With a smile that can light up a room and an attitude that would make even Grumpy Cat change his tune, Megan Brown is a powerhouse of determination and inspiration with a history to back it up.
Last September, Megan was the keynote speaker at Camp Korey, a summer camp for children with challenging medical conditions located in Carnation, Washington. She is well versed in what the camp has to offer. She has been a counselor, mentor, and at one time a camper herself.
Megan has a craniofacial condition called Hemangioma. It’s a benign tumor she was born with. “It turned out to be really life threatening,” said Megan, who was born in Bremerton in 1993. “Most of the time it’s not, but in my case it was and back then very little was known about it where I lived.”Megan Brown is a 2015 graduate of Saint Martin’s University. Photo credit: Joe Saladino.
She was then seen by professionals at Seattle Children’s Hospital who quickly diagnosed and started treating her. “I took steroids and an experimental drug, alpha interferon, to stop the growth of the tumor. That’s what saved my life but I spent my whole childhood dealing with surgeries. Most Hemangiomas go away on their own… mine was life threatening and covered one of my eyes. Thankfully it didn’t take my vision,” said Megan.
So in 2008, when Camp Korey opened, Megan was one of the first to attend. She was 15-years-old. After spending two years as a camper, she transitioned into being a counselor and mentor for the younger campers. Every year she returns to reconnect with friends, mentor kids and be an advocate for others
“Camp is a family,” said Megan. “Many of these people know exactly the same adversity I face every day of my life. We ‘get’ each other. There is a comradery with going through the same things and at camp we come together.” Since then she has had a place to go where people truly understand.Megan met emcees Steve Pool and Dan Lewis at Camp Korey. Photo credit: KOMO4 News.
That’s why getting a call to be the keynote speaker at Camp Korey was such an honor. “As the keynote speaker, I was able to share with an audience about my favorite place and what’s cool is it took me forever to really sit down and write the speech because I had so much to say,” said Megan. But when she got on stage she realized the speech wasn’t about her. What it was really about was the camp and every single camper who attends. She was speaking on behalf of them all. “Yes, they were my experiences but I made sure they could be felt and it was something all campers could relate to.”
“She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know,” said friend, former coworker and fellow 2015 Saint Martin’s University graduate Ben Lopez. “She genuinely cares for everyone and wants everyone to be happy.”
Ben met Megan through a mutual friend during their first year of college. They stayed close friends while working together as Residence Advisors and mentors to first year students. She reached out for advice on giving a keynote speech because her friend has recently given one during the Gala at SMU.Megan Brown relaxes on the pier in Allyn, Washington. Photo credit: Joe Saladino.
“She asked how I stayed calm and remembered all my stuff and delivered it properly. I said you just have to practice. Nobody there is going be disappointed in you for telling your story. I just encouraged her and reassured her that her story was going to be great,” described Ben.
And she was great! “After the speech she was super excited,” recalled Ben. “It went really well. She got to meet Dan Lewis and Steve Pool (of KOMO4 News fame). She was so excited about that. She was moved to see how her story was impacting and empowering others. It was really neat to see her realize how she can help others with her story.”
Megan is healthy now. The Hemangioma is gone. But the scars remain, even though they have slowly faded through the years. When it comes to scars, Megan said, “I once heard a quote, ‘Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you conquered whatever tried to kill you.’ I know the rest of my life I will have a facial difference, but I remind myself daily that this is just one part of my purpose. I know I was made specifically this way.”
So how does Megan persevere through the hard times? She looks at it like a storm. “It’s going to pass. Even though I’m facing adversity and it’s tough in that moment, I’ve faced it in the past and there are brighter days to come,” she described. “There are going to be bad times, people are going to discriminate. And that’s tough.”Megan Brown enjoys life. Photo credit: Joe Saladino.
But Megan knows she can overcome and it doesn’t define her. She is more than just her scars. With her positive attitude and faith she can push forward. “I can’t share my story without including my faith,” said Megan. “I look at the keynote speech as a stepping stone, along with my video testimony that I gave to my church, newlife.tv, on Easter. I realized on that day that if I was going to come out as an advocate for this craniofacial population, that it would allow me the opportunity for me to share my story when people asked me about what happened. A light turned on and what’s cool is all the love I received on that day, knowing my story was being shared to help others. Knowing it was just the start of something new. One thing they say at newlife.tv church is, ‘If it’s not good, God’s not done.’ God is going to continue to use my story for his glory.”
Her story certainly is not finished. In November it was presented to the staff at Northwest University, her pastor’s alma mater and continues to be watched and shared on Facebook.
A video of Megan’s presentation from Camp Korey can be found here.
Just say YES!!! to restoring the Deschutes Estuary. DERT – the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team is working diligently to restore the Deschutes estuary by reconnecting the Deschutes river to South Puget Sound’s Budd Inlet and the Salish Sea.
It 1951, the Deschutes River was dammed at its mouth to create a reflection pond for the State Capitol. Over time, the basin has filled with sediment, stagnant water, and invasive species. The state has commissioned many studies on this environmental and public health hazard, and they all point to dam removal and estuary restoration. However, no decision has been made towards remediation.
DERT advocates for the removal of the 5th Avenue dam to comply with the Clean Water Act. DERT cares about watershed and ecosystem health supporting natural habitat and a statewide community that values water quality, economic opportunity, and recreational access.
Please enjoy our website – full of important information and ways for you to take action to support estuary restoration. Thanks for stopping by!!
Submitted by Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
The Nisqually Indian Tribe is currently requesting grant proposals for salmon habitat restoration and protection projects in the Nisqually River watershed.
Up to $1.8 million in federal and state funds are available for on-the-ground habitat restoration projects, land acquisitions, or assessments that will lead to projects. The Nisqually Indian Tribe is the lead entity that coordinates the solicitation and ranking of projects for the Nisqually Watershed.
Eligible project proposals will be ranked by the Nisqually River Council and submitted to the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) and the state legislature for funding consideration. Projects that match high priority actions and geographic areas in the Nisqually Watershed’s Salmon Recovery strategy will have the best chance of receiving a high ranking and funding.
Eligible applicants for funding include cities/towns, counties, state agencies (with a local partner), conservation districts, tribes, non-profit organizations, special purpose districts, Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups, and private landowners.
Interested parties must submit a Letter of Intent to the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Natural Resources Office by March 1 and completed applications are tentatively due May 11.
Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Ashley Von Essen, Lead Entity Coordinator for Nisqually Tribe Natural Resources at (360) 438-8687 ext. 2145 or email@example.com to get information about the Nisqually Salmon Recovery strategy and other application information.
Submitted by The Evergreen State College
The Evergreen State College recently joined the national consortium Project Pericles as a member institution. Founded in 2001 by educational philanthropist Eugene M. Lang, Project Pericles is dedicated to incorporating social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential elements of college and university education.
Project Pericles works with its member institutions as they individually and collaboratively develop model civic engagement programs in their classrooms, on the campuses, and in their communities. Project Pericles encourages higher education to promote a more just, equitable, and compassionate society by facilitating student leadership at the undergraduate level.
“At its core, Project Pericles is about collaboration and leveraging our collective expertise in order to build stronger and more coherent curricular programs incorporating civic engagement and social responsibility. We are adding campuses that can significantly contribute to and elevate our conversations.” said Jan Liss, Project Pericles Executive Director, “Our board decided to extend an invitation to Evergreen given their demonstrated commitment to civic engagement and their interest in working with Project Pericles and its member institutions. We are extremely pleased to have them join Project Pericles and we look forward to working with their (new) president, George Bridges, and the entire Evergreen community.”
Evergreen’s Academic Grant Manager and Pericles Coordinator, John McLain has long worked with students on civic engagement as part of the Evergreen Student Civic Engagement Institute among other projects. He wants students to explore and cultivate “humility, empathy, persistence, hope, patience, self-reflection, and a commitment to embracing complexity,” or, as he puts it, “the virtues of civility and democratic engagement,” and he believes Project Pericles will provide an even greater support structure toward that end.
