By Laurie O’Brien
John Welsh believes that musical acumen comes from several sources. Raw talent is only one piece of the puzzle. Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia (SOGO), of which Welsh is the musical director, builds on top of the base created by school programs and private instruction, providing motivated school-aged instrumentalists with an opportunity to dive into a more diverse and challenging classical repertoire with other talented student musicians.
“SOGO’s purpose is to offer an opportunity for students who are interested in and talented enough to join us in participating in classical music performance. Along with performance, we offer the documented benefits of musical participation and the enrichment of cultural and historical awareness. We also emphasize in our various programs the sense of creating a team,” comments Welsh.
In addition to performance, SOGO also wants its members to understand music theory, and they offer a number of small ensemble opportunities for those who seek them out.
Three Thurston County musicians, who have benefitted from their participation in SOGO, are leaders in the program. All three have aspirations of taking their musical studies to the next level, and each believes that SOGO has enriched their education in a number of ways.
Oboist Bridget Long joined SOGO as a 7th grader and made Conservatory (the highest level SOGO orchestra) her freshman year of high school.
“It felt affirming to know that I was good enough to be a part of the top group, as not all freshman get into Conservatory,” she says. “I remember really enjoying being able to play with highly advanced and experienced upperclassmen.”
Four years later, the Capital High School senior is one of those experienced players. She plays for multiple groups in her school program, and this winter she has been making the rounds, auditioning for college music programs. She’d like to focus her studies on oboe performance. In addition, she is a principal oboist with the Tacoma Youth Symphony and she is a competitive Irish Dancer.
This coming weekend, Long will be playing with the Conservatory Orchestra and will be the featured soloist with the Academy Orchestra (the intermediate level SOGO group) when they perform the Marcello Concerto for Oboe in D.
“Playing a solo with an ensemble is really an incomparable experience, and it has also been fun to see how much the Academy Orchestra has improved their parts since they started working on my concerto a few months ago,” Long says.
Long isn’t the first SOGO member wanting to pursue a career in music.
“The current Concert Master of the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, Aaron Inglin, was a member of the founding orchestra of SOGO in 2000,” says Welsh. “Dillon Welch (no relation) is currently studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the Concert Master of the Cleveland Orchestra and is a member of the Canton, Akron and Sandusky Symphonies.” According to Welsh, there are a number of other SOGO alumni in Olympia and around the country who have studied and are studying for musical careers.
Welsh emphasizes that helping SOGO members become professional musicians is not the primary goal of the program, but any student who wants a career in music will most likely have participated in a local youth orchestra. “We have maybe a half dozen students every year that go into a music related course of study, including such fields as music education, music performance or even such related fields as music therapy,” he explains.
Olympia High School sophomore Henry Nordhorn is toying with the idea. “I am thinking about a career in music and film, playing in the recording studios, and maybe composing a little,” says the French horn player. Like Long, Nordhorn made Conservatory his freshman year. “It was like any other audition I had done, but it was really cool when Mr. Welsh told me that I would be playing in the top orchestra.”
In addition to performing, Nordhorn is a student representative on SOGO’s Board of Directors, and he is a volunteer mentor with Play On Greater Olympia (POGO) a classical music education program for students who don’t have the financial resources for private instruction. On top of those commitments, he also plays in his school band and is on the swim team.
Another SOGO leader is Nolan Welch (younger brother of Dillon Welch, mentioned above.) A senior at Timberline High School, Welch balances being president of the National Honor Society and writing for the school paper with his school and SOGO orchestra obligations, being a student representative on the SOGO board, and teaching three private cello students.
“I plan on pursuing a career in Performing Arts Management, which is the business/backstage/logistical work that goes into the arts,” says Welch, who has also been applying to college programs this year. This summer he will be adding a huge item to his resume when he serves as the Apprentice Orchestra Manager for the National Youth Orchestra of the USA during their tour to China.
Welch joined SOGO as a member of the Debut Orchestra when he was eight years old and made Conservatory in the eighth grade. Last November he was featured on the cello, playing the Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major. “It was a great experience playing in front of a couple hundred people,” he says. “Although there were a few small mistakes, I enjoyed every second of it because it’s good practice. I feel like I can do anything now, really. Whenever I think I can’t do something, I think to myself, ‘Nolan, you played in front of 800 people for half an hour… you can do it!’”
