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The Comfort Letter – Writing Notes of Love to Accompany Non-Perishable Items

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 7:02am



By Nikki McCoy

putnam lieb logoIt’s that time of year again, to find the coveted Ticonderoga pencils, search out the fine-tip Crayola’s and the Star Wars spiral notebooks, making sure the kid’s have everything they need for a successful new school year.

But what about the “other” part of the school supply list?

At Olympia area schools, an Emergency Preparedness Kit is required. The daunting request that parents provide non-perishable food items, water bottles and a space blanket in case of emergency.

emergency kit school

A few staples for an Emergency Kit.

And at most schools, a family photo and letter from home for comfort, are also required.

“The number one reason we ask parents to do this is that there is always a possibility of disaster,” says Jeff Carpenter, health and fitness director for Olympia School District. “We want them to be prepared, and to individualize (the emergency kit) with something specific is good for the kids…the whole thing is to have the kids in a situation where they are as comfortable as possible.”

I don’t know about you, but this is where my super mom skills come to a halt. Yes, I can find the must-have tissue box, and even pick out one with a fancy design, but write a letter to my kiddo in case we are separated for days on end? How will I relay such a big topic to such a little kid? And how do I keep myself from crying while doing it?

This is where I call in the professionals.

“Two things come to mind for these types of situations,” says Lillie McCatty, licensed mental health counselor and state recognized child mental health specialist  “One is about co-regulation, for example, my baby is calm when I’m calm. The other is about addressing your child where he or she is at.”

“Co-regulation is something we can see really clearly in babies,” she continues. “For example if my baby starts fussing, and I get upset, my baby fusses more, but if my baby starts fussing, and I’m calm, with a soothing presence, the baby is likely to calm as well.  This type of emotional dependence and learning continues into school years.”

Remember that your child is looking to your letter to figure out how to respond to this crisis, so keep calm and hopeful, McCatty recommends. Don’t promise things you aren’t sure you can deliver. And offer confident words of encouragement and validation.

McCatty suggests including phrases like:

  • “I know you’re scared, but I also know you are brave and strong.”
  • “I’m doing everything I can to make sure we can be together again soon.”
  • “I’m so glad you are safe at school with your friends and teachers. I know they are taking good care of you while we’re apart.”

Another mental health professional, Candyce Bollinger, a counselor and parent-educator for over 30 years, echoes McCatty’s advice.

how to write comfort letter school

I turned to two local professionals for help on crafting my Comfort Letter that will be placed in the Emergency Kit.

“A couple things come to mind that are helpful when writing a comfort letter,” says Bollinger. “I think it’s important to reassure and remind children how many people they have to take care of them. Especially if they are separated, it’s important to feel they have a circle of caring.”

“I also think it’s super important for parents to view their children as resilient in times like this,” she adds. “So when they write these letters, they should be empowering, and that has to start with the parents viewing their children as resilient and not as fragile as they may feel.”

“It might be useful for parents to remind their children of specific tools they may have, specific strengths, so they have some sense of empowerment,” continues Bollinger.

Parent Justin Wright has written comfort letters every year for his son, a fifth-grader at ORLA Montessori School.

“It makes me sad to even consider a time may come when that is his only connection to us,” reflects Wright. “I also feel proud of the work we’ve done toward building his confidence and perseverance.”

“He has grown so much in the last year I will be able to point out ways he has overcome tasks he thought would be impossible,” continues Wright.  ”He’s taken solo bus rides, successfully started a camp fire, been independent at music festivals, and tried new foods… things that could translate into emergency level skills. Also his sense of humor and cooperation will help others who are also feeling fear.”

Thanks to these awesome Olympia resources, I have a better understanding of this whole letter thing. I feel more secure sending my kids to school, one as a big third-grader, the other, my baby, will start kindergarten.

Now, where’s that fancy tissue box? I think I’ve got something in my eye.


Olympia Schools Shift School Snacks after USDA Standards Updated

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 7:00am



By Katie Hurley

capital medical centerSchool bake sales, once the bread and butter of school club fundraising, may soon be a thing of the past.  On July 1, 2014 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented Smart Snacks in Schools standards that apply to all foods served in public schools during the school day, whether sold by vending machines or fundraising groups like clubs, sports teams or parent/teacher groups.

snacks mixed nutsHighlights of the Smart Snacks standards, mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, include:

  • More of the foods we should encourage, including more whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein
  • Less of the foods we should avoid, like foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium
  • Targeted standards that allow variations such as portion size and caffeine content, based on age group
  • Flexibility for important traditions. Parents may still send their children to school with homemade lunches, or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations, and schools can continue traditions such as fundraisers and bake sales on a very limited basis if their district administration permits.
  • Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Standards affect only foods that are sold on the school campus during the school day. Foods sold at after-school sports events or other activities, and food sold for consumption off-premises (such as cookie dough fundraisers) will not be subject to these requirements.
  • Flexibility for State and local communities. The standards allow for significant local and regional autonomy by establishing only minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards will be able to maintain their own policies.

The new guidelines apply to all food sold to students during the school day. Interpretation of the guidelines is complicated, with many foods falling into multiple categories depending on the preparation. For example, soybeans could qualify as a protein, a vegetable or a snack, depending on how they are prepared. In each category there are different limits on calories, fat content and sodium content. A side salad containing only vegetables can be served in any quantity, but once salad dressing is added, the whole dish will be subject to the calories, sodium, fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sugar limits for a side dish.

snacks gorp fruit nutThe new rules will be especially impactful for parent groups that run student stores. At the middle schools in the Olympia School District, the student stores are operated by parent groups as fundraisers. The income generated in the stores provides funding for everything from teacher grants to sports uniforms.

Jefferson Middle School’s student store is the main fundraiser for the Jefferson Student Service Organization (JSSO) and the new rules mean changes in the student store inventory. Some of the higher fat, higher sodium items like chips and pepperoni sticks will be replaced by lower sodium baked chips and low fat string cheese, and Candy Fridays will be replaced by Smoothie Fridays.

Marshall Middle School’s tradition of Smoothie Fridays, where students can buy $1 fruit and yogurt smoothies made by parent volunteers, meets the new requirements.

In response to the new rules, some manufacturers like Kellogg’s, Campbell’s and Otis Spunkmeyer have reformulated products or created new product lines that comply, though most of these new products are only available in commercial packaging through foodservice distributors at this time.  The published list of approved processed foods mainly covers foodservice packaging at this time, but the list is growing monthly and is starting to include products more readily available to consumers.

For more information on how your favorite foods stack up, check out the USDA approved product calculator from Alliance for a Healthier Generation.


Wilson and Mackison Combine Talent and Grit to Reach Junior Olympics

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 6:47am



By Gail Wood

les schwabAs a youth track coach, Drew Stevick looks for two basic things in the kids who turn out for his Olympia club team.

Naturally, there’s talent – the skill that makes them athletic. Then there’s the “want to,” the having-fun desire to be at practice or at a meet.

barron park striders

This was the first year of competitive runner with the Barron Park Striders for 8-year-old Clara Mackison.

Both 8-year-old Clara Mackison and 12-year-old Colby Wilson have those ingredients – skill and desire. That combination was why they both qualified for USATF National Junior Olympics earlier this summer while training with Stevick’s Barron Park Striders.

Despite her young age, Clara, in her first year of track, showed the discipline and determination to work hard at practice. Then on meet days, she wasn’t overcome with nervousness or the anxiety of a challenge. At nationals, she threw a personal best in the javelin to place third.

“She’s a gifted girl, very focused,” Stevick said. “She’s competitive. Competing doesn’t bother her. She thrives on it.”