Evergreen sends hundreds of volunteers and interns into surrounding communities through a robust internship and independent study programs and also its Center for Community Based Learning and Action, through which students have consistently volunteered over 5,500 hours a year.
Evergreen joins a roster of 29 Periclean colleges and universities nationwide, which includes Hampshire, Pitzer, Occidental, Skidmore, and Swarthmore Colleges.
Non-profit groups and charity organizations are an important part of any community. From helping low-income residents find housing to supporting local environmental causes, non-profits and charities advocate and organize to improve the communities they serve.Homeless Backpacks works toward its mission of ending the cycle of homelessness by providing backpacks full of food for homeless teens during the weekend. Photo courtesy: Homeless Backpacks.
But these groups do not do it alone. In order for charities and non-profit organizations to be successful, they heavily rely on the support of volunteers and donations.
I-5 Cars owner Heidi Pehl and her team at Volkswagen of Olympia understand the importance of supporting organizations that benefit the community, which is why the local dealership continuously finds ways to give back.
Over the holiday season, Volkswagen of Olympia continued I-5 Cars’ more than 10-year tradition of supporting local charitable causes during the week of Thanksgiving by donating $25 for every new Volkswagen test driven that week. The funds raised during the promotion went to benefit Olympia-based non-profit Homeless Backpacks.
For a non-profit organization like Homeless Backpacks, whose mission is to end the cycle of homelessness by providing food for homeless teens in Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor counties, monetary donations and food drives are what keep this non-profit going strong.
“We live on donations,” said Homeless Backpacks founding board member, Kelly Wilson.From November 22 to December 1, 2015, Volkswagen of Olympia donated $25 for ever new Volkswagen test driven. Photo courtesy: Volkswagen of Olympia.
Providing weekend food to more than 400 homeless middle and high school students across the region, Homeless Backpacks is able to feed local teens who would otherwise go without Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday dinner.
“The funds raised are fabulous,” Wilson said. “They are dollars we do not have to try to raise ourselves.” Because Homeless Backpacks does not receive grants of any kind, the non-profit group relies solely on monetary and food donations from individuals and businesses throughout the community.
But Volkswagen of Olympia’s donation was bigger than just dollars and cents. The local car dealership also helped raise awareness about Homeless Backpacks, its mission, and how the organization impacts the communities it serves. “Because Volkswagen of Olympia has such long reaching arms, they can introduce people to our organization that we would not normally have access to,” Wilson said.Homeless Backpacks founding board member, Kelly Wilson, donates her time to help end homelessness in Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor Counties. Photo courtesy: Homeless Backpacks.
This increased level of awareness was made evident to Wilson when she was checking Homeless Backpack’s Facebook page. Wilson said during the week of Thanksgiving, she saw a noticeable increase in the non-profit’s Facebook following. This kind of impact, Wilson said, is priceless. “In the long term, it is new donors, new volunteers, new energy, new board members and new opportunities that have a lasting impact,” she added.
During the week of Thanksgiving, 74 new Volkswagens were test driven, raising Homeless backpacks a total donation of $1,850. Wilson said it costs $8 to feed a teen for the weekend. Multiply this amount by the number of teens Homeless Backpacks serves on a weekly basis, and it is easy to see why every dollar counts — the need is immense.
It was this level of need that caught Volkswagen of Olympia’s attention when deciding what charitable organization to support. “This is a program that really caught our attention,” Pehl said. “Many of these kids don’t really have a home or home life, and they don’t have supplies for school. Supporting this organization is great way to impact the kids who need help in Thurston County.”Homeless Backpacks turns to community donations in the forms of dollars and food to stock backpacks with items like ravioli, chili, tuna, oatmeal and more. Photo courtesy: Homeless Backpacks.
And the impact Volkswagen of Olympia’s donation made for Homeless Backpacks is tremendous.
Wilson said Volkswagen of Olympia’s donation to Homeless Backpacks helped the Olympia non-profit start the new year off bright. As Homeless Backpacks rolls into 2016, Wilson said she is going to be working hard to inspire other communities to start versions of Homeless Backpacks in their towns, continuing the fight to “end homeless, one student at a time” across Washington and beyond.
Volkswagen of Olympia and I-5 Cars are passionate about supporting the communities they serve. For more information about Volkswagen of Olympia, visit Volkswagen of Olympia online or in person at its West Olympia location in the Olympia Auto Mall.
For more information about volunteering or donating to Homeless Backpacks, visit Homeless Backpacks online.
Walking into Alexandra Gouirand’s beautiful cheese shop, I felt like I wanted to be trapped for a very long time. A unique assortment of cheeses, chocolates, wines, sauces and oils as well as cheese wares surrounded me in this trendy shop, which opened in late November 2015. The Mouse Trap is the latest addition to the wonderful food and beverage specialty shops in downtown Olympia.
“Being close to the Olympia Farmers Market, Olympia Seafood Company, the Wine Loft and Encore Tea and Chocolates was a primary consideration in choosing this space when it became available in the fall,” Alex explained. She did not consider any other location in the two years she spent planning her first creative business venture.
Over the years, I have mostly conversed with Alex, my former colleague at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), passing through the halls, but she said it felt right to be in The Mouse Trap behind the cheese counter rather than behind the podium teaching French and English as January brought the beginning of winter quarter.Darlene Kemery is ready to share her love of The Mouse Trap cheese with her co-workers.
Launching a new business is a long process from idea to reality. The idea for the perfect gourmet cheese shop in Olympia had been incubating for five years, but Alex got serious about three years ago. To be ready to even conceive of looking for space, Alex said, “I needed the coaching, training, and networking I was provided by the Washington Center for Women in Business at the SPSCC Lacey campus and some classes in Small Business Management. With confidence from all that support, I attempted my business plan.”
Out of the plan emerged The Mouse Trap. When asked about the name of the store, Alex assured me she had it in mind for years. “It is not a reference to Agatha Christie’s famous mystery or the popular game.” Alex’s friend, Sara Gettys, the videographer at SPSCC, and owner of her own design studio, created the catching logo. In addition to her business cards, Alex offers aprons and kitchen towels with the design.Sara Gettys designed the logo used on the Mouse Trap business cards as well as aprons and kitchen towels.
During the opening weeks, Alex had the assistance of her sister, a chef, who was visiting from France. “It wasn’t just the free cheese that kept me working here, “ her sister laughingly commented. “I loved watching the customers taste the cheese and looking at the happiness on their faces. Cheese has its way of making people smile.”
While visiting The Mouse Trap, I met a few returning customers. Darlene Kemery from the nearby Olympia Downtown Association office wanted to bring a small cheese tray back to the office so her co-workers could also sample the cheeses she has enjoyed from The Mouse Trap.
I eavesdropped as Alex explained the various cheeses in the case. “The variety will continually rotate” she said. “Currently we have cheeses from France, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Vermont, and, of course, Wisconsin!” Darlene passed up the Humbolt Fog from Northern California and the pungent Epoisses from France for a special blue cheese from Switzerland, a raw goat’s milk cheese from the Chimacum Valley in Washington, and a Gouda from the Netherlands.Alex describes the selection of cheeses currently in the cold case at The Mouse Trap in downtown Olympia.
Alex offered samples as she always does, but Darlene knew the quality. “I like the fact that Alex will listen carefully to my needs, cut just the amount I want, and she always wraps it in special paper. I know the cheese I buy here will not be suffocated by hours spent on the shelf in tight plastic wrapping,” she said.
Checking out the wines while he was waiting to talk to Alex, Mike Carlson commented on the nice variety. The rack included selections from wineries in Argentina, France, Oregon, Washington and California. When Alex was free, she told him, “I am trying to work with growers from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to stock some of my favorite varieties from that region.”
Mike explained he was on a mission from his wife who was planning a fundraiser and wondered about the feasibility of buying a cheese tray from The Mouse Trap rather than from a big box store. “We like to support local businesses,” Mike said as he took Alex’s business card, and added, “My wife will be calling you.”Mike Carlson checks out the variety of wines Alex has selected for The Mouse Trap.
