Volunteer of the Month
Suffice to say that we have been rather neglectful in highlighting the generous efforts of Christiane Saunders! For years her kitchen has produced delectable desserts for our family events and fundraisers with the same enormity that Strega Nona's cook pot produces spaghetti!
The indescribable sweet uniqueness of this woman cannot be reasonably described by the desserts she bakes—not even her crème puffs, which she says are a piece of cake! Originally from the south of France, she left home at the age of 24 ready to take on the world. While working as a translator in Germany, she met her husband Dwayne who was stationed there, and they have spent many of their 27 years together in Tacoma ever since. And what has she been doing all this time? Using her God-given passion to serve at-risk women and youth, translate, and bake both for pleasure and for others.
She says of her experiences with REACH, "I know that people are being helped. I like to think that I make a difference however little it can be. It all goes back to having a nice cookie and a slice of cake, and things are better again. That's what I love to do."
Thanks Christiane for all that you do!
To finish off the year 2011, and commemorate her two years of service with REACH, we would like to celebrate Faith Teague before she departs the country for the unforeseeable future!
In addition to the fact that Faith’s long list of hobbies would suggest that she’s an imaginative and creative person, that she would drink eggnog all year if she could, that she gave herself the rap name “Nurse Illness” during a REACH camping trip, or that she breaks out into a strange accent once she gets to know you, we love Faith for her compassionate heart and desire to serve and work with vulnerable children. For one more week she will be working at St. Joseph’s hospital as an ER nurse. Then she will say “so long” to her friends, family, and REACH family to move to South Africa to work as a nurse and volunteer at a home for orphaned and abandoned children—and maybe even bring one of them home someday.
Faith says of her experiences with REACH: "One of the most meaningful things about volunteering with REACH is being a part of such a fantastic group of people who have a goal to encourage and bless the group of families, children and adults we work with. My other favorite part is my mentor relationship with two young ladies in REACH. They have been a huge blessing to me to walk beside them in life for the last two years."
So we give her permission to go, and send her off with the confidence that she will be a blessing to as many in South Africa as she has been here at home. Bon voyage!
When we think of who we'd like to highlight for the month, we often pick people we might not have seen for a while, but we just can't stop thinking about how impressive they are. For the last two months since camp, Leah Absher aka "Nacho" has continued to stand out as a high quality person dedicated to the REACH cause.
One of Leah's shining moments was during the Talent Show at camp this year. It has been her camper's desire for the last three years to dance on stage, and it wasn't until this year that she had the confidence to do it. The two of them performed a routine they had created together and rocked the stage!
In her heart of hearts she longed to become a year-long mentor for her camper*, but we commend her for recognizing the importance of her commitments as an AmeriCorps member tutoring at Lincoln High School. She and her husband Luke (and two puppies Binky and Berkley) are also expecting their first child in May!
When we asked her why she chose to volunteer with REACH she said, "I believe everyone needs supportive relationships in their lives and I feel called to serve families impacted by HIV/AIDS. So involvement with REACH seemed to be an awesome fit for me."
Next year she will go to grad school to become a Nurse Practitioner so she can complete medical missions trips around the world!
Thanks Leah for being such a rockstar! We hope your adventures will bring you back to REACH again in the future.
(*You might like to know that last month's Volunteer of the Month "Willow" is mentoring Leah's camper!)
Sometimes life catches you by surprise—you go hunting for pebbles and you find a diamond! That's how we feel about Kristina "Willow" Hipner, this month's volunteer of the month!
Kristina came to us through a bulletin notice at her church, Lighthouse Christian Center, and volunteered as our camp photographer—a difficult role to step into when it's your first year of camp! But she rolled with the punches, captured beautiful memories, and has been tirelessly editing her work so we can share with the public the beauty of what happens at camp. (Stay tuned for pictures soon to be posted on our website!)
If that weren't enough, Kristina brings with her camera a delightful attitude towards life. She is a dedicated wife and mother to her high school sweetheart Jacob, daughter Julianna, and Golden Retriever Maxwell, a recognized and valued member of the family.
With six and a half years of working in the home loan business, she someday hopes to go pro with her photography, meanwhile enjoying life enough to give into her addiction to hot yoga and creamer in her coffee—or is it coffee in her creamer? Life is short, she might say.
She says of her experiences with REACH, "[REACH has] an overwhelming feeling of community! God was totally there (at camp)! ...I am really proud to be part of such a wonderful cause! REACH is a place that I can be proud to represent as a volunteer and if called on to help would never feel burdened to do so!"
Kristina will be starting as a new mentor to one of our REACH kids this month. We look forward to another opportunity to watch her shine as she serves!
This month we extend a BIG Thank-You and Congratulations to Lizanne "Lizard" Perry! While there were many volunteers who shined at camp this year, Lizanne stood out clearly as one who deserves to be recognized right away! Having recently moved here from Arizona, and only recently familiar with REACH through her church University Place Presbyterian Church, Lizanne got to experience the pre-camp craze in the office by volunteering her time cutting out letters, binding books, and caravanning up to camp— all to help us prepare for the big weekend!