John Welsh and his talented musicians would like to invite all of Olympia to join SOGO for their late winter concert this Sunday, March 1, at 4:00 p.m. at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Olympia.
The Conservatory Orchestra will present Wagner’s Overture from the opera Rienzi, Boccherini’s Cello Concerto No. 4 featuring Maura Phelps, and Bizet’s music from the Carmen Suites. The Academy Orchestra will be featuring Bridget Long, performing the Marcello, Oboe concerto in D minor.
Also appearing: Brass Choir, Debut Orchestra
By Melanie Kallas Ricklefs
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! We can finally experience dining out like everyone else, with mouthwatering choices, and no need to grill the server about ingredients. Tofu Hut is an Asian fusion restaurant that caters to specialized diets like no other restaurant in Thurston County. They offer a multitude of appetizers and entrees that are vegan, or can be veganized (yes, that’s a word), all you have to do is ask. Many of their dishes can also be prepared gluten-free by request. If you’re a meat eater, you’re in luck. Tofu Hut has a section of the menu devoted to fish and meat dishes, and any one of their noodle and rice dishes can be made with beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp.
Despite their name and willingness to make vegan substitutions, Tofu Hut entrees are typically prepared in a traditional Asian style with meat-based ingredients, such as fish sauce, meat sauce, beef salt, and oyster salt. The fish sauce and meat salts are used to bring depth to sauces and broths, and are a critical ingredient for most Asian cuisine. However, they are happy to make their dishes vegan, and I can say first hand that the vegan sauces are flavorful and have a depth of their own that will please anyone’s palate. Their wide variety of dishes and desire to make everyone feel welcome makes Tofu Hut the perfect restaurant for families and friends with diverse dietary needs to gather for a meal together.
For years, Tofu Hut owner Soo Kim has dined out with a group of friends with varying diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. During these evenings out, she and her friends realized how hard it was to find a satisfying meal for everyone at the table. In most restaurants, the only vegan option was a garden salad. They often wondered why there were so few restaurants that could oblige a special request.
When Kim opened Tofu Hut in 2009, she aimed to accommodate as many dietary restrictions as possible to make sure that everyone could have more than just a salad. That being said, the salads at Tofu Hut are distinctive and delectable. In addition to their green salad, they offer a crispy tofu and vegetable salad, as well as salads created around crunchy noodles, or rice vermicelli. If you have a particular dietary need that is not listed on the menu, just ask one of the servers for their suggestions. They are very friendly, sensitive to individual needs, and will be happy to help find an option that works for you.
Tofu Hut has received many awards in their six years of business including “Best Restaurant in Olympia” in 2011 and 2013, and “Best Thing about Lacey” in 2012. It was a featured restaurant in “Where the Locals Eat” in 2013, and was listed by PETA in 2010 as one of the three restaurants that made Olympia the number one vegetarian-friendly small city in North America.
Their menu includes a vast array of appetizers, salads, rice and noodle dishes, and stews. Some of the customer favorites include the vegetarian potstickers (kid approved), V-8 Delight (my personal favorite), Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, and Yakisoba. If you still have room for dessert after your meal, they offer vegan and gluten-free cupcakes from Abby’s Cookies and Cupcakes.
The next time you are asked to provide food for your office party, or other event, look no further. Tofu Hut provides buffet-style catering from their menu, while giving you vegan, or gluten-free options. If the majority of your members prefer the original meat-based versions of the dishes, they can provide these meals buffet-style and make individual meals for those members that have more restrictive diets.
Not only does Tofu Hut create outstanding meals for all to enjoy, they are also Green-Certified. They are doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment by offsetting their carbon footprint. They have worked with LeMay, Inc. to set up a comprehensive composting program in which all food waste, brown paper, cardboard, and chopsticks are composted. Kim says that their composting program not only helps reduce their impact on the environment, it saves them money as well. In addition to composting, they have worked with Puget Sound Energy to replace all of their lighting with energy efficient lighting.
Having been vegan for almost 30 years, I had never experienced variety when dining out. The first time I went to Tofu Hut, I was completely overwhelmed by all of the enticing options. After savoring many of their scrumptious offerings, I now relish the opportunity to choose whatever suits my mood.
4804 Pacific Ave. SE in Lacey
Monday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday
Submitted by Katy Johansson for Capital City Marathon
If you’ve lived in this community for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered your fair share of runners – particularly this time of year, when they take over sidewalks, street shoulders, trails and bike lanes on Saturday mornings. You probably even know their inspiration for lacing up: the Capital City Marathon.