The vision for The Mouse Trap came from shops Alex had known in the Provencal region of France where her father lives. She has long thought Olympia needed such a shop. “It is so much fun to provide everything I could never find in Olympia,” she said and pointed out all accessories she carries from Bosca, a quality Dutch company.
Soon I realized as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stay trapped forever, so I asked about upcoming events. A Valentine pairing of chocolates, cheeses and wines is in the planning stages. Until I heard pairing, I hadn’t previously noticed the chocolate truffles from the Briar Rose Creamy in Oregon in the case.Alex Gouirant and her sister share a few smiles as her sister prepares to return to France.
Just a warning, don’t enter The Mouse Trap with diet resolutions in mind. Alex’s cheeses and chocolates changed a few of mine!
Submitted by Providence St. Peter
The Providence St. Peter Sexual Assault Clinic, in conjunction with the Monarch Children’s Justice & Advocacy Center, will provide a free training class Thursday, January 21, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the 200 Room on the second floor of Providence St. Peter Hospital (next to the cafeteria).
“Darkness to Light” training sessions will help adults learn how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
The evidence-based training is organized by the Darkness to Light Foundation. Snacks will be provided.
To register, call 360-493-7469 or go to www.provregister.org and click on the “Darkness to Light” tab.
The program includes:
After training participants will:
Group training available
Any group of 15 or more which would like personalized training can contact the Sexual Assault Clinic to arrange for it. Call the clinic at 360-493-7469 for more information about this service, or go to www.D2L.org.
Support HB 2568 NOW!!
Take immediate action:
Interested in testifying at an upcoming hearing? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative Brian Blake, 19th District, Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, introduced HB 2568 into the 2016 Legislative Session on 1/14/16.
The bill title is: Managing Capitol Lake as an Estuarine Environment and lays the foundation toward estuary restoration. Here is a link to the bill’s page as well as the original bill itself.
Let’s do this – fill out this form and add a comment of support. We thank you very much!!
While many RV owners around the Pacific Northwest have already buttoned up and winterized their RVs for the season, other adventurous families and retirees alike are just getting ready to head south for the winter. If you’re not quite ready to put your RV into hibernation but are unable to take a lengthier trip like your snow birding kin, you can still enjoy a winter “getaway” in your RV right here at home.Need help outfitting or servicing your rig? The helpful team at Awesome RV in Olympia is here to help. Photo credit: Awesome RV.
With year-round outdoor recreation opportunities across the state, many area RV parks and resorts stay open during the winter months, providing local RV owners ample opportunities to enjoy their natural surroundings from the comfort of their very own RVs. Make your next RV outing a true “staycation” by heading to Thurston County RV parks like American Heritage Campground, Washington Land Yacht Harbor, and Offut Lake Resort, just to name a few, or, if you would prefer to get out of town without going far, there are countless RV park and resort options within a two-hour drive (or less!) of Olympia, all well worth the journey.
Before you step on the gas, there are a few things to consider to ensure a safe and comfortable journey. Use the checklist below to help you prep your rig for your next winter adventure, or have one of the professionals at Awesome RV, located at the Olympia Auto Mall, do it for you. Whether you need parts, accessories or a full-on service, the experienced staff at Awesome RV in Olympia can help you with all of your RV parts and service needs.
Winter RV Camping Checklist
Once you’ve checked these items off your list, you’re most likely ready to plan your next winter weekend (or weekday) getaway. Check out these five nearby (less than a two-hour drive away) RV parks and resorts that offer scenic views, outstanding outdoor recreation, and maximum relaxation.The Waterfront at Potlatch There are numerous reasons why the Waterfront at Potlatch earned the title as Best RV Park in Western Washington. Photo courtesy: Waterfront at Potlatch/Facebook.
There’s a reason this Hood Canal RV park was recently voted the Best in Western Washington. No matter the season, the Waterfront at Potlatch boasts stunning views of Hood Canal with 12 waterfront sites and three additional roadside sites that offer partial views. Even if you’re RV isn’t fully contained, you can still enjoy all the amenities of home with Potlatch’s on-site laundry, cable, wireless internet and more. But the real draw of this Skokomish RV park is the 450-feet of no-bank waterfront access. Add nearby attractions like Lake Cushman Golf Course, Lucky Dog Casino and the endless adventures that await at Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, and you’ve got the makings for a great winter escape.
The Waterfront at Potlatch
21660 US Hwy 101
Skokomish, WA 98584
What’s better than escaping the city for a quiet weekend in the woods? Escaping the city for a quiet weekend in the woods at Quinault Rain Forest. Less than a two-hour drive from Olympia resides one of the state’s most beloved natural areas. Quinault Rain Forest is a sight to behold no matter the season, and there’s no better time to visit the rain forest’s many waterfalls than during the winter. Pack up the RV and head to Rain Forest Resort Village where nearby attractions for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds await. The resort is open year-round and offers 31 RV sites available on a first come basis. Experience all Quinault has to offer. Your outdoor adventure is just a short drive away. (Note: bathrooms are closed during the winter.)
Rain Forest Resort Village
516 S Shore Rd.
Quinault, WA 98575
If snowshoeing along one of Washington’s most famed peaks piques your interest, head to Silver Cove RV Resort in Silver Lake where top-notch hiking, fishing and boating are all well within reach. On-site amenities include everything from wifi to a boat launch, but it’s not the creature comforts of this RV resort that make it such a popular destination, it’s Silver Cove’s proximity to Mt. Saint Helens that appeals most to RV-going recreation lovers. And with nearby breweries, wineries and restaurants galore, slipping in and out of adventure mode to enjoy the area’s many sumptuous sips and nibbles is easy.
Silver Cove RV Resort
351 Hall Road
Silver Lake, WA
As one of the only private RV resorts in the Pacific County area, Bayshore Beach RV Resort, open year-round, is a hidden gem, ideal for any RV owner looking for an oceanside getaway. Enjoy all the amenities of home with full hookups, DirectTV and wireless internet, or unplug and enjoy a rustic retreat complete with 400 feet of private waterfront, fire pits, walking areas and more. Are you a member of an RV club? Even better. Bayshore Beach RV Resort offers discounted rates to RV club groups of six or more. Enjoy access to laundry and the resort’s on-site banquet room for a mid-winter escape you won’t soon forget.
Bayshore Beach RV Resort
2941 Kindred Ave.
Tokeland, WA 98590
Dubbed the “prettiest park on the Peninsula,” Rainbow’s End RV Park is worth the extra drive time. This stunning RV resort offers something for everyone. Whether you opt to hike Hurricane Ridge, take part in a guided bird watching excursion, roll up your sleeves for a few rounds of golf, or test your luck at the nearby casino, this full service RV park, located in Sequim, has just what you’re looking for. Winter rates are $30/night or $180/week.
Rainbow’s End RV Park
261831 US Hwy 101
Sequim, WA 98382
Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton
Bentley is a gorgeous 3 year old American Bulldog. He is pure-breed without papers. Bentley is a very strong boy. He is sweet and needs a loving and supportive environment. No children, other dogs or cats.
We have many great dogs and always need volunteers. To see all our current dogs, visit www.adoptapet-wa.org , our Facebook at “Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton Washington” or at the shelter on Jensen Road in Shelton. Visit us onloine at www.adoptapet-wa.org or contact us at email@example.com or (360) 432-3091.
Outside the automotive industry, Fred Jorg may be Germany’s largest export.
And he’s landed in Lacey – all seven feet, 300 pounds of him.
Born in Saarbrucken, Germany, Jorg is a center on the Saint Martin’s University men’s basketball team, one that certainly gets noticed regardless if he’s on the court or not.
“He obviously catches your eye,” first-year Saints coach Alex Pribble said. “There’s not too many 7-foot 300-pounders walking around campus. He’s such a unique kid, not just in his physical stature, but in the way he’s so personable. His size is the first thing you notice, but the reason people love him, the reason why we love him on the team and people love him on campus is because of his personality. It’s the biggest thing about him.”Eastern Washington University transfer Fred Jorg is averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds a game for the Saints this season. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University.
