Cajun Fest raises tens of thousands to combat youth homelessness


DES MOINES, Iowa — From crawfish and gumbo to beignets and Hurricane cocktails, attendees filled their stomachs while helping fill the need to end youth homelessness in the metro.

“Moving here was all about community. I wanted to give something back. As cliché as it is, children are our future. If we can start them off right early, I think we are going to be a better place,” said Stephen Smith, the co-founder of Cajun Fest.

Captain Roy’s in Des Moines was the site for the third annual Cajun Fest Boil and Brew event. Smith grew up in Louisiana while his father served in the military. When he arrived in Iowa, he wanted to introduce Des Moines to Cajun food in a way that could help give back to the community.

The sold-out event gives back 100% of the proceeds to Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) of Iowa. The organization helps connect more than 2,000 metro youth with healing and hope.

“We do in-home health care as well to help get with families. So we really want to prevent kids from ending up in shelters and that is what a lot of our community work does,” said Zach Rus, director of philanthropy at YESS. “We have a lot of therapists on staff and care coordinators that help families coordinate doctor visits and insurance. All of this will directly go to support those staff that serve the kids and families with getting them clothes, meals and things like that.”

YESS organizers say the total amount raised for the nonprofit could surpass $65,000 this year. You can help donate by going

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