What you may not realize about the event they are training for is that it is completely reliant upon volunteers.
“It is no exaggeration that the marathon would not exist without volunteers,” said Jim Lux, who serves as president of the Capital City Marathon Association, the board that spends nearly a year planning and organizing the event. Even the race director, who oversees the marathon, half marathon, 5-mile race and kids’ race, is unpaid.
The marathon, held annually the third weekend in May, enjoys immense support from residents all over Thurston County and even beyond. Lux estimates it takes 500 people – who do everything from supplying water, to staffing medical tents, directing traffic, distributing race packets and finisher medals – to pull off the race.
“This is a community event and we have purposely held on to the volunteer model. It’s part of what makes our race so special, and a big reason it works as well as it does,” Lux said.
The same thing that makes the oldest marathon in the South Sound so extraordinary, however, can also make its organization complex.
“It has become a bit of a scramble to find people willing to take on some of the critical roles – to do them well takes more than one race – that not only contribute to the event’s success, but also ensure a safe event.”
Lux is looking for a handful of people to take on some big tasks at this year’s Capital City Marathon, which will be run May 17. And he knows first hand how fulfilling it is to help make it take shape.
“The fact that we are in our 34th year speaks to the importance of this event. The marathon adds to the fabric of this community. It’s part of us,” Lux said.
It certainly is a part of Lux, 63, who has been involved with it since nearly the beginning. The first women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, held in Olympia on May 12, 1984, drew him to the sport of long-distance running, both as an athlete and a volunteer. His mother, the late Mary Lux, sat on the Olympia City Council at the time it lobbied to hold the trials here. He was lucky enough to have grandstand seats at the finish the day 50,000 people descended upon the city to be a part of sports history.
The very next year he volunteered at the Capital City Marathon’s registration table on race day. He was drafted to take on course safety the following year, and has been in charge of safety ever since.
When you figure that the course is 26.2 miles long and there can be upwards of 2,000 runners on it beginning at 7:00 a.m. until as late as 1:30 p.m., that’s an enormous responsibility.
“Just marking the course – setting out all the cones and chalking everything – is a race in and of itself,” Lux admits. “We start the afternoon before, then go out again the morning of, which means we’re sometimes finishing the work after the marathon starts.”
Race Director Nona Snell has worked with Lux for nearly four years.
“We talk about how this race could not happen if we didn’t have such a great group of volunteers, and that’s true. I also can’t conceive of how this race could happen without Jim, who has given it his heart and soul for 30 years now. It really should take three people to do what he does,” she said.
This year, Lux is looking for specific support volunteers whose tasks include both figurative and literal heavy lifting during race weekend (May 16-17). Even better, would be a willingness to do these jobs for years to come. They include:
Course section leads to organize course volunteers for designated 5-mile sections of the course. This includes contacting existing and new volunteers in the months before the May event, instructing volunteers on responsibilities, distributing shirts and safety equipment, and monitoring the designated course section during the event.
Water stop assistants to set up and break down water stops and distribute water during the event. This includes delivering water and other supplies to stops along the course during the event, and assisting with organizing supplies before and after the event.
Longtime Capital City volunteer Fred Cook was also inspired by the ’84 Olympic Trials. He started as a “hugger,” assisting people across the finish line, in 1985. He took on a water stop the next year. Twenty-nine years later, he is still hydrating racers.
“It’s just become a fun thing to do once a year,” said Cook, whose festive Mile 14 water stop is at Woodard Bay. “And you get a lot of appreciative feedback from the people who are happy to see you out there volunteering. It’s a good feeling to be part of such a well-run volunteer organization that is doing something good for our community.”
Cook’s family, including his three grandsons, the youngest of whom is 8, helps at his water stop. And to hear him speak of the runners, you’d think they were all relations meeting for some sort of holiday gathering.
“You get to see people you haven’t seen all year, and meet new people. It’s an extended family thing.”
Cook, 72, is not a runner, but says you don’t need to be to enjoy the experience.
“There’s something pretty special about seeing people that you know, and even you don’t know, who have continued this regimen for such a long time,” Cook said of the people who spend months training for the race each year. “Their commitment to being physically fit may make them committable,” Cook joked. “But seeing their sense of accomplishment out there on the course, that’s pretty inspiring.”