It was his relationship with Pribble that brought him to SMU – a place that has turned out to be a perfect fit for both player and coach.
Prior to accepting the Saints’ head coaching position, Pribble was an assistant at EWU for two seasons.
“Coming in, I already knew a little bit about Fred. Two years there with him was a great experience,” Pribble said. “In those two years I built a strong relationship with him. We spent a lot of individual time together developing his game.”
Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford, who was responsible for bringing Jorg to Cheney from Germany, was the first to inform Jorg of Pribble’s departure.
“When I found out he got a new job I went over and said goodbye to him the next day,” Jorg said. “Two hours later he gave me a call and said, ‘What do you think about playing for me at the Division II level?’”
If he was ever going to transfer, Jorg had two standing rules. First, it would have to be a school in Washington. He didn’t want to leave the state. Second, he had to already know the head coach. With both requirements fulfilled, the offer immediately intrigued him.
The frontcourt had been a strength for the Eagles during Jorg’s three seasons there, and with a bevy of young talent, he had seen his minutes dwindle. He appeared in 15 games, averaging 4.5 minutes a contest, during his sophomore season which saw Eastern capture the Big Sky Conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament.Jorg, a red-shirt junior, has started every game this season for Pribble. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University.
The thought of receiving more playing time under a coach he had already built a solid relationship with was just too much to keep Jorg in Cheney.
“As a player you always want to compete. Your first year you’re fine with it. You don’t really mind (not playing in games) because you’re a freshman and still learning,” Jorg said. “But it’s different after three years. You’re there every day putting in all the work with the guys, and its rough not getting the opportunity to play. I have no regrets about my time in Cheney. I will always look back at it as a something that made me better as a person and as a player.”
“To coach Hayford’s credit, he saw the writing on the wall and for Fred, he knew for him to have the best shot at developing into the best player he could be, this level would be right for him,” Pribble said. “So, we worked together and brought him over here with us.”
The Eagles’ loss proved to be the Saints’ gain, but it wasn’t just Jorg’s basketball skills that Pribble was determined to infuse into his newly acquired gig. It was everything outside of the game that he liked about Jorg, who will graduate this year with a business management degree before pursuing his MBA at SMU.
“More than anything I knew what kind of person he’d be in the locker room. I hoped he’d have a great impact on the court like he is having, but I knew he’d bring the cultural stuff over with him. That was really important,” Pribble said.
“Basketball for him is secondary to being a good person. He’s a great teammate because he’s a great person. He truly cares about the people around him. There’s nothing fake about him. We’re trying to develop a culture here. We want guys who not only play basketball the right way, but act the right way off the court as well. Fred’s is a shining example of that,” said Pribble.
The biggest challenge now, for Jorg, is regaining that comfort and conditioning of playing in games on consistent basis.
“I’m still in the process of getting a feel again for the game,” Jorg said. “My body has to get used to it again, but I really enjoy it here. You always want to challenge yourself and have new experiences, not only basketball, but life experiences.”First-year SMU men’s basketball coach Alex Pribble spent two seasons with Jorg at EWU prior to arriving in Lacey. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University.
Jorg has started all 13 games for the Saints this season and is second on the team in scoring at 10.1 points a game and pulls down a team-high 7.1 boards a contest.
“People love him. He’s talkative. He’s caring. He was the same way at Eastern,” Pribble said. “Everyone on campus knew him. He was a fan favorite and that’s happening here now.”
Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters is a foundation of downtown Olympia. It’s just as common to see someone around town clutching a blue cup as it is to see the ubiquitous green and white one. Batdorf coffee is crafted meticulously by master artisans at their roastery in the Olympia Farmers Market district and the popularity of their roasts attest to the long-standing success of the local business.Baristas hard at work at Batdorf and Bronson’s Capital Way location are ready with a smile and welcome questions about what it’s like working for a local roaster.
Beyond creating rich, delicious coffee, their involvement in proactively making downtown Olympia, and the greater community, a better place to live is a model for local businesses large and small. With 30 years of history, the company has a strong commitment to the betterment of the downtown core in particular. Not only have they located their production facility downtown, but four of their five retail locations – Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters on Capitol Way, Dancing Goats Espresso Bars across from the Olympia Farmers Market and the kiosk inside Bayview Thriftway, and the Tasting Room inside the roastery- are all within the .5 square mile downtown Olympia neighborhood.
David Wasson, Chief Operating Officer and VP of Finance at Batdorf and Bronson, is passionate about supporting the development of downtown Olympia. He actively fosters partnerships with other businesses through his role as a business leader as well as in his role as a board member of the Olympia Downtown Association. Wasson believes it’s not enough for his company to simply locate their business in downtown Olympia. He knows that to truly effect change, to make the downtown the vibrant community hub he knows it can be, Batdorf and Bronson and their fellow small business owners must do more.Batdorf and Bronson’s roastery is located adjacent to the Olympia Farmers Market and includes their popular tasting room.
How does Wasson describe “more?” To start, Wasson would love to welcome more downtown businesses to join the Olympia Downtown Association. The Olympia Downtown Association does a lot of things business owners or store managers don’t have the time to do because they are running their own business. The ODA advocates for them on city issues pertaining to the well being of downtown offering one collective voice. The ODA is responsible for such beloved traditions as Music in the Park, a series of free outdoor concerts in the summer, the holiday kick-off event and parade Downtown for the Holidays, and the popular Girls Night Out.
“Businesses don’t have to join the ODA to benefit from all that they do,” Wasson explains. “People will come downtown for the ODA events and will shop and eat at downtown businesses whether they are members or not. However, I’d love to see all downtown businesses join, showing their support and commitment to making downtown better.”
“As a certified State Main Street community the ODA follows a nationally proven Main Street Four-Point Approach offering members many opportunities to be a part of the comprehensive process toward revitalizing everyone’s downtown,” says Vida Zvirzdys-Farler, Executive Director of the ODA. “Small, but dramatic, improvements remind the community that revitalization is working.Batdorf and Bronson is committed to supporting downtown, not just by doing business there, but also through support of the Olympia Downtown Association and other downtown non-profits.
“My hope is that we eventually have all downtown businesses listed as member and work together toward the common goal of improving downtown and bringing more of the community here to shop, eat and enjoy,” Wasson says.
Zvirzdys-Farler shares how the efforts organized by the group “have a positive impact on people, leaving them with fond memories and wanting to come back again.”
Beyond bringing commerce to downtown, the ODA works tirelessly to support safety and beautification efforts in downtown. “Safety has always been a top priority for ODA,” explains Zvirzdys-Farler. “A safe downtown attracts families and visitors to shop and experience the downtown culture. ODA organizes a semi-annual Downtown Clean Up event, calling for volunteers to come invest time in their downtown. ODA also manages the Volunteers in Paint Program which focuses on painting deteriorated buildings and alleyways.”
“A clean downtown is a safe downtown. A safe downtown attracts visitors, shoppers and diners creating commerce and prosperity,” says Zvirzdys-Farler.
While so many of us long to see revitalization and improvements in downtown, you might be left asking how a citizen can support the downtown merchants. Aside from showing your support by visiting downtown for regular shopping, entertainment and dining, you can become an informed consumer, supporting businesses that are, in turn, supporting our city.With four of their five locations in the downtown core, Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roaster exemplify a local business supporting their community.
“My dream would be for consumers to come to shop or eat downtown and ask business owners, ‘What do you do to support the downtown community?’” says Wasson. “It’s a great conversation starter to learn more about how businesses are actively engaged in improving downtown.”
Batdorf and Bronson engages in many ways beyond their ODA memberships. The business consistently donates coffee to numerous non-profit events including the Downtown Clean Up. They participate in the Intercity Transit Bicycle Commuter Contest. They support non-profit groups working tirelessly to help the homeless and youth in downtown Olympia, making it a friendlier place to visit.
Beyond donating time or money to these causes, we can choose to spend our money at businesses that do. “By choosing not just to buy local, but support the bigger picture with your dollars, consumers can make a big impact,” explains Wasson citing businesses engaged in community works such as The Popinjay, Encore Chocolates and Teas and Stormans (Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway).The Popinjay has been a long-time downtown supporter with owner Janis Dean serving on several boards and participating in the recent Twinklefest competition.