Beside the javelin, Mackleson also qualified for nationals, which were held in Humboldt, Texas, just outside of Houston, in 800 and 1,500 meters.

“She’s quit the combination of somebody who is powerful in a throwing sense and can also run,” Stevick said.

Colby is also a mix of talent. As a runner, thrower and jumper, Colby qualified for nationals in the pentathlon, high jump and hurdles, placing eighth in the high jump.

“He’s been an incredible athlete,” Stevick said.

Unfortunately, Colby had the flu the week before nationals and still he wasn’t feeling great at nationals.

“He wasn’t at his best,” Stevick said. “He could have been fourth or fifth in the pentathlon.”

Both Colby and Clara have parents with the proper perspective, Stevick said. They’re supporters, not pushers.

barron park striders

Colby Wilson, a 12-year-old student at Griffin School, qualified for the USATF Junior Olympics in pentathlon, high jump and hurdles.

“Clara has a great family,” Stevick said. “They don’t push her. Part of our club philosophy is that we give parents and kids an excuse to go places together. She’s a perfect example of that.”

Clara, now a second grader at Roosevelt Elementary School, has surprised even her parents, Amanda and James Mackison, with her quick rise from rookie to national qualifier.

“This is her first time trying track,” Amanda said. “We don’t have a track background, so we were surprised how well she did.”

With the Barron Park Striders, which Stevick has directed since 1991, parents are invited to come to practice and work out with their kids. Colby’s parents, Craig and Cristin Wilson, turned out for track when they were in school.

Craig said he grew up around track since his dad was a track coach and his wife was a hurdler and high jumper.

“Colby will be able to outdo us when it’s all said and done,” Craig said. “Colby grew up playing everything in sports and everything fell in line with track.”

At nationals, Clara dropped to sixth place in the javelin after four throws, but then she popped a personal best, breaking the club record with a throw of 54′ 1″ to earn a bronze medal. The top six finishers all threw over 50 feet.

Junior Olympics Regionals 061Clara ran the 800 in 3:07 and the 1,500 in 6:29. Colby ran the 80-meter hurdles in 12.9 and cleared 4-9 in the high jump. At regionals, Clara broke the meet record in the javelin by over 2 feet.

“She just got better as the season went on,” Stevick said. “She was working on her steps and working on lining it all up. It was fun to see her do it on a big stage like that.”

Stevick, who threw the javelin in college and was invited to the Olympic Trials, said Clara isn’t afraid to push herself in practice. She’s a hard worker. But Stevick always makes sure no one on his club team pushes themselves too hard.

“We have to error on the side of underdoing it in terms of training,” Stevick said. “That’s because you don’t want them to hate it.”

Working too hard, pushing too hard, can lead to burnout. The time will come when the hard workout is appropriate.

“There will always be time in high school and college to maximize training,” Stevick said. “You want kids to really enjoy it. You want them to wish they could work more.”

Clara had run with the South Sound YMCA before and showed an interest in turning out, as her parents suggested, for the Barren Park Striders.

“She just likes to run,” Amanda said. “So, we said let’s try track. And she had some success. She rose to the occasion. We look forward to what happens next.”

At first, Amanda was hesitant to let her young daughter go to nationals.

barron park striders

Colby Wilson (left) trained with Capital’s Ryan Chase over the summer.

“We debated if she should go to nationals because she’s so young,” Amanda said. “But she wanted to go.”

The objective of Stevick’s track club isn’t to see how many national championships his team can win. It’s about helping kids realize their talent and helping families come together.

The Barron Park Striders started in 1988 by Stevick in Palo Alto, Calif. He moved to Olympia in 1991. The club is open to youths ages 5 to 15. In 2013, over 100 kids were on the track and cross country teams. There were 12 who qualified for nationals that year and 23 club records were broken.

This year three from the Olympia club advanced to the USATF National Junior Olympics. Besides Clara and Colby, Ryan Chase from Capital High School qualified in the decathlon and finished second and James Rodeman from Yelm High School finished fifth. Over the summer, Ryan worked out with Colby, becoming a mentor and a coach.

“It’s a cool relationship they started up,” Craig said. “He’s passing it on.”


Party for a Good Cause with Brats, Brews and Bands

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 6:19am



By Alyssa Ramsfield

olympia beer event

Beer and wine will be on tap at this year’s Brats, Brews, and Bands event. Photo credit: Jeffrey Ott

On Saturday, September 6, the Brats, Brews, and Bands Festival plans to put to the “fun” into fundraising! Sponsored by Thurston County’s newest rotary, Gateway Rotary, the event is set to bring in money to support a variety of local charities and bring the community together.

The Gateway Rotary Club is only 3 years old, but it is already leaving a lasting impression across Thurston County. “Rotary International is first and foremost a service organization,” explains President of Gateway Rotary, Jonathan Sprouffske. “Our goal is to do service for our community. We decided early on that our focus would be specifically on children’s needs in Thurston County. Our biggest donations go to the local Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.”

“We started with only 24 members in the club,” says Sprouffske. “We had a vision of what we wanted to accomplish in our community and we’ve been striving to do that. We are now up to 80 members and continuing to grow! It has been amazing to watch just how many people want to make a positive impact on our community and we are always looking for more people to join us in our mission.”

Part of that positive impact includes putting together the Brats, Brews, and Bands Festival as a fundraiser. “It’s our first club fundraiser,” describes Sprouffske. “Last year, it was a two day event, but this year we wanted to focus on making a one day event that packs a punch! We are constantly thinking of ways we can make this year more successful than the last. We want people to come out and have a good time all while raising money for our community.”

Last year, the Gateway Rotary was able to raise money to support local charities including The Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County, The Gold Star Wives of America, Lacey Police Explorers, Cool Jazz Clean Water, Rebuilding Together Thurston County, and Homeless Backpacks.

olympia brew event

Gourmet brats will be served to help support local charities through Gateway Rotary’s Brats, Brews, and Bands event. Photo credit: Jeffrey Ott

Volunteers are a very important aspect of the event. “We really couldn’t do it without them,” says Sprouffske. Volunteers are admitted to the event free of charge and are asked to help out in three-hour shifts. A few of the available jobs during the event include food runner, grounds crew, gate guards, and beer/wine support. All interested volunteers must at least 21 with a valid I.D.

“Fifteen dollars gets you a lot,” explains Event Chair, Jerry Farmer. “Bands will be playing all day long and you get a taster card for three beers. Once inside the event, $5 will get you anything you need including more tastes or a brat. These aren’t your average brat either. These brats will be cooked up by Ricardo’s Restaurant. There will be a variety of sauces and toppings to choose from so you know it’s going to be good!”

“The Rotary is all about service above self and we found this to be a good way to raise money and have a great time,” summarizes Farmer. “It’s all about getting together with friends, eating some hearty brats, listening to some great bands, and helping our community.”

Brats, Brews, and Bands

Saturday, September 6 from 1:00pm – 9:00pm

South Puget Sound Community College

2011 Mottman Rd SW

Olympia, WA 98512


North Thurston Public Schools Refinances Bonds, Saves Taxpayers Another $4.4 million

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:09pm



Submitted by North Thurston Public Schools

North Thurston Public Schools recently refinanced a portion of its outstanding bonds in order to take advantage of lower interest rates.  The recent refinancing will save the District’s taxpayers a total of $4,459,088 during the next 11 years.  These savings flow directly to taxpayers through reduced tax levies and are not available for District expenses.

“This refund to our taxpayers is part of our ongoing effort to be good stewards of the resources approved by voters in our community,” said Deputy Superintendent John Bash, who oversees operations and finance. “We are excited to give back to our supportive community.”

