the idea to dedicate the building to Brugger. The building houses YMCA’s behavioral health clinic and provides an opportunity for youth and young adults to access medical care through a partnership YMCA has with the University of Washington. It is also a meeting center.
“A lot of it started with Dick Brugger back in the mid ‘70s,” said Michael Jackson, executive director of the Y Social Impact Center.
“It’s a really great day for youth, parents and families and the entire Auburn community,” said Loria Yeadon, chief executive officer of the Seattle YMCA.
“This building behind us is more than walls, it’s more than windows and doors. This building represents hope: hope for youth, hope for the community, and also hope that when we come together in service of others, especially those that need us most, nothing is impossible,” said Yeadon.
The June 4 ceremony, said his daughter, Jessie Brugger, was effectively the memorial service the family could not give her dad because of the restrictions of COVID-19. The irony was that the funeral for this most human of men had to be held virtually via Zoom. More than 110 people, friends, former employees, associates and family showed up to honor him last Saturday.
“He’d be so honored to have this building named after him,” said Jessie. “He loved this community, he loved what he did. He told me when I was a little kid, ‘no matter what you do, love what you do.’ And he did.”