“Watching the runners’ faces – how they feel before, during and after the race – should be enough to make anyone, runner or not, want to volunteer,” he said.
There is no shortage of race day opportunities available. For more information about volunteering, contact the Capital City Marathon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy Capital City Marathon.
As another Friday rolls around, the Editorial team of ThurstonTalk.com pulls together a list of activities and events to keep you busy in Olympia. This is just the highlights. You can always find more things to do on our full event calendar. Click here to get even more music, arts, outdoor recreation and family-friendly 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 email@example.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.
Olympia Pharmacy Museum
I stumbled acorss an interesting article about Olympia in a tatered copy of Sunset Magazine, March 1970.
"OLYMPIA'S VICTORIA PHARMACY MUSEUM"
"Hundereds pf nineteenth century cure-alls are now on display in a new public pharmacy museum in Olympia, Washington, operated by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy. Reconstructed in the museum is the old heussy Drug Company store. THe pharmacy, established in New York in 1865 and moved by the Heussy family to Seattle in 1890, operated for more than 75 years at the corner of First and Main streets. Iw was sold tp the pharmaceutical association in 1966. Rows of apothecary jars line the tall shelves behind the old-fashioned glass-topped display cases at one side of the main room. Bottles and jars contain such curiosities as swamp root, malaria and ague cure, blood medicine, spleen marrow for secondary anemia, lithia tablets, Oregon kidney tea, extract if cannabis, and pulverized zingiber. You'll also find such patent medicines as William's Pink Pills for Pale People, Podolax for Tropid Liver, Green's August Flower for Dyspepsia Cure, and Natural Carlsbad Sprudel Salt. At the far end of the room a worn old desk holds books of prescription records, mortar and pestle, scales, and an assortment of venerable measuring devices. Large gold-leaf signs advertise electric belts, essences, and mineral waters."
The museum was located on the 2nd floor of the Washington Education Association building at 319 7th Ave, just a few blocks away from the capitol.Google Plus One Facebook Like
A FREE event at Orca Books, 509 4th Ave E in downtown Olympia:
Olympia author Linda Strever will present her new work of fiction, "Don't Look Away". Set in different eras that span the 20th century, the three stories in this lyrical novel, linked by images and juxtapositions, examine the unexplainable influences that redefine and transform our lives. Historical figure Vita Sackville-West, living in post-First World War England, is torn between her identity as a woman, wife and mother and her emerging role as the trouser-clad male lover of Violet Trefusis; Bill, an American infantry soldier new to the European front in the Second World War, is taken prisoner by the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge; and Anna, a middle-aged woman who has a good-enough life in the early 1980’s, meets Thomas, an unusual and much younger man.Google Plus One Facebook Like
Submitted by Clarus Eye Centre
At Clarus Eye Centre, we’re excited to announce the arrival of the area’s first femtosecond laser designed to enhance an already successful cataract procedure. Cataract surgery has never been so accurate.
Cataracts are the leading cause of reversible vision loss in the United States. Over three million cataract procedures are performed each year in this country. While the surgery has come a long way, new technologies continue to make the procedure more precise, with even better outcomes.
Until recently, surgeons have been limited to handheld instruments and blades to access the cataract and correct astigmatism. With the traditional bladed cataract surgery, we are able to improve vision and often help patients see more clearly. However, less than 50% of patients with traditional surgery see well enough to retire their glasses.
The Catalys Precision Laser System helps reduce the need for the hand-held instruments. With unparalleled precision, the laser can create very accurate incisions in the cornea, correcting astigmatism to a degree not seen with hand-held instruments. In addition, the laser can open the cataract and then pre-soften the lens prior to its removal. The softening allows us to remove the cataract more gently, speeding recovery and enhancing the patient experience and outcomes.
All of our procedures are done in our Lacey surgery center. Call today at 360.456.3200 to schedule a consultation with one of our outstanding surgeons and determine if you’re a candidate for blade-free cataract surgery with the Catalys Laser System.
If you’re interested in viewing a video about the Catalys Laser System, click here.
By Kathryn Millhorn
There are few taboos left anymore but openly grieving the loss of a child seems to be one of them. Mourning an aging parent or friend lost to long-term illness is bittersweet but expected. The death of a toddler in an accident, however, is almost as painful to hear as it is to share. Local moms Cassie Miller and Brynn Johnson have come together through tragedy to reach out in support of families similarly devastated by loss.