Lacey-area voters approved a $175 million Neighborhood School Improvements, Technology and Safety upgrade bond measure in February 2014 with a historical 68 percent approval. The refinancing is for bonds issued in 2007.

This refunding decision, combined with three prior refunds since 2008, has saved North Thurston taxpayers a total of $10,023,219. “It’s very gratifying when we can be strategic and accountable to our voters,” said Board President Marcia Coppin. “We appreciate the community’s ongoing support of our students and our schools.”

Clippers Hire Assistant Coach Mike Moore to Lead Women’s Program

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:02pm



Submitted by South Puget Sound Community College

Front Row (L-R) Chloe Cummings, Kaneetah Pridgen, Stysha Paoa, McKenzie Raben Back Row (L-R) Renee Willey, Sarah Houchen, Stephanee Stedham, LaKeisha Anger, Kami Owens

Front Row (L-R) Chloe Cummings, Kaneetah Pridgen, Stysha Paoa, McKenzie
Raben Back Row (L-R) Renee Willey, Sarah Houchen, Stephanee Stedham, LaKeisha Anger, Kami Owens

South Puget Sound Community College will have a familiar face on the bench when the women’s hoops season begins. Assistant coach Mike Moore has been hired to take the reins for the Clippers, succeeding Mychael Heuer, who stepped down in July to focus on his personal health. Moore had been an assistant under Heuer from 2010-13, including a short one-month stint as interim head coach during the 2011-12 season.

Moore, who has also coached at Black Hills and Olympia high schools, said he is excited to take control of the program.

“I am honored, humbled and thankful to again be a part of the South Puget Community College family,” Moore said. “I am a product of all of my past coaches and players who have taught me an incredible amount along the way. I’m eager and excited to help these returning and incoming young women succeed on and off the court. That process starts today. Go Clippers!”

Moore has coached in various capacities for 12 years, and is currently coaching SPSCC’s summer workout program. SPSCC Athletic Director Pam Charpentier said Moore is a perfect fit to take over the squad.

“I am looking forward to working with Coach Moore,” Charpentier said. “He is familiar with the college, the Northwest Athletic Conference and the traditions of playing in the Western Region. Since he worked with our sophomores and incoming freshmen during summer league, it should make the transition for the student-athletes and coach Moore much smoother.”

The Clippers begin the season Nov. 16 at home against the Pacific University junior varsity team.


Thurston EDC and VCB Partner to Host US Open Information Breakfast

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 11:00am



Submitted by the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau

Rivers EdgeThe Thurston EDC and the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau have teamed up to host a breakfast meeting to share information with the community about the Business Opportunities the Golf Tournament will offer to the South Sound Region. The U.S. Open is scheduled for June 15-21, 2015 at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

Bennish Brown, President and CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hunter George Communication Director for the Pierce County Economic Development Department will present strategies and impart ideas on how local businesses can benefit from the proximately to the US Open. Brown and George both traveled to the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina. “The Pinehurst Experience was amazing and I’m excited to share the information we learned about the event to help prepare our region for one of the greatest events in golf that would put our area on the map.” Said George.

The breakfast will be held at the Rivers Edge Restaurant at the Tumwater Valley Golf Course on Friday, September 5, 7:30 to 9am. Cost is $15. Reservations are required. Contact Rachel Reischman at, 360-754-6320.


Dillingers: How a Prohibition-Era Bar is Breathing New Life into Olympia’s Security Building

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 6:39am



By Kelli Samson

greene realtyWhat does John Dillinger, the notorious gangster of the Prohibition Era and the Great Depression, have in common with Olympia? We have to go way back, so stay with me on this one.

olympia history

Walter Chambers and Joseph Swanton had such a successful butcher shop in Lacey that they had to move to a much bigger location on the site where the Security Building now sits. (Image courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society)

John Dillinger was the reason J. Edgar Hoover formed the FBI. The government needed a way to start cracking down on organized crime in the 1930s, and Dillinger’s gang was the biggest thorn in their sides. He was responsible for two-dozen bank robberies, four police station robberies, and the homicide of one police officer. He was known to be wild and proud of his crimes. Dillinger died in a shoot-out with police in 1934.

Dillinger got his start in the world of crime in the 1920s, a time known as the Prohibition Era – think “The Great Gatsby.” It was a time of flapper girls and secret bars (speakeasies) where alcohol was served illegally.

Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, located at 404 South Washington in downtown Olympia, is housed in the old Security Bank Building, which was built in 1927.

The building is on the corner of Washington and Fourth Avenue and was so tall in comparison to the other buildings at the time, people referred to it as a skyscraper. It’s a whopping five stories tall. Prior to the Security Building’s construction, the corner was home to Chambers and Swanton Meat Market, a full-service butcher.

olympia bar dillingers

The Security Building sits on over 300 pilings over filled-in tidal marsh.

The building’s designer was Abraham H. Albertson, an architect from Seattle who primarily designed buildings for the University of Washington and who also designed Cornish College of the Arts.

The Olympia-based construction company known as the Dawley Brothers, which was owned by Leo and J.M. Dawley, constructed the structure. They also built the Hart-Dawley house in the South Capital neighborhood, which was the home of Governor Louis Hart.

The Security Building was built in the Sullivan-esque Style (think rosettes and pineapple details) and boasts nothing but the finest materials available at the time. There is marble from Europe and granite from Canada, not to mention prized mahogany from the Philippines throughout. The structure has remained sound all these years later, even though it’s built on fill over the natural location of tidal marshes, it rests on hundreds of pilings, and it has weathered two major earthquakes.

olympia bar dillingers

The ladies behind Dillingers’ success: (from left) Sandy Hall, Lela Cross, Denise Alonso, and Sherilyn Lightner.

The style of the building certainly makes an establishment like Dillingers seem like it truly belongs there.

Dillingers is owned by Lela Cross (of the former culinary gems Capitale and Cielo Blu), Denise Alonso (who formerly ran the bakery at Saint Martin’s University), and Sandy Hall (formerly of Batdorf and Bronson). “There’s nothing that compares to the fun, the vibe, or the stress of owning a restaurant,” says Hall.

Dillingers is full of swank. There are bold chandeliers and dark walls with custom-made wallpaper in places. There is a gorgeous bar, designed by Hall, that’s high on gloss. Everything is plush and fancy.

After leasing the space, Hall’s father took one look at the original teller’s booth and into the old bank vault in the back and declared that it brought to mind the days of John Dillinger. Thus, downtown Olympia’s melting pot of hipsters, legislators, and all kinds of people in between was given its name.

“The customers send us things about Dillinger all the time,” says Cross.

The old bank vault and the name helped shape and guide the vision Alonso, Cross, and Hall had for the establishment that opened this past winter. In a building with 1920’s architecture and a name harkening back to the time of bank robberies, and gin joints, there was only one direction to go: Prohibition Era cocktails.

The Prohibition Era is known more for cocktails than food, so the owners were free to bring in their own favorites when it came to planning a menu. The seafood is a nod to Olympia (and supplied by Olympia Seafood Company), while dishes like red beans and rice are reminiscent of Houston, from which Hall originates. Cross is from New Mexico, and she likes colorful foods. Hot Babe Hot Sauce is sourced from Sandra Bocas in Yelm.

olympia bar dillingers

The Security Bank Vault is Dillingers most-requested area for reservations.

The real star on the menu, though, is the whiskey bread pudding. Why? Well, there’s no bread in it, for starters. Instead, you’ll find doughnuts to be the secret ingredient in Alonso’s brilliant “creation that everyone loves.”