“Consumers should care if a business is an ODA member [and community supporter], because that means the business is investing in their downtown and believe in the power of partnership,” adds Wasson.
Next time you head out for a coffee date, need to purchase a unique gift, or are planning a dinner out, opt to spend your dollars at a downtown Olympia merchant. And while you dine or browse, ask a few questions about how the business engages in making our home a better place for us all.
The first thing you see when you walk into a Rob Rice Home is the Rice family photo, a clear indication that the home is built by a family business. The wife and mother in the photo is Helena Rice, a convincing cheerleader for the lovely homes they build, taking on many roles to promote Rob Rice Homes.
Wife, mother, marketer, social media generator, designer, generous community supporter and dog lover—she is good at them all.
Helena is beautiful with an outgoing and encouraging personality, a true asset for the area’s largest builder, its employees and the people that buy their homes. When you first meet Helena you feel like you have met a best friend.Helena and Rob Rice pose on their wedding day with their ring bearer and dog at the time, Bellamae.
“In a word, Helena cares,” says Ken Anderson owner and president of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty who has known Helena for 15 years. Anderson’s company markets and sells Rob Rice Homes. “She cares deeply about delivering exceptional value to their homebuyers. She is, and always has been, completely focused on quality and doing the right thing.”
Helena spent most of her childhood growing up on the Long Beach peninsula.
“My father was an architect so I grew up in the business,” she explains. “He designed civic buildings but also did custom buildings on the side.”
Helena went to college for fashion design and business in Southern California but during that time was hired by a large corporation, where she excelled at sales. The company transferred her all over Oregon, Washington and California and though she enjoyed her success, she eventually got tired of moving.
“I got my first dog, which was a life changing moment,” Helena explains. “The last place I landed was Olympia so I decided to settle here and went to work for The Olympian where I worked up to managing the advertising department.”
“When The Olympian first rolled out their website, the online sales manager and I launched the new sales program,” reflects Helena. “Rob Rice and Brian Fluetsch at Sunset Air were our first two targets. They were leading community members, so getting both of them to sign a contract would convince other businesses to do the same. That was our whole sales strategy. And, it worked.”
Serving on the board of the Olympia Master Builders (OMB) was where she got to know Rob better.
“At an OMB charity auction in 2001, I asked Rob about Daimon Doyle who had donated a sailing trip I was thinking about bidding on. He told me that he was a good guy and I would be in good hands. I took his advice, but when the bidding went too high for me, I stopped. The following Monday, Rob’s sales rep walked into my office with an envelope and it was the sailing trip. He had bought it for me. We eventually enjoyed that sailing trip as a couple.”Helena Rice is a wife, mom, marketer, sales expert and Rob Rice Homes’ biggest fan. She is pictured here with her son, Carson.
And the rest, they say, is history.
Marketing Expertise and Enthusiasm
Helena has proven to be the marketing genius behind the branding of Rob Rice Homes. Prior to the company’s name change, it was marketed as Gemini Homes and Epic Realty.
Rob was reluctant to promote his own name but Helena convinced him that buyers were not only buying his homes, but they were also buying the reputation of his name as a builder. It was important to brand the company with his name and people are proud they own a home with his name on it.
“I shy away from self-promotion, so it was difficult for me in the beginning,” says Rob. “Now that I have seen the success of the re-branding of our company name and what it means to our buyers, I’m so glad we did it.”
Real Estate Experts
For more than 20 years, Epic Realty has specialized in marketing new home construction and represents Rob Rice Homes in four of the nine communities where Rob is currently building.
Originally, Rob had co-owned Epic Realty with Kim Showalter and Helena began filling in with her expertise, helping them promote Rob Rice Homes.
It eventually made sense for Helena to buy Rob’s portion of the company.
“I gave him $10 in front of the attorneys and we signed the paperwork,” explains Helena. “Rob put that money in the visor of his truck to commemorate the sale.”Helena consults with Lisa Poundstone of Design Smart Home Staging at the model home in the Rob Rice community of Campus Peak.
Helena explains the impact of her involvement in Epic.
“We have changed our philosophy of selling. We recognize that our most important advocates are the brokers in the outside real estate community so we make it as easy as possible to sell our homes.”
She credits that change to taking the advice of Ken Anderson, whose company Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, markets and sells Rob Rice Homes in a number of their communities.
“Most home builders think a successful sales strategy is measured by how many in-house sales the builder’s own few agents make,” says Anderson. “In representing Rob Rice Homes, we know the sales force is the hundreds of licensed brokers selling real estate in our market. By being easier to sell, we mean that all brokers can easily learn about the homes, independently show them to clients, and have confidence writing purchase and sale agreements.”
Ken describes those agreements as an example of how the local builder eases the home purchase for brokers and buyers.
“Rob Rice Homes uses the NWMLS purchase and sale agreements, which are drafted by top attorneys in the state to balance both the interests of buyer and seller. These are forms that real estate brokers can fill out and provide the practical advice on their operation. This is a much more comfortable position for buyers and their agents to approach the purchase of a new home.”
Helena also oversees the exterior and interior design choices in Rob Rice Homes including their many upgrades like hardwood flooring, granite or quartz countertops and designer backsplash tile, all included in the price of the home.Rob and Helena and their two sons Alex Michael (right) and Carson (left) make Rob Rice Homes a family business.
“I am fortunate to work with Deanna Collins of Signature Interior and Design. I don’t ever have to decide what bath tiles I want for a bathroom or kitchen backsplash because Deanna provides exceptional design expertise that adds the wow factor to the stunning upgrades in our homes,” Helena says.
Small Town Giving
“Both Rob and I were raised in tiny, tiny towns,” notes Helena. “I graduated from high school with 32 people and Rob graduated with 12.”
“When you grow up in a small town where everyone knows everybody, your parents teach you to be aware of what you say and to be fair and do the right thing. We were both raised with a tremendous amount of integrity,” she adds.
That upbringing is reflected in the quality of the homes they build and Rob and Helena’s commitment to give back to the place they call home, where they are raising their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson.
Helena serves on the PTO of her son’s school, East Olympia Elementary, and is involved in youth sports organizations. Because of their love for animals, both Rob and Helena support Concern with Animals and honor their commitment to children and education through support of the Hands On Children’s Museum and Saint Martin’s University as well as numerous other charitable organizations.
Doing it All
When asked how she does it all, Helena first credits their partners.
“We have unbelievable partners that share our values and have worked for us for so long–some as many as 30 years,” she notes. “We sold 138 homes in 2015, a record-breaking year. At any given time, we have 75 homes under construction. We couldn’t do it all without a solid team in Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty and Epic Realty and all of our valued building partners.”
She enjoys the work too because she is convinced of the integrity of the builder she is married to.
“Rob volunteers on three boards and coaches his son’s basketball. Yet, he will drop everything to go help a homeowner,” says Helena. “He truly cares and has a big heart. We have such a good story to tell.”
Learn more about Rob Rice Homes on their website.
Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local home builder and was voted the Best of South Sound for 2013 and 2014. He has built more than 3,000 homes over the last 30 years. He and his wife Helena live in Olympia with their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson. Rob is a graduate of Washington State University with degrees in construction management and architecture.
If anyone had reasons to doubt, it was Gio Woods. But Woods, a 2004 River Ridge High School graduate, couldn’t quiet his ambition to play professional basketball. Apparently, “can’t” isn’t in this big dreamer’s vocabulary.
Coming out of a small college, Woods’ ambition to play pro basketball was, well, farfetched. It wasn’t like he was an All-American guard in college, starting for UCLA. He never even played Division I basketball and didn’t even start for some major, big-time college. He wasn’t even a full-time starter his senior year at Central Washington University, a Division II school. Instead, he was a sixth-man-to-the rescue, emergency points off the bench kind of guy. He averaged nearly 10 points.