On September 16, 2014, 17-month-old Rowyn Johnson died in an automobile accident when Cassie and Brynn were carpooling their children to school. Her sudden and tragic death didn’t drive the two long-time friends apart but united them in grief and the passionate desire, as Brynn explained, “to be doing something, giving back. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m doing God’s work.”
This work became Raise for Rowyn, a charity dedicated to providing for other families coping with the loss of a child. The Johnson’s were stunned at the costs of a funeral and grave marker but wanted something special nonetheless as “it’s the last gift you’ll really be giving your child.” In this case, community members quickly rallied to help with these unexpected bills but Miller and Johnson know that not everyone is similarly blessed.
Miller hopes the charity will expand to “make this our whole life” as they feel “bonded for life in this weird, horrible way.” Their team of volunteers hopes to raise awareness of child loss, breaking the cycle of silence to “use it for something good. It’s the only positive thing to keep us together to try to heal.” Johnson found a heartbreaking lack of awareness and support for such tragedies and strives to reach out to others similarly touched.
The Raise for Rowyn organization now consists of four long-time friends who “hit the ground running” and are amazed that “it’s all happened so quickly” admits Johnson. Initial brainstorming ideas ran the gamut from an annual 5K run to scholarship funding but decided to honor Rowyn by holding an annual Raise for Rowyn event each year in Tenino on the Saturday closest to her birthday.
This year’s celebration will take place on April 18 and starts with a family-friendly, all ages 5K Walk/Run. Race registration is available online with all monies going to families in need. After the race, families can experience a carnival atmosphere with bounce houses, raffles, a petting zoo, and many more free activities. That evening there will be an amazing, sold-out dinner provided by the Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel with silent and live auctions and emceed by Pastor Jim Ford of the New Day Christian Center. While the event is sold-out, you can still participate by donating to the auction.
The Raise for Rowyn charity consists of loving volunteers who have donated their time and energy to help others in need. Jen Scharber was a day-care provider for the Johnson and Miller children and now handles all social media outreach. Kristi Burke, who also runs the Adam Craig Foundation, helps with the organization’s legal and day-to-day operations. Jen, Kristi, Cassie, and Brynn keep in touch every day, with weekly meetings to stay “very much connected.” Their website was designed and built by Megan Evander, of Ghost Carbon Fiber, a long-time friend and corporate sponsor.
Beyond fundraising, the moms maintain a strong Facebook and Instagram presence. There they make themselves available to families around the region with support, advice, guidance, and resources. Says Johnson, Facebook’s familiar, easy availability helps because “you feel so alone; just having another person reach out helps me and other moms too.”
The poet Rumi once said, “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
The unexpected and tragic death of a child can be debilitating for years after the event. Caring souls like Brynn and Cassie show that from loss can spring hope and a legacy that will touch lives for years to come.
By Douglas Scott
The State of Washington is home to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and the majority of them are just a few shorts hours from home. Our extended backyards lead to majestic mountains, tranquil beaches and old growth forests, many of which are located in State Parks or other protected lands. While typically the purchase of a Discover Pass or a $10 per day fee is required to visit Washington’s State Parks, the agency has designated nine more days in 2015 as “Fee Free” entry days.
During the “Fee Free” days at Washington State Parks, a Discover Pass is not required to visit a park, providing free access for all who choose to visit. The waived fees do not cover camping or rented facilities in the park, but do cover entry and the chance to explore some of Washington State’s most celebrated lands free of charge. The dates for 2015 are as follows:
March 19: State Parks’ 102nd birthday
April 4: Saturday Spring Day
April 22: Earth Day
May 10: Sunday Spring Day
June 6: National Trails Day
June 13: National Get Outdoors Day
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
September 26: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day
Thurston County is blessed to be near some of the most iconic images of the Pacific Northwest. In just a few hours drive, we can be on a volcano, in an old lava tube, in a rainforest, along the rugged coast or on an island surrounded by orca whales. Thanks to our central proximity, we have the best of the region at our finger tips, and that includes our local state parks.
5 Great Thurston Region Parks- http://www.parks.wa.gov/849/Southwest-Region
With over half a mile of freshwater shoreline, and access to fishing, swimming and kayaking on Deep Lake, Millersylvania State Park is close enough to Olympia to visit a few times in a single day. The park has 7.6 miles of bike trails, 8.6 miles of hiking trails and offers kayak, paddle board, and pedal boat rentals during the summer. The park’s numerous buildings and trails were built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, expertly combing history and nature. A huge campground is available for those interested in a few days of exploration, and the close location to Interstate 5 makes for easy day trips from anywhere around.