The authentically-crafted cocktail menu is divided by the darlings of the Prohibition Era: whiskey, cognac, gin, rum, tequila, champagne, wine, beer, and hard cider. Dillingers uses spirits from local distilleries and breweries. You can, of course, order whatever kind of cocktail you want. But why would you do that when you can put yourself in the hands of these master cocktail craftspeople and drink something called a Mary Pickford, named after America’s first sweetheart of film, instead?

“We have probably the best bartenders in town,” smiles Cross. “They have such a passion for what they’re doing.”

The bar manager is Sherilyn Lightner. She has researched the cocktails of the era by reading old cocktail books. If you’re unsure of what to order, here are the favorites from the insiders themselves:

  • Vieux Carre’: Lightner affectionately refers to this as “The Manhattan’s richer, more-sophisticated uncle.”
  • French 75: Alonso enjoys that this is “pretty fresh and simple.”
  • Blood and Sand: Cross loves this bright nod to the Rudolph Valentino film of the same name.
  • Viejo Verde: Hall describes this as a “smoky margarita.”
olympia bar dillingers

Many of Dillingers spirits are sourced from local distilleries such as Wishkah River in Aberdeen.

Next up for Dillingers is their “Gin Punch Brunch,” which premieres September 14. They also have an artist-of-the-month. Pairing up with the community is clearly important to Dillingers.

Meanwhile, the ladies of Dillingers will continue to enjoy the little moments that make it special for them. For Cross, this happens every night. “I stand out on the sidewalk and I wait for someone to open the door to go in so I can hear the roar of the happy crowd inside.”

Adds Alonso, “I work in the kitchen, which is between the vault and the bar. I love how people stop by and introduce themselves.”

“I really love the way people come together here. They end up making friends or running into people they haven’t seen in years,” shares Hall.

While it’s true that John Dillinger never set foot in Olympia, it is also true that you are not John Dillinger. Lucky for you (for lots of reasons), because that means you can enjoy Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen – perhaps even tonight.

You can learn more about Dillingers by visiting their Facebook page or their website.


Taking the Plunge: Local Resident Learns to Swim for 70th Birthday at Discover Aquatics

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 6:10am



By Gale Hemmann

oly ortho logoDonna Killelea is proof that you can do anything you set your mind to, at any age. The Olympia resident decided to take on a life-long goal for her 70th birthday: learning to swim. With the encouragement of staff at Discover Aquatics Swim School, she was able to make this dream happen.

Killelea wrote a moving letter to the Discover Aquatics staff about her experience. She writes, “Six months ago, I resolved to check an item off my ‘bucket list,’ to acquire a skill I had always thought unreachable. I vowed I would learn how to swim. For nearly 70 years, my relationship with the water has been tentative, tinged with trepidation, conditional:  If I could stand up or use the aid of a life jacket, I was fine. Now I longed to delve deeper, to gain the confidence of a true swimmer.”

olympia adult swim lessons

Donna Killelea thanks her Discover Aquatics swim instructors, Peter Emmons (pictured here) and Curran Colins, for helping her transcend her fear of water and enjoy swimming. Photo credit: Gale Hemmann

Killelea got the spark of inspiration from an adult education class she was taking at her church, where she participated in an exercise about manifesting your dreams. When she thought about goals she wanted to accomplish, conquering her fear of water and learning to swim was at the top of her list. She also wanted to overcome her fear so she could share a positive attitude about water with her grandchildren.

She approached the staff at Discover Aquatics and immediately felt encouraged by how warm and welcoming they were. She enrolled in weekly one-on-one swim lessons, and step by step (or rather stroke by stroke) worked toward achieving her goal. Her biggest triumph: the moment she was able to cross from the shallow end into the deep end fear-free.

She writes in her letter, “At Discover Aquatics, I met Peter and Curran, who were more than swim teachers – they taught me that the simple act of blowing bubbles could cause panic and fear to melt away. They did more than teach technique: they provided a safe, secure place for me to cultivate confidence and skill. They showed me that with patience, determination and lots of practice, I could leave the safety of the shallow water and explore the depths (and my own abilities) in the deep end. I could swim!”

Killelea’s story is truly inspiring. I met with her and several staff at Discover Aquatics who were involved in her journey. Killelea and I joined owner Holly Nichols, Event Coordinator Debbie Williams, and one of Killelea’s swim instructors, Peter Emmons. Everyone was friendly and positive – it’s no wonder Killelea immediately felt comfortable here.

The staff were all elated to watch Killelea reach her goal. She worked with Emmons for about two months, and then with instructor Curran Colins. Emmons was a competitive swimmer at Timberline High School and combines his strong knowledge of swimming with the ability to relate to people to help put new swimmers like Killelea at ease. He says they moved in steps with the lessons, going a little further in the water each week. Colins swam while at Capital High School and originally learned to swim at Discover Aquatics years ago. While Killelea is quick to praise her teachers, Emmons says she really deserves the credit for her determination.

Killelea describes the process eloquently: “In the last several months, lesson by lesson, I have witnessed my own miraculous transformation from a floundering novice to someone who could venture from one end of the pool to the other. I can do what I never imagined possible: I can tread water. I can float on my back. I can breathe. I can kick. I have options. The pool has become my playground, the warm water my dear friend.”

olympia adult swim lessons

A triumphant moment: Killelea invited her friends and family for a “Splish Splash” party at Discover Aquatics for her 70th birthday. She demonstrated her new swimming skills and says it was an amazing moment. Photo courtesy Donna Killelea.

The final touch to celebrate Killelea reaching her big goal? Hosting an official “Splish Splash” birthday party at Discover Aquatics earlier this month. Killelea notes in her letter, “Yesterday, I turned seventy years old. Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated more than seven decades of a life well lived. I invited them to join me at my very own ‘Splish Splash’ party at Discover Aquatics and witness my new and improved water-capable self as I swam – truly swam – from one end of the pool to the other. It was beyond wonderful. Afterwards, we enjoyed a sweet celebration in the party room orchestrated by a very attentive hostess, Debbie, complete with beach decor, music, cupcakes, and a beach ball for guests to autograph. I will keep that beach ball as a reminder of this unforgettable birthday – a symbol of the not-so-small ‘bucket list’ item I tackled with the help of Discover Aquatics.”

I asked Killelea what words of inspiration she would share with others who want to take on a big goal, whether learning to swim or tackling another dream. She says, “If you have a goal, just try it. Jump in. It’s never too late.” Nichols notes that Killelea was very focused in reaching her goal, which also contributed to her success.

So what’s next for Killelea? She will be continuing swim lessons at Discover Aquatics in the future. She enjoys the senior swim time on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings. She says in her letter, “Who knows what new challenges and depths I’ll reach this year at the pool? I can’t wait to find out.”

Killelea has already talked to other adults who want to learn to conquer their fear of water, and shared her story with them. In fact, if you’re considering learning to swim as an adult, Killelea’s happy to talk with you (contact the Discover Aquatics office to get in contact with her).

olympia adult swim lessons

Donna Killelea (seated) poses with Discover Aquatics staff (from left to right) Peter Emmons, Debbie Williams and Holly Nichols. Photo credit: Gale Hemmann

Discover Aquatics offers lessons for all ages, as well as open swim times and special events. One thing that makes their pool unique is that it is saline-based. Many people, including myself, find this a more pleasant alternative to chlorine-based pools. The pool is also kept at a comfy 89 degrees, ensuring that you are comfortable in the water. To learn more about swimming lessons, hosting a Splish Splash birthday party, and pool schedules, visit their website. Adults interested in private swim lessons can also call the office and talk to staff, who will be happy to help them get started.

Killelea says she feels an increased sense of self-confidence now that she can swim and feels more comfortable in social settings where swimming is involved. She says it’s fun to be in with the other swimmers at the pool.