Yet somehow, Woods, with this determined resilience, has proven that all that major-college resume stuff didn’t really matter. For the past six years, Woods has played professional basketball internationally in Europe, the Middle East and now Africa.Gio Woods has played professional basketball for six years around the world. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.
He’s played in Spain, Austria, Venezuela, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now in Africa. Woods flew to Tanesia, Africa, on Thursday, leaving his wife and three kids at home in Lacey.
“I just wanted to see the world,” Woods said about his die-hard ambition. “Where the opportunity calls, that’s where I’ll go.”
Woods says his life on the basketball court, traveling around the world, is simply an answer to no-quit determination, hard work and, most importantly he’ll tell you, prayer.
“God has taken me everywhere,” Woods said. “I asked to travel in my career. He’s definitely given that to me. I’m flying to different countries a lot. I’ve probably stepped foot into 20 different countries in six years.”
The roots for his big-dream ambition is part genetic. Both his mom and dad played professional basketball in Germany in the 1980s. However, before Woods would ever get a pro offer, he had to audition. Since no one was knocking on his door, he went to Las Vegas for tryouts with both the NBA’s Development League and for European teams. That first year after graduating from Central, Woods didn’t get a contract offer. So, he coached high school basketball with his dad, George Woods, in Michigan for six months.A 2004 graduate of River Ridge High School, Gio Woods married his high school sweetheart, Destiney. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.
Woods’ dream then took him to tryouts in North Carolina and back to Las Vegas. He played in three or four different European camps and then it started to happen.
“I was getting like five offers between two camps,” Woods said. “And I signed my first deal to go to Spain.”
He signed his first professional contract to play in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.
“It was a good experience. I played there for a year,” Woods said. “The next year I went back to Vegas again for more tryouts.”
That led to his second deal, a contract to play in Kapfenberg, Austria. The next year he went to Venezuela for four months to play basketball. That was a short league and Woods received a Player of the Year award.
“We lost in the semifinals that year,” Woods said.
After that, Woods left Europe and headed for the Middle East and ended up signing with Iraq last year. In January 2015, he left Iraq and signed a deal to go to Saudi Arabia for five months and ended up playing well and led the league in scoring. He averaged 32 points a game.Gio Woods holds trophies that he has received while playing professional basketball. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.
“As an American import, they want you to come over and basically lead the team,” Woods said. “Whether it’s in scoring or a leader on the floor, they want you to lead the team. Europe is more team oriented.”
When you play pro basketball in the Middle East, you get a paycheck to score points.
“If you can’t score 30, they’ll send you home and get someone else,” Woods said. “They definitely want you to come out and show the fans why America is pretty much the best for basketball and that we have the best players.”
This past summer, he signed and played in Qatar. He came home for Christmas and ended up cutting his contract with the team.
“And I signed the deal to go with Tanesia,” Woods said.
That is the life of someone earning a paycheck. Players often make $60,000-plus a season to play professional basketball in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Woods’ family includes his wife, Destiney, who was his high school sweetheart and three children – two girls and a boy ranging in age from 5-years-old to just four months. This time, Woods left his family at home. The season ends in April and he’ll be back home. But he’ll survive. He’ll be staying in a hotel and getting three meals a day as part of his contract.Gio Woods headed out on January 14, 2016 to play professional basketball in Africa.
All along, as Woods has bounced from country to country, team to team, his goal has remained the same.
“My goal is just to make sure that my family is financially set,” Woods said. “That’s why I play – to make sure they’re well taken care of financially. If I stopped today, I could say that I played professional basketball for six years. A lot of people I grew up with can’t say the same thing. It’s very hard to get into this profession. I will be comfortable with myself knowing that I got an opportunity to do this.”
It’s been a dream come true.
Reform needed for our state’s system of Legal Financial Obligations
Debtors’ prisons were abolished in 1842, yet people in Washington and around the country continue to be jailed for failing to keep up on payments for court-imposed fees. Others remain trapped for life in spiraling debt. Washington’s system of Legal Financial Obligations is destructive, advocates say, and the Legislature has an opportunity to change it.
Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) are charged to defendants in addition to jail time to compensate victims and finance legal or administrative services. A 2014 report by the ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services (CLS) found that Superior Courts in Washington can impose up to 20 different types of fees. Some LFOs—such as victim restitution and a DNA database fee—are required by state law. Others are discretionary, and include fees for requesting a jury trial, using a public defender, or even an annual $100 “collection fee.”
LFOs accrue interest at a rate of 12 percent. The high interest rates and the annual collection fees have the effect of exacting a harsher penalty on people living in poverty, who pay more over a longer period of time than people with the means to pay off their fees at once. In some cases, a person can make steady payments for life without ever paying down their debt.
The Blazina decision
State law requires judges to look at a defendant’s individual circumstances and ability to pay before imposing discretionary LFOs, but this determination has not been consistently applied. The 2014 ACLU/CLS report cited that discretionary LFOs were “routinely” imposed on poverty-stricken defendants in the four counties they investigated, including Thurston County.
The State Supreme Court brought this issue to the forefront last March when it announced its decision in State of Washington v. Blazina. The case involved two Pierce County defendants that were given LFOs far exceeding their capacity to pay. The decision called out the trial court’s responsibility to conduct an individualized assessment to verify ability to pay before imposing discretionary fees.
Efforts have been underway to inform clients and attorneys about defendants’ rights and the standard for determining ability to pay. Nick Allen, a staff attorney in the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services, points to a workgroup held by the Washington State Office of Public Defense and the CLE courses it has led throughout the state as signs of progress.
Judge Carol Murphy, Presiding Judge for Thurston County Superior Court, said in an email that she estimates that discretionary fees have been ordered less frequently in recent years in Thurston County as a result of “increased awareness by the parties, attorneys, and judges.”
Still, Allen notes discrepancies in the way the law is enforced throughout the state. “It’s not necessarily being followed everywhere,” he said.
Preventing courts from imposing LFOs on indigent defendants is only half the battle. The other challenge is ensuring people are not jailed for inability to pay.
Federal law states that a person can only be incarcerated for “willfully” refusing to pay, but there is no standard on how “willfully” is defined. Allen has seen people arrested over perceived signs of financial means that do not take into account an objective measure of a person’s economic status, citing cigarettes or a nice wristwatch as justification for incarceration. Others have been jailed for failing to contact a clerk.
Statistics on imprisonment over nonpayment vary from county to county, but nowhere in Washington locks up more indebted prisoners than Benton County, where one in five inmates is behind bars because of legal debts.
The ACLU filed suit against the county in October alleging that it “jails, threatens to jail, or forces manual labor” on people who are unable to pay. While the situation in Benton County is particularly severe, it is emblematic of a larger problem across the state.
Trapped for life
Incarceration for indebtedness is only the most visible way that LFOs imprison offenders after they’ve done their time. The more insidious damage comes from mounting debt that can follow an offender for life.
LFOs begin accruing interest at a rate of 12 percent on the date of the order, so debts can balloon substantially by the time the inmate is released from jail. Re-entry is challenging, and economic hardship can linger. The ACLU/CLS report noted that as many as three in five newly-released offenders are unable to find work one year out of prison. In this situation, even the basics can be out of reach.
“It might not sound like much to the average person out there,” Allen said. “But $25 a month, for a lot of these folks, is unpayable.”
The debt keeps growing, and the threat of incarceration for nonpayment looms.
People relying on public assistance are almost categorically indigent, but the 2014 ACLU/CLS report found that many people in Thurston County are routinely required to apply these benefits toward paying down their debt.
Offenders are not the only ones to pay the price. The report also found that in many counties, annual collection fees are often skimmed off the top rather than paid down after restitution, delaying compensation for victims.
The way out
Washington has a ready-made roadmap to end this cycle. House Bill 1390, which was introduced last year, would eliminate interest for non-discretionary LFOs, prioritize payment to victims over court and legal fees, and establish clear guidelines for what constitutes willful nonpayment and ability to pay.
This bipartisan legislation passed out of the House with a vote of 94-4, but it was amended in the Senate to weaken many of the House provisions and remove the courts’ responsibility to make an individual assessment of the defendant’s ability to pay before imposing LFOs.