Also built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the building spread around the 621 acres of Lewis and Clark State Park help balance history and nature perfectly. The park, located south of Thurston County, has five miles of hiking trails and eight miles of horse trails, making it a great trip for visitors looking for many different experiences. The park is located along the north spur of the Oregon Trail, connecting those in the Willamette Valley to the city of Tumwater. Near the park, those interested in local history should check out the John R. Jackson House, a rebuilt replica of the first American pioneer home built north of the Columbia River.
Home to ten miles of hiking trails, seven miles of bike trails and seven miles of horse trails, those looking for an outdoor experience south of Thurston County need to head to Rainbow Falls State Park. With a self-guided nature walk through old-growth forests, opportunities for wildlife watching and the chance to see a pretty waterfall, the short drive to Rainbow Falls is well worth the effort. With over 50 campsites, 36 picnic areas and places to fish and swim, it is easy to spend an entire day exploring this often-overlooked state park.
Hope Island State Park is one of the most unique state parks in America, as it is only accessible by boat. Located just north of the end of Steamboat Island Road, this rarely visited park has over 1.5 miles of beaches to explore and two full miles of hiking trails around the island. At just 106-acres, the island is covered with old-growth forests and has just four tent sites for those willing to spend the night on their own island in the Puget Sound. If you are up for a fun adventure, Hope Island State Park can provide you with that, and much more.
Just north of Olympia and south of the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, Tolmie State Park sits quietly along the Puget Sound, giving glimpses of shorebirds, views of Mount Rainier and access to three miles of hiking trails. The park was named after Dr. Willian Fraser Tolmie, who was a physician, surgeon, botanist, and fur trader for the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Nisqually for 16 years in the 1800s. The park gives access to the beach, as well as providing a great place to swim, clam, crab and fish. While the park itself may seem small, the opportunities Tolmie offers make the short trip off of I-5 well worth it.
Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.
Submitted by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs
On February 24, 2015, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs was honored to receive a prestigious Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs President and State Commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs Lonnie Wangen presented the award to WDVA Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos at a special Ceremony.
WDVA received the award in the category of Innovative State Programs with the Washington State Transition Model.
In May 2013, Governor lnslee signed Executive Order 13-01, Veteran Transition
Support, empowering the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and Washington State to establish innovative strategies to help rebuild Washington’s economy, to return our veterans to full employment, and to help our veterans and their families effectively navigate the transition to civilian life.
The Executive Order directed the creation of the Washington State Military Transition Council and the Washington State Veteran Employee Resource Group. As a result of Military Transition Council’s development of the Washington State Transition Map, the Pacific Mountain Workforce Developmental Council received a $5.6 Million Department of Labor National Emergency Grant Camo2Commerce to serve 900 exiting service members at Joint Base Lewis McChord. And, the Veteran Employee Resource Group has helped to increase newly state hired veterans by 40% over the last year.
“The incredible work that takes place between your WDVA and our JBLM, military, corporate, not for profit and Veterans Services Organization partners is a national best practice,” said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, WDVA director. “We have countless people who have broken through the silos and given of themselves and their organizations in order to take a community approach at a community issue, the successful transition our service members and their families.”
The Washington State Transition Model is a true collaboration of government, business and non-profit organizations, each focused on their role in helping service members successfully transition from active duty. Through the Military Transition Council, the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Employment Security Department, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and other county-level organizations began collaborating with Joint Base Lewis McChord with its Army Air Force Career and Alumni Program process. Together, they are creating an integrated solution to help service members become employed Washington State residents as a part of their transition to Veteran status.
In 2014, WDVA received two Pillars of Excellence Awards. One in the category of Increasing Access to VA Benefits and Services with the WDVA/HCA Benefits Enhancement Program, and one in the category of Eliminating Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015 with the Ending Veterans Homelessness in Washington State Program.
Visit WDVA online to learn more about the Military Transition Council: www.dva.wa.gov.
Submitted by Thurston County Solid Waste
An innovative new program called Restaurant Rescue collected over 25 tons of edible surplus food from local restaurants and schools last year. This food was transported to the Thurston County Food Bank and repackaged into healthy meals for needy families.