Nichols also notes that swimming is an important life skill. She says six out of ten Americans adults are uncomfortable in water where they can’t touch the bottom. Nichols says it’s a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy the relaxation, therapeutic and exercise benefits of swimming. She says it is very empowering for adults to learn to feel in control and skilled in the water. Nowhere is this more evident than in the joy Donna Killelea exudes when talking about her experience.

As Discover Aquatics reminds us, “Life is great…swimming makes it better.”


Olympia Labor Day Weekend Event Calendar

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 6:09am



Purists will disagree but I consider Labor Day weekend the END of summer. Last minute BBQ’s, shopping for the final few items on the school supply list, packing away the sunscreen, and shifting towards “normal” bedtimes are all tasks that I undertake over the holiday weekend.  I recognize that the “official” end to summer is still many days away but once the school bell starts ringing then it’s back to the grindstone for me.

Three cheers to all the teachers, administrators and school staff that are already back in the classroom… we’ll give you a high five on Wednesday morning.

Here’s what is going on around Olympia this weekend.  Squeeze in some last minute summer fun.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.


Northwest Harley-Davidson’s Guide to Essential Riding Gear

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 6:00am



NW Harley Womens ApparelYou’ve got a motorcycle.  You are ready to ride.  Throw on a helmet and you are good to go, right?  Not so fast, say the experts at Northwest Harley-Davidson.  There’s a lot more to safe, comfortable riding than just wearing your helmet.

NW Harley-Davidson wants riders to enjoy their riding time and having the right gear can make or break a good ride.  Check out this list of essential riding gear before your next ride.

Helmet – Yes, wear a helmet.  Always.  Even if it’s not required by law.  But, more than simply wearing a helmet, ensure that yours fits properly by having it assessed by a NW Harley expert.  Fit ensures proper function.  Helmets should also be replaced every three years as padding and straps degrade over time.  And, if you have been in an accident, or even have simply dropped your helmet, it needs to be replaced.  It’s your head – protect it well.

Pants – Experienced riders know that the right pair of pants makes all the difference when logging miles in the saddle.  Comfort is key, but just as important is protection.  Be sure you have heavy duty pants, preferable leather, or are wearing leather chaps.  The protective quality of leather cannot be overstated when making contact with the road.

Gloves – NW Harley-Davidson recommends wearing full finger protective gloves every time you ride.  Not only does it improve your grip on the handlebars, but keeps your hands insulated from wind, debris in the air, and the pavement should you fall.  Even in warm weather, full fingered gloves are best.

NW Harley Womens apparel 2Proper Footwear – Motorcycle specific boots should be worn while riding.  They provide the best protection and comfort for your feet while on the bike as well as having oil-resistant soles.  This added feature is essential when on and off the bike frequently.

Goggles/Glasses – You only get one set of eyes.  Protect them while riding.  You never know when another vehicle will kick up a rock or piece of debris.  Goggles and glasses come in a wide variety of styles and lens tints and NW Harley-Davidson always has a full stock to choose from.

To have a great ride, be sure you have great gear.  If you need a gear update, or to check the fit of your helmet, swing into Northwest Harley-Davidson.  Their staff will outfit you for a great ride.


Saint Martin’s University Receives Major Gift from Community Bank

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:17pm


 Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

St Martins Cebula Hall

Saint Martin’s University Cebula Hall

A $100,000 gift toward the second phase of the Saint Martin’s University Engineering Initiative has been pledged by local community bank Olympia Federal Savings, University President Roy F. Heynderickx announced today. The initiative’s second phase will fund construction of a new $2.7 million industrial laboratory building.

“Olympia Federal Savings leadership gift provides important momentum midway through our campaign effort,” Heynderickx says. “We are very grateful to them for supporting our vision of new facilities to support our growing enrollment in engineering.”

Saint Martin’s University launched its $10.2 million Engineering Initiative in 2010, with the first phase earmarked to fund construction of a new $7.5 million “green” engineering building, Cebula Hall. The cutting-edge, teaching and learning engineering facility – dedicated April 22, 2013 – was designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certification. This past fall, it earned the distinction of being the highest-rated LEED -certified building in the Western Hemisphere.

With the second phase of the Engineering Initiative nearing completion, the University plans to break ground this fall on a 14,000-square-foot industrial laboratory building that will house the facilities necessary for civil and mechanical engineering students to conduct hands-on experiments with fluids, manufacturing, robotics and mechatronics, soils and materials testing. The building also will include a technology classroom, regular classroom and faculty offices.

Olympia Federal Savings has a long history of philanthropy and leadership with Saint Martin’s University.  President and CEO Lori Drummond serves on the Saint Martin’s University Board of Trustees, and retired presidents and CEOs Wayne Staley and Ed Wack also served as University trustees. The bank has been a benefactor of past capital projects, including Cebula Hall, Charneski Recreation Center and the O’Grady Library, and is a staunch sponsor of the University’s community events, such as the Saint Martin’s Gala and Jingle Bell Run 5k.

“Olympia Federal Savings’ commitment to giving back locally is certainly demonstrated with this generous gift,” says Heynderickx, “and we thank them for their ongoing commitment to this institution and its OlyFed cornerstudents.”

Katie Wojke, interim vice president of institutional advancement, says the Olympia Federal Savings gift provides a major boost for the initiative, bringing the second phase total to $1.5 million, more than halfway to the $2.7 million goal.

“We are so blessed to have Olympia Federal Savings, its board members, and employees and customers as part of our greater community. Saint Martin’s University relies on alumni, friends and organizations like Oly Fed to support our efforts in educating the current and next generation of students,” she says.

Zella Kahn-Jetter, Ph.D., P.E., dean of the Marcus School of Engineering, says, “We have seen a 39-percent growth in engineering enrollment since 2009. It is expected that the industrial lab will continue to attract students who want to study civil and mechanical engineering, and engineering management. The industrial lab will also house a technology classroom for those students pursuing a degree in computer science.”


New Officers and Board Members for Providence St. Peter Foundation

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:13pm



Submitted by Providence St. Peter Foundation

Providence St. Peter Foundation Board of Directors has recently elected new officers. Pat Gilmer, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Ear, Nose & Throat Associates SW, was elected to serve as president. Rick Middleton, President/CEO of Anderson-Middleton Company was elected as vice president. Each officer will serve a two-year term. Larry Brooke will begin his third term as treasurer, and Dan Davidson, D.D.S., will serve as immediate past president.

In addition, the Foundation elected four new members to its board of directors. Board president, Pat Gilmer, M.D., says, “All of our board members have a deep passion for the mission of Providence in our community, and we’re glad these four members are joining as new advocates for the work our donors make possible.”

Joining the board are Christophe Allen, vice president and general manager of The Acme Service Group; James Kruidenier, M.D., board certified gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Associates; Annie Iriye, M.D., board certified obstetrician and gynecologist with Group Health Olympia Medical Center; and long-time community member and

volunteer, Katie Hurley.

Each new board member will serve a three year term. “We’re very excited to have these new members joining us,” says Gilmer. “They bring depth of experience from the business, medical, and not-for profit communities, and a deep respect for the importance of having access to high-quality health care right here locally.”

Retiring from the board after a combined 36 years of service are Ken Anderson, Allen Miller, and Wayne Staley.





Katie Hurley James Kruidenier, M.D. Christophe Allen Annie Iriye, M.D.,







Kids Fighting Health Problems Make Progress With HeartStrides

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 3:31pm



By Gail Wood

dkb restorationPerched in a saddle on a horse, the inevitable happens. The child, who is facing a physical or mental challenge, smiles.