The amendment, which was explicitly retroactive, would have nullified the Supreme Court’s Blazina decision. This scenario was unacceptable to advocates, who say an individualized examination of ability to pay is the underpinning of any semblance of fairness in our system of LFOs.
“The principle of the Blazina case…should be strengthened, not reversed,” Sam Merrill, former Clerk of the Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy (FCWPP), said in an email.
Merrill has been active in advocating on this issue with the Olympia-based Justice Not Jails, a group of Friends (Quakers), Unitarian-Universalists, and other concerned individuals aiming to reform our justice system. People interested in supporting this effort can work with Justice Not Jails to take part.
Like Merrill, Allen was frustrated by the changes the Senate made to the bill last year. Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about the prospects for the coming session:
“The 94-4 passage on the House side shows that this is not a partisan issue—there’s bipartisan support. We’re seeing that what the Supreme Court said in Blazina is true, and that is that we have a broken LFO system…Legislators want to fix that broken LFO system, and there’s no better time than now to do this.”
Michaela Williams is a former legislative staffer. She lives in Olympia, WA.
Editor’s note: According to the Tri-City Herald, on December 1, Benton County Commissioners voted to eliminate credit for jail or work crews to pay off debt. ACLU’s lawsuit continues though because there are people still in jail and warrants are still being written for “outstanding obligations.”
A look back at this nation’s rejection of Jewish refugees during WW II
(The following is an edited version of a talk at a forum held at The Evergreen State College—After Paris: Responding to Islamophobia and the Refugee Crisis—given by Peter Bohmer on December 2, 2015)
First, a little about my parents and grandparents
My family is from central Europe; my mother and father were born and grew up in Vienna, Austria as assimilated Jews. In March 1938, the Austrian government welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany although there was some popular resistance. Germany immediately annexed Austria. My dad who was 22-years-old was arrested and imprisoned in late March 1938 for activity in the Jewish community. He was beaten by the guards but was released in August 1938. My parents immediately fled Austria for France which let in many Jews though they also limited entry; e.g., from Poland which had the largest Jewish population in Europe.
An imminent invasion of France by German was expected so my parents knew they needed to leave France as soon as possible. They wanted to immigrate to Australia or the United States, but, at first, couldn’t get a visa to either. They were able to find a U.S. sponsor and with the assistance of an official in the U.S. embassy in France they came to the U.S. a year later in June, 1939, shortly before German occupied France.
The St. Louis, a ship with 900 Jews fleeing Germany was refused entry to the United States in the same year and was sent back—one-third of whom were later killed in concentration camps. The majority of Jews who applied for entry into the United States between 1938 and 1940 were refused permission.
In 1939, my grandmother managed to escape from Vienna to Sweden where we had relatives. She was unable to get a visa to the United States even though my parents were sponsoring her. She finally received one from Cuba where she lived until 1946 when she got a United States visa permitting her to come to Queens, NY where we grew up.
Her ex-husband, my grandfather, also left Vienna returning to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia where he was born and had grown up. He was hidden on a farm by a Catholic family for the entire war. He died of cancer in 1945, shortly before the war ended. He was a holocaust victim because he was prevented from going to a hospital for fear of being discovered. The family who hid him for five years committed a courageous act of solidarity. They risked their own lives to help my grandfather. I hope people here today have the same courage.
I have recounted this family history because of the many analogies between the situation and treatment of Jewish and Roma (sometimes called Gypsies) at the beginning of World War II with Syrians today. If the United States and England and other countries outside of Europe had opened their borders more widely, hundreds of thousands or more Jews and others fleeing fascist persecution would have survived.
During the period of the late 1930’s and 1940-1941when emigration from Europe was more possible than later in the war though was severely restricted (by whom?), the primary reasons given for limiting Jewish entry into the United States in this period included the following:
Consider the analogy to Islamophobia. To Islamophobes, Islam is an alien religion that threatens “our” values and therefore Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis should not be permitted to enter. It is Jeb Bush and the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, saying the U.S. should only accept Syrian Christians.
This is analogous to the argument today and especially since 9/11/2001 in the U.S., Canada and many European countries that Muslims are taking over, want to take over and therefore should be excluded.
This two to one ratio against Jewish entry, 75 years ago, is similar to many polls today on whether to admit Syrian refugees to the United States. In a recent Washington Post poll, 54% responded they were against any Syrians being admitted. Thirty-one governors support stopping all Syrians refugees from living in their states, either permanently or temporarily, until there is careful checking one by one of each person applying to live there. Fortunately governors do not have that power, only the federal government does. These pronouncements by these governors both reflect and contribute to the anti-refugee and anti-Arab and Anti-Islamic climate that we must challenge in words and practice.
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill in which 47 Democrats joined 242 Republicans that calls for temporarily banning all Syrian and Iraqi applicants from gaining refugee status.
In my research on this claim, I found only one person was charged as a Nazi spy even though the FBI conducted thorough investigations of those seeking entry, which continued long after their entry to the United States. My own parents were again interrogated by the FBI after a few years to determine whether they were Nazi agents; they were not.
A similar claim is being made today in the U.S. although not one person convicted in the U.S. of a terrorist attack here is a Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan refugee. There are already thorough security background checks of those who want to come here. Moreover, the price of trying to obtain absolute security means closing and further militarizing our borders with increased surveillance and police powers at home. Meanwhile, the cost in human lives caused by exclusion is immoral and, therefore, not acceptable.
A sign at a recent anti-refugee demonstration at the State Capitol on November 20, 2015 read “Vets Before Refugees.”
This was also the argument in the late 1930’s, in a period of even higher unemployment and poverty than now. There are 40 million poor people in the United States, using government definitions, and in reality twice that, continuing racial and women’s oppression, growing economic inequality, police violence and mass incarceration disproportionately against Black, Latino and Native Americans, and many other issues. However, the people who oppose Syrian refugees and immigrants are also the same people who oppose policies such as full employment, raising the minimum wage, reproductive rights, veteran’s benefits, and taxing the wealthy and corporations, all of which would help both refugees and the oppressed here. These right-wing fear based politics go far beyond Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
The estimated cost of Obama’s proposed resettlement plan of Syrians in the U.S. in 2016 is $1.2 billion. A 20% additional tax on the income of top 1% would yield over $600 billion dollars a year, which could end homelessness and make housing more affordable, fund free college for all, provide affordable and universal high quality health care and make childcare more accessible. It could end poverty. In addition, the government could raise the minimum wage, and at little cost could increase employment. So it will not either help refugees or help people already living here, but will help both.
We need to strengthen social movements demanding immigrant, economic and social justice and/or supporting candidates such as Bernie Sanders who wants to both support refugees and U.S. residents. This is not meant as an endorsement of Sanders as he does have limitations, but he does address many of these urgent issues. If we cut the military budget and release many prisoners there is even more money available for ending poverty and accepting refugees.
In addition, I was in Greece last summer, a country whose population is equivalent to that of Washington and Oregon, but where more than 700,000 refugees have entered during the last year— the majority Syrian. For the most part, those entering Greece do not stay for extended periods. They enter primarily on small boats from Turkey and hope to go further west. Many die during their passage to Greece in overcrowded boats not built for rough waters. There is an intense exploitation by those profiting from organizing these dangerous voyages similar to those profiting from the immigration to the United State of those fleeing economic and political violence from Mexico and Central America who are also refugees. I am impressed by the solidarity exhibited by thousands of Greek people, many whom are poor and unemployed, sharing their food, clothing, medicines, and even their houses with refugees. We can do that here, too.
Obama has proposed resettling 10,000 Syrians in the United States in 2016 and has challenged the extreme fortress America, close our borders rhetoric. This is positive move, but admitting only 10,000 is insufficient. It is analogous to the limited entry that was granted to Jews, Roma and others fleeing the Nazis. According to the United Nations there are four million Syrian refugees outside of Syria, mainly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and seven million internally displaced refugees—together almost half of the Syrian population. They are victims of ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the murderous Syrian State of Bashar al-Assad. According to the UN, more than 250,000 Syrians have been murdered since 2011, mainly by the Assad government. The numbers are growing daily. This is equivalent in relation to population of three million people being killed in the United States. We should be accepting and welcoming far more than 10,000 Syrians a year.
