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South End nonprofit has new name, same mission

Ryan’s House has changed its name.

As the nonprofit shelter for homeless youths on Whidbey Island approaches its second year, it added a few words to its former title.

Now, it is Ryan’s House for Youth. After a few hundred dollars to change its website and purchase new decals for the van and business cards, the mission is the same for its unpaid executive director Lori Cavender.

“We have a new name, we have not changed, we have a new website,” Cavender said.

A week before the Island County Fair in August, Cavender was contacted by a representative from Ryan House, a nonprofit in Phoenix, Ariz. Ryan House provides essential care for children with life-threatening conditions and their families, according to its mission statement.

The letter requested that Cavender change Ryan’s House’s name as it infringed on a trademark held by the Arizona-based nonprofit.

“We had done due diligence, or what we thought was due diligence, by going through Washington state and making sure no one had that name,” Cavender said. “We have a large difference between what their purpose is and what our purpose is.”

Cavender said she received the notification shortly after the website for www.ryanshouse.org launched. The site was a major achievement for the nonprofit, which has devoted most of its resources toward building the shelter in the Scatchet Head area of South Whidbey.

“It caught their attention,” Cavender said. “The cruddy one that I had created had not caught their attention. Once we had the really nice one, it got their attention.”

“We were really saddened that we would have to go out and spend that money all over again instead of putting it toward the shelter,” she added.

The organization’s new name is official, but Cavender has yet to file a trademark on it.

Part of the reason is filing for a trademark costs $100, in addition to $200 already spent to make new business cards and magnet signs for the nonprofit’s van that dispenses clothing and personal hygiene products to homeless youths from Langley to Oak Harbor.

“It was disappointing to put out extra money when we’re trying to get to a point to build, however, we didn’t have a choice,” said Marianne Busche, vice president on the Ryan’s House board.

“A hundred dollars to most organizations with lots of money is nothing,” Cavender continued, “but to an organization that’s trying to put every penny into building a shelter, that’s a lot.”

Cavender, surprised by the request to change the organization’s name, sought advice on her best course of action.

Adding “For Youth” to the name came after pro bono consultation from an anonymous trademark attorney.

“We figured it was close enough to the original name that it wouldn’t confuse people,” Cavender said. “We didn’t want the organization to lose its momentum.”

Ryan’s House was named after Ryan Busche. He died with his wife Abby in the Alaska Airlines flight 261 crash off the California coast Jan. 31, 2000. His family established Ryan’s House in 2010 in his honor.

“We needed to do this fast,” Cavender said. “To change the name completely would have gotten rid of the whole purpose for naming it Ryan’s House in the first place.”

Rather than completely change the name, the board approved adding a couple of words. The addition makes the nonprofit’s mission more explicit in its title.

“I think it adds clarity in the end as to what Ryan’s House for Youth is,” Busche said.

“It explains what Ryan’s House is about, which is a good thing,” she added.

The old URL is active, but won’t be for much longer. Ryan’s House for Youth has a new web address, www.ryanshouseforyouth.org.

Busche said the board was never contacted by any legal representatives for Ryan House or by their executive director. They followed Cavender’s lead through the process and trusted her to make things right. Busche praised the in-kind gift of a trademark attorney’s time.

“Donations of attorney time, they’re so valuable because it keeps us so that legally we’re where we need to be,” she said. “That’s a really special gift.”

As the group attempts to gain enough capital to build the shelter, it continues to seek donations which can be made online at www.ryanshouse.org/donate_today.htm or by providing toiletry items, scarves, blankets and sleeping bags to Cavender. She can be emailed at lori@ryanshouse.org.

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