At HeartStrides, a therapeutic horseback riding program, it’s one of the rewards for the parents and volunteers.

Since 2010, HeartStrides, which is at Healing Hearts Ranch in Tumwater, has offered therapeutic and recreational horseback riding for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. On the trails at HeartStrides, its a place where people get better.

“It helps in a variety of ways,” said Karen Edison, the financial director for HeartStrides. “It helps with physical, mental, emotional and social issues people have.”

HeartStrides 211It’s on horseback, riding along a trail that a child who is struggling with their mental or physical health, may make an important discovery. In a life where they have little control over what they’re facing, they learn that they can be in control of a situation. Turning and leading a horse along a trail gives the child a new-found confidence.

“Students learn that they can be assertive in a constructive way,” Edison said. “They can learn to control what they can’t control.”

That’s a crucial discovery for someone facing tough health challenges.

“A lot of them can’t control very much at all in their lives,” Edison said. “This is something they can learn to control.”

It’s atop a horse that they gain confidence in themselves.

heartstrides“It really helps their self esteem,” Edison said. “They learn they can control some things. It’s really positive.”

Hippotherapy –  therapeutic horseback riding – was formalized in the United States in 1992 with the formation of the American Hippotherapy Association. It has established standards of practice and formalized therapist education.

The horse’s movement, Edison said, provides physical and sensory input, both rhythmical and repetitive, helping a child who might be having trouble walking. A therapist uses this movement in combination with other treatment. The therapists have seen improvement in gross motor skills for children with disabilities.

Riding horses also provides a workout, working core muscles.

“There are kids who start off with us who have very little core strength,” Edison said. “Just the movement of the horse and the progressions they make we see how they are able to hold themselves straighter.”

heartstridesThere’s a wide range of problems the children face that come to HeartStrides. Edison said they have students with Autism, Down Syndrome and physical issues that impede walking. Being able to help guide a child through a challenge is rewarding.

“Some of the things parents say is so gratifying,” Edison said. “It’s small progress that the student makes, but it’s huge in that student’s life and for that family.”

On that first horseback ride, there can be some anxious moments. Being atop a big, powerful horse can be intimidating and nerve wracking. But that’s part of the breakthrough.

“Some of the parents have said their child was really nervous when they started the program and now they’ve become more confident and assured,” Edison said. “Hearing things like that is so positive, so gratifying.”

The horseback rides are done in groups of three to four. An advanced class, where the riders are more experienced, there are five in that class. With the volunteers helping each group, it becomes a exciting social activity. That encounter, being with and talking with others, is part of the therapy.

heartstrides“There’s a lot of ways people can be benefited,” Edison said.

One of the students is an 80-year-old rider who is fighting a different challenge – age.

“It’s just keeping the thoughts young,” Edison said. “It keeps them moving and the ability to learn a new task. There’s a brain activity there.”

Another benefit from these horseback rides Edison has heard parents talk about has been better sleeping better at night and improved emotional control.

“Parents say that the outbursts are lessened for students who have emotional outbursts,” Edison said. “So, it helps in a variety of ways.”

For more information, to arrange a tour or to make a donation, go to the HeartStrides website. Volunteers play an important role in the therapeutic riding program. Volunteers range in ages from teen to seniors. Not all of them have had experience with horses, but all have a desire to help others succeed.

“They really get attached to the students they’re with,” Edison said. “And the students can be attached to the volunteers. It can be very rewarding.”

On Aug. 30, HeartStrides will have a BBQ fundraiser, which raises funds to help with scholarships and purchase adaptive tack. The event includes live music, games, activities and photos with the horses. Tickets are $25 for adults and $18 for children.


Saint Martin’s University Gears Up for #GivingTuesday 2014

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 5:00pm


Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

Giving TuesdayIf you haven’t heard of it yet, you will. If you think it’s too early to start thinking about holiday giving, maybe you’ll be glad someone’s already planning for the big day. That day is “#GivingTuesday,” Dec. 2, and Saint Martin’s University is becoming a partner in the international event.

#GivingTuesday is a day set aside during the holiday season to celebrate philanthropy, volunteerism and community service, and to be part of the powerful difference people can make when they join forces to help others.  Designated as the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday highlights “giving back,” similar to the emphasis on holiday shopping marked by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The idea is to focus the generous spirit of the Christmas season on gifts of service and support, says Deanna Bourgault, Saint Martin’s director of annual giving. Bourgault will be leading the University’s campaign and working with other area organizations and schools interested in getting involved. She also is working in collaboration with South Puget Sound Community College and The Evergreen State College on a joint campaign.

“Saint Martin’s #GivingTuesday goal is to help bring awareness to our greater community about the importance of giving back during the holiday season.  As a Catholic, Benedictine educational institution, service and community involvement are two of our core values, and we encourage everyone to engage in philanthropy on Dec. 2. We hope that by the three local educational institutions working together on the campaign, we will encourage other organizations to become involved,” says Bourgault. Philanthropy encompasses so much more than charitable giving – we ask everyone to be a part of this international movement by volunteering their time, being an advocate for their favorite cause, making a financial contribution, or just inspiring others to transform how they think about and participate in the giving season.”

Since its inception in 2011, #GivingTuesday has quickly gained momentum. In 2013, more than 10,000 partners in more than 40 countriesparticipated. Through the power of social media, a global conversation ensued, with more than 3 billion people helping to spread the word via Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Most important, the day led to a 270-percent increase in donations to non-profit organizations and countless service projects worldwide, according to the #GivingTuesday website.

The Saint Martin’s #GivingTuesday Campaign will officially begin Sept. 2, when a webpage will be launched on the University’s website, A series of Facebook notices, tweets and other social media efforts will support the campaign in November and early December.

For more information on #GivingTuesday, please go to; organizations interested in partnering with Saint Martin’s can contact Bourgault at 360-438-4586;


From Kindergarten To College, The Ramos Family Relies On Catholic Schools

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 6:08am



By Gail Wood

olympia private school

(From left) Lucy, Cecilia, Dominic, and John Ramos attend their Chrismation at St. George Byzantine Catholic Church.

In addition to learning how to solve math problems, write an essay or study biology, Maureen Ramos wanted something more from the schools that teach six of her nine children.

She wanted them to learn about their Catholic faith.

And that’s why four of her children will attend Holy Family, one will continue high school at Pope John Paul II and her son will begin at Saint Martin’s University this coming school year.

“I would not send my children to a Catholic institution if it didn’t teach the fullness of the Catholic teaching,” Ramos said. “Pope John Paul does that and so does Holy Family. That is really important to us. And if they didn’t we wouldn’t send our children there.”

The Ramos are a poster family for Catholic schooling. And they’re not the exception.

“It’s fairly common,” said Megan Farrell, the advancement director at Pope John Paul II. “I’d say about 50 percent of our students are coming from the Catholic school system.”

Ramos and her husband, Michael, feel they have the best of both worlds by sending their children to a Catholic school. It’s a plus academically – the teacher-student ratio at Pope John Paul II is 14-to-1 and at Holly Family it is 10-to-1. And it’s a plus spiritually as students are taught the Bible.

“I think we tend to have a remarkable program here for kids,” Farrell said. “One of the big benefits is we’re so young, we’re small and we’re growing. There are so many opportunities for kids to find leadership roles here at school to build programs – to really be invested at an adult level in the success of their school, their teams, and their co-curricular clubs. There’s just a great deal of advantage here.”

olympia catholic school

Lucy Ramos will be a first grade student at Holy Family school in Lacey.

Two of Ramos’ youngest children – Lucy and Dominic – will be entering the first grade. John will be a fourth grader and Cecilia will be a seventh grader. All will attend Holy Family, which is a school for grades kindergarten through eighth grade. Elizabeth Rose will be a junior at Pope John Paul II High School.