France, even after the horrific November 13 mass murder in Paris said they would still accept 30,000 Syrians over the next two years.
There are many parallels to past U.S. fears and restricted permission of Jews and others fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930’s and early 1940’s to the almost total exclusion of Syrians today including the restrictions on entry for those from Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, and Central America, thousands of which are Central American children.
I make this comparison because it is far easier to criticize the past and its accepted ideology of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathy than the Islamophobia of the present. In general, we are not as conscious of how inhuman and reactionary is the current ideology that espouses anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rationalizations because we hear these ideas daily. I ask you to be as critical of our current anti-refugee and discriminatory policies as we now are now of the policies in the late 1930’s.
We should talk to our friends, acquaintances, family, fellow students and workers, in our places of worship and in our communities about fighting fear-based racist politics and welcome to the United States those whose lives are in danger. Syrian refugees are victims and not the cause of the extreme violence and growing poverty in Syria.
One concrete step at the Evergreen State College that we can do is to invite Syrians outside the United States to apply as students and make it affordable for them to attend. Other institutions should figure out concrete ways to aid Syrians and other refugees such as providing sanctuary. We should all be educating the public and changing policy.
Let us learn from our mistake so we do not repeat the harm that was caused so long ago.
Peter Bohmer is a professor of economics at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
Regarding fossil fuels
Everyone wants to believe the agreement reached in Paris is definitely “better than nothing.” For all countries, big and small, this “self-prescribed” neutrality climate pledge of 2 degrees-with 1.5 Celsius appears to be a good idea. However, voluntary compliance seems a rudimentary flaw in the plan–a serious misstep in creating the setting for this somewhat lofty, more likely unachievable goal. According to 350.org, “this agreement finalized by politicians” is unmonitored (for all practical purposes) and voluntary, leaving many skeptical as it should us all. While it may look beneficial on paper, as a practical application it makes little sense. Another flaw is its intent to begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground at mid-century—another serious misstep for its failure to address the current crisis, a crisis fully exposed by the scientific community, yet underplayed by the greed of others.
Who are responsible for creating this nonbinding, voluntary, self-monitored deal? Huh? (Answer me that!)
As broadcast on Democracy Now!, the treatment of “Rising Tide” activists and others in Paris was unsettling. Rising Tide was the brains behind “Shell No” and the resistance to Shell’s oil drilling rigs seeking shelter at the Port of Seattle. They, along with a coalition of organizations and individuals, also resisted Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic. Peaceful kayak demonstrations were staged to draw attention to the proposed Arctic oil drilling—a proposal with potentially immeasurable threats to waters and people. Known as peaceful and informative group in Paris, Rising Tide and other individuals were forcibly removed from the “Paris Petroleum Fair” for nothing more than a gathering to expose the plan of the corporation-Engie to frack across Europe. The company is also known in Australia for its effects on health and the environment by its coal industry. For this peaceful appearance, they were forcibly removed from the Paris affair, many carried out in the arms of police wearing riot gear and away from the booths set up for fossil fuels corporations to exhibit their wares. Journalists were blocked from filming.
So what does this say for the rest of us and our voice in the climate summit in Paris? Not much.
It leads one to wonder whether this supposed quantum leap for climate control gives us any leverage for our own grassroots posturing for the health and safety of our citizens here in Washington or Grays Harbor or Vancouver or Anacortes or Cherry Point. We are a citizenry that is in opposition to an unbelievable 20-some proposals to place billions of gallons of oil and coal in our own backyards and in and on our coastal waters. Must we wait and see if the Paris “voluntary” agreement plays out? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been fracked in North Dakota and hauled through our state? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been barged out and tankered away to China? Must we wait in the anticipation of these billions of gallons of coal and oil to be burned and the carbon emissions blow back to Washington contributing to our carbon emissions here and elsewhere? Wait and see as the agreement states, until 80% fossil fuel is still left in the ground-checking every five years to see if everyone is following the Paris playing rules?
Time is of the essence…we need leverage here and now. Excuse me if the Paris “Agreement” seems so far away, so nebulous, too big or badly organized to function efficiently: unwieldy. That it requires too much watchdogging. And there remain several, more legitimate questions: How does this “agreement” trickle down? Better, yet, does it trickle down to the people at the bottom of the power heap? Were the people equitably, or even remotely, represented at COP21? Probably not, if Rising Tide was shown the door at this Paris Exhibit. Probably not, if most were in the streets carrying signs and not at the table talking. Were the people by the railroad tracks in the blast zone or living on the edge of toxic coal mines and terminals here in the U.S.A represented? The Indigenous peoples in North Dakota, the Bakken Shale, whose homeland is being toxified and fracked to death-now-today! Talk about a government ignoring the plight of a suffering group! You will find it right here in this country. In the blast zone!
It is difficult to grasp the idea that progress was made in Paris and to be reassured that the effects of climate change effects will be lessened. An agreement that will “begin leaving fossil fuel in the ground at midcentury” is especially hard to grasp when you are sitting in your house near the railroad tracks in Aberdeen, Washington, waiting for those explosive, polluting crude oil trains to come rolling by on a more than daily basis. The threat of losing your home is very real. The threat of losing the value of your home by 30% is more real.
And what about the millions of gallons of oil placed beside a wildlife refuge that hosts thousands of globally migrating shoreline birds; the monopolization of the Port of Grays Harbor by 2.7 billion gallons of crude oil, yearly. The oil barges and tanks that are coming will be here at the expense of the Quinault Indians’ treaty rights of 1856. Each crude oil train carries far more than was spilled by The Exxon Valdez in 1989 on waters not yet restored and financial obligations not yet paid to those who lost everything. It could happen to us.
In spite of public outcry and 122,000 public comments against coal and crude oil shipments by rail, and against Imperium & Westway’s storage and shipping in Grays Harbor, the beat goes on. Those living in Vancouver await the verdict of Tesoro—the largest proposed crude oil terminal in America poised for operation. While Paris talked, Tesoro readies to fire up their business of oil, toxicity, and the probable ruination of a coastline and marine life. Big Oil Tesoro needs only a wink and a nod from our governors. But he could say, “No, now; we’re not waiting for mid-century.” He could volunteer to implement climate change here in his home state. Now.
As for me, this Paris voluntary climate change stuff rings less of progress and more of placebo—the logic of it escapes me. Perhaps there is little logic to it, huh, Governor? Undoubtedly, Washington State’s governor took notes on ways to implement the Paris Climate Agreement in order to decrease carbons and save our lives, health, water and environment-beginning with efforts here in Washington State. Right now, before mid-century when the Paris Agreement fires up. Right now is the chance for the “green” governor to help us continue our status as the Evergreen State! We cannot wait for the Paris agreement to kick in. No to fossil fuel infrastructure in Washington State…now.
Paris is too little, too late. It may be better than nothing. We’ll see come midcentury or beyond.
Carol Seaman lives on the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor.
The post The difference between what was signed in Paris and what we need in Washington—now! appeared first on Works in Progress.
Northwest firm is behind Longview refinery, Arctic drilling, and more
The fossil fuel divestment movement has scored a string of successes across the country, convincing universities, cities, and philanthropies to dump their investments in coal and oil. Now, as the Northwest stares down the barrel of five Keystone XLs’ worth of pipelines and export terminals, it’s time to turn the same sort of scrutiny on the lobbying and PR firms who do Big Oil’s dirty work locally.
Over the last few years, Sightline has shined a light on a range of firms surreptitiously pocketing dirty coal and oil money—and perhaps no group deserves a more gimlet eye than Strategies 360.
Senior staff at the firm make liberal use of a revolving door between big business and government: they rotate from top flight positions in Washington’s state capitol…
To read more, go to http://www.sightline.org/2015/06/10/stop-doing-business-with-strategies-360/
The post Strategies 360—oil and coal lobbyists who wield great influence in state government appeared first on Works in Progress.