The program is a unique partnership between government, non-profits, local businesses, schools and the Food Bank. The goals of the program are to prevent waste and to help end hunger in our community. The program was launched with support from Thurston County Solid Waste and the Washington State Department of Ecology. They helped the Food Bank acquire a refrigerated van and install a new kitchen. The Food Bank is now partnering with a diverse group of local restaurants and schools to collect prepared food donations and repack them into delicious meals for Food Bank clients. An overview of the program is available here.
Everyone wins with the Restaurant Rescue program. Restaurants and schools win by reducing the amount of food waste they have to pay to have collected for disposal or composting. The Food Bank wins by receiving a steady source of healthy food and needy families benefit by having access to nutritious, ready-to-eat Food Bank meals, a product not available in the past.
Schools making a difference
To ensure there is enough food for every student, school kitchens sometimes prepare food that doesn’t get served. U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines prevent a lot of this food from being reheated or served to students on another day. This can result in a lot of wasted food.
There are now 24 schools in Olympia and Tumwater participating in the Restaurant Rescue program. Last year they rescued more than 4.5 tons of food that was prepared for lunch but never served to students. The Food Bank is making creative use of this school food. For example, they cut up school hotdogs and combine them with beans rescued from a local restaurant to create a ready-to-eat meal.
Tons and tons of rescued food, oh my!
From the program’s early days in 2012 until the end of 2014, Restaurant Rescue has recovered a whopping 45 tons of prepared food. That’s a lot of edible food that would have gone to waste but is now consumed by community members that use the Food Bank. And, they’re just getting started. This year, Thurston County Solid Waste is applying for another grant to expand the program.
How you can help
There is a big need for volunteers to help at the Food Bank, including volunteers to work on the Restaurant Rescue program as it expands. If you are interested in volunteering or if you’re a restaurant that would like to join the program, contact Heather Sundean with the Thurston County Food Bank at 360-352-8597. Schools that would like more information may contact Peter Guttchen with Thurston County Solid Waste at 360-867-2283 or email@example.com.
By Alyssa Ramsfield
For the seventh year, Olympia Pie Bakers Guild will be giving back to the community through their sweet tooth. Their annual Pie Fest takes place February 28 at the Olympia Center. It is the perfect opportunity to partake in a pie baking contest and take a bite out of hunger in Thurston County.
“When the guild formed, we wanted to do a fundraiser for Thurston County Food Bank. We wanted to give back and we love making pie,” explains guild member, Kathy Kinard. “Pie really brings people together so we thought turning it into a festival would be great for the community.”
Getting started wasn’t easy for the guild. “The first year was really hard,” says Kinard. “We just hoped someone would show up. Twenty five people entered the contest that year. Last year, nearly 200 pies came through our doors. It’s growing significantly every year.”
The Thurston County Food Bank and The Senior Nutrition Program both benefit from this event. “At the actual festival, three cans of food can be used to pay for one slice of pie. It’s this concept of trading food for food instead of using cash. All of the donated food goes to helping the food bank and nutrition program,” adds Kinard. “Every pie donated to the competition raises $50. That really adds up when you think about how that money can be used to feed a family for a week through the food bank.”
The focus of Pie Fest is on the pie baking competition. “Sixty people entered our pie baking contest last year and we expect even more this year,” explains Kinard. “There are rules involved in the baking and delivery of the pies, but anyone can take part with three age categories: youth, teen, and adult. There are ribbons and prizes given to winners of each category along with an overall grand prize winner for the event.”
“Bakers come from all over Western Washington,” continues Kinard. “While the apple pie has usually reigned supreme, it is fun to see the variety of pies and the stories from the bakers behind them.”
Judges from San Francisco Street Bakery, Lattin’s Cider Mill, and The Bearded Lady will select winners. Kinard adds that the mayor of Olympia has been a previous judge in the past as well. “He did declare the official dessert of Olympia pie,” she shares sweetly.
Pie Fest isn’t just about pie, it’s about bringing people together to support those in our community with the biggest need. “It’s a great way to bring the community together,” describes Kinard. “It leverages money for the community while coming together to have fun and eat amazing food. You don’t have to write a big check. You just have to bring canned food and take part in eating some incredible pies.”
For more information on this year’s Pie Fest, visit http://www.olypie.org/.
Olympia Pie Fest
February 28 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Olympia Center – 222 Columbia St NW
Olympia, Washington 98501