Her brother, Matthew, just graduated from Pope John Paul II and will attend Saint Martin’s in the fall, majoring in biology.

Nathan Ramos, the third oldest of the Ramos’ nine children, attended seminary for two years in Connecticut and has transferred to South Puget Sound Community College and plans on also attending Seattle University, a Catholic school.

On September 4, the Ramos family will take part in a regional Catholic mass at Saint Martin’s Marcus Pavilion starting at 10:30 a.m. It’s the first time this regional mass has occurred.

“I think it’s a great demonstration of the strength of Catholic schools in our south sound region,” Farrell said. “It’s a big event. We’re hoping it turns into an annual event that really solidifies, in the community, a sense of the presence of Catholic education.”

Everyone from the kindergartner at Holy Family to the senior at Saint Martin’s will be at the regional mass. The students will actually help in putting on the mass, doing the Bible readings and assisting in laity roles. Archbishop Peter Sartain will be coming down from Seattle to preach and pray.

olympia private school

The Ramos Family finds comfort in the Catholic education locally. Four children will attend Holy Family, one will be at Pope John Paul II High School and the sixth will be entering Saint Martin’s University.

According to a survey taken at Pope John Paul II, the reasons families give for attending a Catholic school instead of public school include four common answers. It’s because of the safe environment, small class sizes, and quality of academics.  But, the number one ranking is the sharing of the Catholic faith.

The Ramos’ reasons for sending their children to Catholic schools is similar to other families. But Maureen Ramos was talking with a family who have their child enrolled at Holy Family even though they weren’t Catholic. They valued the quality of education, not the opportunity to study the Bible.

“I just assumed that everyone at Pope John Paul II was Catholic,” Ramos said. “That’s not true.”

Until 1970, Saint Martin’s had its own high school and it wasn’t until the return of Pope John Paul II a couple of years ago that the area had a Catholic high school. David Spangler, the former Saint Martin’s University President, was involved in bringing back a Catholic high school in the South Sound.

“Saint Martin’s was very interested in developing that school,” said Genevieve Chan, Saint Martin’s vice president of marketing and communications. “A lot of our board members were also involved in the formation of that school as well. For a long long time there wasn’t an option for families to pursue a Catholic education during the high school years. So, we’re very excited that Pope John Paul II is here.”

Ramos, whose husband was in the Navy for 27 years and is now a nurse at Providence St. Peter’s Hospital, homeschooled her three oldest of nine children partly because they were moving so often. And then there was the aspect of being able to teach the Bible to her children. Since moving to Olympia a year ago, the Ramos family now have the opportunity to send their children to Catholic schools.

Farrell said the advantages of attending a Catholic school over a public school include helping students find their talents.

“Our mission is centered on students in a way that ensure that students are recognized and no student falls through the cracks,” Farrell said. “They are given the attention they need to discern their skills and their gifts and they’re encouraged on a personal level to pursue those skills and to advance them.”


Piano Tuner John Grace Sees Past His Disability

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 5:59am



By Tali Haller

providence medical group sponsorJohn Grace has owned his own one-man piano tuning business for over 50 years. As impressive as that is, there’s more – he’s blind. Due to early cataract, an eye disease in which the lens becomes covered in an opaque film that affects sight, eventually causing total loss of vision, John has been blind the majority of his 83 years. By the time he was two, his sight was completely gone.

olympia piano tuner

Being blind nearly all his life hasn’t stopped John Grace. He has owned his own piano tuning service for over 50 years.

However, he still manages to visualize what he’s doing. “I’ll put it to you this way,” he said. “When you sleep at night you have dreams and visions, and in those visions and dreams you see everything as you would see it if your eyes were open. My situation is no different than yours. I visualize everything around me, where people are sitting and, as I talk, I have an idea of what size my surroundings are by observing the sounds.”

Clearly, it’s John’s avoidance of self-pity and doubt that has let him live such a full and active life. Much of this positive outlook and can-do attitude stems from his childhood, where, as one of 17 children – which he described as his “small” family – he was treated the same way as everybody else. “My parents didn’t put me aside and do things for me. I learned to do as everyone else learned to do and there was never a question about whether I could do it or not,” John explained.

Early on he learned all the basic skills: how to feed himself, dress himself, and how to read and write in Braille. “I would often observe [with sound and touch] what my father or mother or sibling was doing when they were working on a project. Then, when they were done, I would examine it, gather the necessary supplies – be it sticks or boards – and then try to duplicate what they had done,” said John.

After moving around a lot as a child, mostly in the state of Georgia, John eventually moved to Vancouver in 1956 to attend the Washington State School for the Blind. It was here that he would find his life occupation.

“I got into tuning because I was looking for something to sustain myself in life,” he explained. He completed two years of technical training, “as anybody else would have” he mentioned, stressing the fact that his situation doesn’t give him the right to special treatment.

olympia piano tuner

Even at age 83, John still services 2-3 pianos a day through his one-man business Grace Piano Service.

After he finished his training, he was hired as an assistant instructor at the school and worked there until 1962, when again he was on the move. This time he landed in the spot that would become his home for the next 50+ years, Olympia.

Right away, he started working with L.W. Hyseum, a piano tuner whose bad health had him looking for someone to take over his clientele. After working with John, Hyseum planned to turn over his business to him when he died, which ended up being just a mere six months later. “From there, I developed the practice by building my own clientele, mostly through word-of-mouth and by networking with other technicians and music teachers in the area,” John said.

Even after 83 years of life and more than 50 years of piano tuning, John hasn’t slowed down too much. “I still train several technicians but I’ve cut down on how many pianos I service, now only two or three pianos a day, so I can leave some time for relaxation,” he said.

In his free time, John sings and plays the piano for fun, mostly spiritual and gospel music. He also does a lot of playing and performing at his church, New Life. One of his favorite pastimes is observing. “I observe the area, the residences as I go in them. I like for things to be described to me as I’m driven down streets and I visualize what my surroundings might look like,” John said.

Although his family never gave him very much special treatment, they’re still inspired by him. “He’s always been an inspiration to me growing up, the things he’s done and the things he’s accomplished in his life are amazing,” said his nephew Lucious Owns, who helps him move pianos.

Grace Piano Service can be contracted at 360-943-3712.

Complete Care For Your Family Through The Debra Daniels Insurance Agency

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 5:41am



olympia insurance

Debbie Daniels opened her insurance agency in 1992 with State Farm.

We all know Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  This is all well and good if you know exactly what you’re trying to prevent… I worry more along the lines of author K.M. MacAulay, “You can’t prevent what you can’t predict.”

This is where seasoned insurance providers like Lacey’s Debbie Daniels come in.  Owner of the Debra Daniels Insurance Agency, an Agency of State Farm Insurance, she offers the experience to address any need: past, present, or future.

Insurance issues can be overwhelming.  Debbie and her team handle policies for home, automobile, renters, commercial, life, and just about anything you may require.  A Vancouver, Washington native, Debbie has spent her life in Western Washington.  Recruited to the industry by a former co-worker of her husband, she opened her Agency in 1992, when State Farm was recruiting more women into their workforce.  Though there were only three available positions in the region, she set her sights—and heart—on Thurston County and has thrived here ever since.

Debbie has worked locally for over twenty years, many of those with the same team members.  Now the proud owners of a new office in Lacey, her employees are entirely based in Thurston County.  With staffers who have worked for her for many years, they’re like family.  When her husband joined the business 17 years ago, and nieces and nephews hired for college breaks, they’ve been “a family run business ever since,” says Daniels.

