Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
An unusual backdrop for this morning’s annual Westside Awards breakfast … fog.
Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor) was the location as usual and as you know if you’ve been there, that usually means a spectacular view of the city skyline and Elliott Bay right outside the banquet-room doors. This morning’s fog meant nothing was visible behind the speakers but the deck and a couple of Canada geese strolling (and honking) on it.
Nobody seemed to mind. The spotlight was fully on the award-winners, after a few words from West Seattle Chamber of Commerce leadership – board chair Paul Prentice‘s welcome, and CEO Lynn Dennis‘s appreciation for the organization’s 200+ members and spirit of collaboration. That last attribute, in fact, played into one award-winner’s unique acceptance presentation – including the sign atop our story – you’ll see it later.
Keynote speaker was King County Chair Joe McDermott, introduced by Dennis as a third-generation West Seattleite, running down his local cred including scooping ice cream at Husky Deli, as well as his academic and political chops.
McDermott described the theme of his talk as “why we do what we do.” But first – history – the Beach Broiler, which was on the pier that now holds Salty’s, half a century earlier. Two years ago, he said, his family gathered to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
His career, McDermott said, traces back to the question “What are you going to do when you grow up?” For a while, he thought he would become a civil engineer, bui;ding bridges. A trip back east in his senior year changed everything. “I saw government up close and realized I wanted to go into public service.” His mother warned “there’s no money in that” – though, he said, she had spent her career in education!
“I believe I am still solving problems and building bridges,” he said. That included the resilience fund newly approved by the county on behalf of immigrants and refugees: “These are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers” – and immigrant-owned businesses are worth $1.2 billion to the local economy. He talked about the fear sown by President Trump’s executive orders. “I’ve heard the real fear and apprehension in these communities.”
But with the resilience fund and education, “this further affirms that King County is a welcoming place … for everyone who resides here.” McDermott acknowledged similar work by the Seattle City Council – represented at this morning’s event by District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold – having passed a defense fund for immigrants.
McDermott also spoke about the Access For All sales-tax measure sent to the August 1st ballot by the County Council this week. He singled out West Seattle’s ArtsWest and Southwest Seattle Historical Society as expected beneficiaries. “We will invest in programs that change lives and give kids more access to the same opportunities and help our communities thrive. Everyone in King County will benefit.” McDermott said the program also includes money for transportation, to take kids to sites such as the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Flight, and Woodland Park Zoo.
“The resilience fund and Access for All are two key King County Council achievements since the first of the year,” he declared. “… Know that your involvement is essential. E-mail me. Call me. Come to testify on legislation … let me know what your thoughts, your concerns, your interests are … not just me, but all your elected officials. … Let us know what’s on your mind.”
Then, to the awards, which Dennis explained are not a popularity contest – nominations are solicited from the community (not just Chamber members) each year, and carefully reviewed before decisions are made.
Strength, integrity, equality are qualities of hers, Evans said, recounting Throop’s background as a leader in not just elder care, but also in the LGBTQ community. “She is an amazing person,” Evans said.
He had also mentioned Throop’s mom, who she cited as inspiration. Ten years ago, Throop said, her mom declared she was moving to Seattle, and when she looked around to find support for her, she couldn’t. With what she learned, she started a business. “I truly love what I do,” she said – helping people, referring them to trusted professionals, “many of whom are in this room.” She spoke warmly of collaborating with other businesses, including many WSCC members. “They say beside every woman stands another great woman,” she declared, pointing out and thanking her wife Angela. She said the award was not only gratifying, but touching.
Next, Pete Spalding, chamber vice chair, introduced Dan Austin, proprietor of Emerging Business of the Year winner Peel and Press (WSB sponsor) in Morgan Junction. Spalding, who has long advocated for the West Seattle Food Bank, talked about Austin’s enthusiastic contribution to it, and to other fundraisers (like this one). He also is opening a second restaurant (in Boulevard Park).
Austin said he was humbled to accept the award “on behalf of my great team” – three of whom are in the photo above, with him – and said he felt it was on behalf of the entire small-business community in West Seattle, listing many others that “have all stepped up and helped contribute in these events.” He said working with the Food Bank has “been a blast,” and thanked his wife and two children for their help and inspiration. “To give back to the community is something I learned growing up and watching my parents,” he explained, recounting their volunteerism. “I feel incredibly blessed that (Peel and Press) has been received so well in the community … and we just want to continue to give back.”
While Austin said that concern about the City Council’s dealings with businesses was part of his motivation to expand outside Seattle, he thanked Councilmember Herbold for “sitting down and listening” to those concerns.
Spalding also introduced Southwest Youth and Family Services, recipient of the Not-for-Profit of the Year award. He talked about SWYFS’s evolution and addition of programs, with programs focused on youth development, mental help, family support, and education.
Executive director Steve Daschle and board chair Laura Ware accepted the award.
“It’s always meaningful to be recognized by your family and friends,” she said, noting that SWYFS has a “low profile … we’re known but not that well known.” She said “there are a lot of kids in our community who are scared… they need a safe place to go after school … if they come to this country and don’t know our language they may need (help) and Southwest Youth and Family can provide that.”
Daschle spoke of a recent event honoring kids, all children of immigrants and refugees, receiving scholarship awards to inspire them to complete their education and go on to college. “This will be the first time anyone in their family has completed high school, let alone going on to college … that’s what we’re all about … we’re about partnerships in transforming their lives.”
Finally, Prentice introduced Westsider of the Year honoree Maria Groen, someone he said he had known for 20 years. He spoke of her volunteer service as well as her professional work with nonprofits.
“So many other people deserve this,” Groen declared as she began, saying she was accepting it “on behalf of countless behind the scene volunteers … and do-gooders in our community.” She brought up some other “do-gooders” and said she wanted to inspire “anyone who is not yet engaged in their community” to change that and do something. She listed a long (and at times rhyming) list of all the ways you can help. “When you work for a greater good, you are forever changed.” Here’s how it unfolded, including audience participation toward the end (the sign-waving starts 2 1/2 minutes in):
That brought a standing ovation, after which Prentice wrapped up the event by urging everyone to check the Chamber website for upcoming events including a chance for everyone to honor Groen’s philosophy of being a “do-gooder” – by joining in a community cleanup on May 18th.