Their goal is simple: “Families are our focus, we love working with families because we are a mom and pop place more than anything else.”  Because of this nothing is too big or too small for their skilled agents to handle.  Debbie hopes people will call, email, or just drop in any time with questions about policy needs.  They always make themselves available to serve the community one need at a time.

With this service mentality at the forefront, Debbie Daniels is a long-time volunteer with the Special Olympics and other community activities.  Staffer TeAnna Thompson, who joined State Farm in 2002, volunteers as Head Committee Chair for the HWY 507 Young Life’s Annual Fundraising Auction, which serves middle and high school students in the Rainier, Yelm, and Tenino districts.  Their Agency received an Agency Achievement award in 2012 and was lauded by The Olympian as a preferred agency that year as well.

olympia insurance

Debbie Daniels has operated her insurance agency for more than 20 years, with many of the same team members.

Throughout, customers sing their praises as well.  Says one happy client, “Been with Debbie for well… decades now and she and her staff are outstanding!  They bend over backwards to help and when you need them, they have your back!  Our daughter is a third generation State Farm Insurance client if that tells you something about the great treatment we have had.”

The Debra Daniels Insurance Agency can be found at 8765 Tallon Lane NE in Lacey, two blocks from the Hawks Prairie Costco.  Regular business hours are 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. but after hours appointments can be easily arranged by calling 360-493-8284.

Because they understand local families and the variety of needs which can arise, no question is too silly and all inquiries are welcomed.  You can read customer reviews or frequently asked questions on their Facebook page as well.

Einstein once said that “the only source of knowledge is experience.”  Unfortunately these wise words are often secondary to those of universal Hitchhiker Douglas Adams who acknowledged that “human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”  Debbie Daniels and her team are a wealth of knowledge just waiting to make your life easier – all it takes is a phone call.


41st Harbor Days Maritime Festival

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 2:54pm



Submitted by The Port of Olympia

Tugs, history, arts, crafts, food and fun for All Ages at Olympia's Harbor Days

Tugs, history, arts, crafts, food and fun for All Ages at Olympia’s Harbor Days

Vintage, working and retired tugboats return to the southernmost tip of Puget Sound for three days of fun at Harbor Days, Aug. 29-31. Experience it all at Percival Landing and Port Plaza on Olympia’s downtown waterfront.

The tugs leave shore on Sunday at noon for the annual Tugboat Races in the deep channel of the Budd Inlet. Many of the tugs offer tours on Saturday.

Port Plaza features Kitsap Live Steamers model trains and a mini Steamer that kids can ride along a 100-foot track! Model tugboat demos, Dragon boats, robotics, Tacoma Railways Centennial celebration, and the Port’s giant-sized building blocks add to the fun.

Browse over 200 arts and crafts booths and enjoy entertainment, festival food and a special area just for kids.

Port of Olympia partners in Harbor Days to celebrate the maritime heritage of our community. For more information:

OlyKraut and Home Fermentation in Olympia – The Flavorful World of Beneficial Microbes

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 7:03am



By Cara Bertozzi

Edward Jones Block AdFermentation is an ancient method of food preservation and flavor development.  Fermented foods, such as bread, wine, and beer, have long been mainstream. However, raw fermented foods, often termed probiotics, have more recently been commanding real estate on shelves in traditional grocery stores, where they are popular as tasty vectors of helpful live cultures of bacteria.

Sash Sunday, an engaging food activist and the owner of OlyKraut, credits two primary trends in food with creating the market for her pungent raw sauerkraut and fermented brine products. One driving force is the foodie or artisanal demographic.  These individuals are fascinated with the movement away from highly pasteurized, processed foods to more traditional methods of food preparation that result in tantalizing flavors, deemed worthy of the associated extra costs and time.


OlyKraut is brightly colored, crunchy and full of flavor.

The second driver are people who are increasingly convinced of the link between the consumption of raw fermented foods with health and wellness. Many people struggling with food sensitivities, allergies, and disease have turned to cultured foods, including miso, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and yogurt, to replenish their gut flora and heal their bodies. Scientific studies also support the connection between a healthy gut microbiome and mental well-being.

Founded in 2008, OlyKraut has been doubling their production annually.  Sash is quite pleased to partner with largely local farmers.  Last year, she sourced 60,000 pounds of cabbage and employed local workers to handcraft a healthy food that not only electrifies the tongue but also nourish the body.

Sauerkraut was a natural draw for Sunday because of the increased bioavailability of the cabbage nutrients due to the bacterial breakdown, cabbage’s anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and the incredibly simple method of preserving the cabbage through acidification as the Lactobacilli produce lactic acid as a byproduct of their metabolism of lactose and other sugars. Did I mention that it’s delicious?

OlyKraut products are sold in 60 locations throughout Washington and in the Portland area and can also be sampled at a variety of farmers’ markets or purchased as an add-on through many local community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, such as those of Oxbow Farm and Helsing Junction Farm.


Here is everything you need to make a batch of raw fermented sauerkraut.

Consumers in the Olympia area are fortunate to have many high-quality fermented foods at their fingertips. There are also great resources available to get you started if your interests include culturing ferments at home as a low-cost way to add healthy probiotics to your family’s diet. Meghan Hintz, a certified fermentationist and LMP who is deeply interested in digestive healing, recently taught Sauerkraut 101 to a group of 20 budding home cabbage connoisseurs at Eastside Urban Farm and Garden Center (EUFGC).  This is just one of their many great classes offered at the bargain price of $10.

Participants enjoyed tasting some of OlyKraut’s fare while Meghan shared the science behind sauerkraut ferments of anaerobic bacteria and their preferred environments, what types of ingredients work well in sauerkrauts and, correspondingly, which foods to avoid adding.  Then she walked us through the actual method itself by preparing a green cabbage, fennel, daikon radish, and green onion kraut.

We each tasted the salted cut vegetables to familiarize ourselves with the proper amount needed to maintain the crispness of the vegetables – it should be tasty like a chip. I was impressed by the level of questions attendees had regarding the type of kraut equipment to use, the ideal temperature and light conditions for ferments, and tips for identifying unsafe ferments gone rogue. Interestingly, each type of bacteria has its own preferred pH level, and the pH of finished krauts, which typically ranges from 3.8 to 4.2, is incompatible with the dreaded botulinum toxin-producing pathogen Clostridium botulinum.


Ingredients such as blackberries and sage can be used to flavor home-brewed kombucha. Note the SCOBY floating at the liquid-air interface.

This feature of bacterial life contributes to the potency of sauerkraut because you are not only consuming colony-forming units (CFUs) of microbes but you are also ingesting their preferred environment, which may help them successfully traverse the stomach and establish colonies in the small intestine.

Meghan was a knowledgeable and pleasant educator, and the experience gave me one more reason to adore EUFGC, a fantastic local resource for people who want to grow and make their own food. Each day that I pass by my freshman ferment on the kitchen counter, my anticipation grows.

Another easy way to get started with home fermentation is to brew your own probiotic drinks using an organic, live-culture starter kit from Oly-Cultures, another local company started by Julie Kamin after years of helping friends culture kefir and kombucha. In addition to milk and yogurt kefir grains, you can purchase a kombucha symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), and using just tea leaves and sugar, you can propagate your own kombucha.

By performing a secondary fermentation in a closed jar, you can create a carbonated tea that can be flavored in endless combinations. Just don’t let it ferment more than a few days or the pressure may crack your container. Our blackberry sage kombucha was a hit, and the best part is that you can reserve a portion of the previous brew and have an endless supply after your initial investment.

Be adventurous; there are lots of tasty ways to experiment with raw fermented foods, and it just may improve your health.