Aside from how clearly Lizanne demonstrates that she has a servant's heart, we really enjoyed getting to know a few other fun things about her, like how she just retired after 27 years of teaching special education, or how she has been reunited with her high school sweetheart Tom, and has a daughter in Connecticut and a son in Colorado. She also has several hobbies including loom weaving, biking and gardening!
She says of her experiences as a volunteer (so far), "I decided to volunteer for REACH to help children and meet new people. I feel REACH did more for me than I have or can ever do for them."
What we want you to know Lizanne, is that it's people like you—in your faithfulness in completing even the simplest of tasks— that inspire and help REACH continue what it set out to do 15 years ago! Thanks for all you do!
Props go out to Alex "Sunny" Shennum, our August Volunteer of the Month! Alex will be volunteering this year as our Kids Creative Art coordinator for her third year of camp, but we first really got to know her when she did an internship with us in 2010.
Things we love about Alex:
- She's creative and enthusiastic (she's a great photographer!)
- Makes name acronym charts
- Loves to eat raw cookie dough
- Has a twin brother (though we unfortunately have never met)
- Enjoys watching SNL and comedy clips (she does a mean Bon Qui Qui impersonation)
- Once shared 3 plates of Matador steak nachos with only one other friend
- Is passionate about REACH kids of course!
She says of her experience with REACH: "It has totally opened my eyes to new ways of thinking, and living, and given me so much more perspective. [These experiences] have really allowed me to deepen my understanding of HIV/AIDS and get the chance to know others as they journey and live with the disease. It has ignited my desire to look at local needs rather than just international needs."
We love Alex! Her attitude and outlook on life are a huge inspiration to us, and really help shape our legacy with the families we serve. Thanks for all you do Alex!
If you've been to camp in the last two years, you would better know this month's Volunteer of the Month as Drumbot, our favorite interactive campfire monument and rhythm machine.
If you haven't been to camp lately, then you might have seen Drumbot in his non-REACH form as Matt Staerk, perhaps through the lens of his camera, working at Franciscian Health System, or enjoying a cup of fro-yo at Gibson's down the street or a Ruben sandwich wherever the meat is "pulled corned beef, not sliced".
We like our friend Drumbot not just because he is fun, creative and has a great sense of humor; we are thankful for him because he helps carry forward the REACH legacy with rhythm and beat.
He says of his experiences with REACH, "I've gained a sense of self-worth, learned to be myself, and to see the good in all people. In fact, I think everyone involved in REACH has helped me more than I've helped them!"
Thanks Drumbot! You've done more for the spirit of camp than you know!
This month we honor Susan "Sushi" Smith, faithful volunteer since 2008. She came to us when REACH Honorary Chair Tony Campolo came to speak at Walla Walla University. Ever since, she has been an advocate for the families of REACH by attending camp and recruiting her daughter Stephanie and her Social Work students to come with her.
We enjoy Susan because she is one of us; she uses pronouns like "we" instead of "they" when describing REACH, and has a great sense of humor. She decorates her office door with REACH announcements and entertaining internet printouts, drives a hybrid car, maintains her identity as a meat-eater amidst vegetarians, and looks pristine every time we see her. When asked to share something quirky about herself, she said, "I have insight into the fact that I have quirks but I can't figure out whether quirky people become professors or if being a professor makes you quirky. I have a feeling that students may be reinforcing all of my oddities and that pretty soon I'm just going to be a twitchy bag of facts about sad information."
Not only is she fun, passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but she has an ability to relate to and care for her students as well as the diversity of REACH young adults at camp in a manner that communicates their inherent worth.
She says of her volunteer experiences, "We see too many instances where Christians are characterized as judgmental and hurtful towards marginalized folks and I appreciate being a part of group that loves first."
Thank you Sushi for all that you do! As we say here at REACH, you truly got your college degree in Servant's Heart!
This month we extend an Overdue Congratulations to Mary Fairchok, aka "Doc Holiday", a REACH volunteer and advisor since the very beginning!
Mary is a retired COL and was chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Madigan Army Medical Center from 1994 to 2007. She now wears many hats, including that of a pediatric hospitalist at Mary Bridge and a professor of clinical pediatrics at UW. She loves to read, run, travel and spend time with her family, and was once offered 5 camels in exchange for her hand in marriage by a Saudi Bedouin while serving in Desert Storm!
We honor her this month as our onsite camp physician and medical trainer for volunteer trainings since we first started planning camp in 1996. She is known for saying on our old camp video, "It's a great experience for me to come here to camp because it makes me a better physician in a sense that I see what they go through on a day to day basis. As a pediatrician, it's really helped my ability to take care of the kids when I see them in clinic because they trust me a lot more because they know me in this setting."
Now she says, "The most meaningful thing to me about REACH has been witnessing the tremendous love and acceptance that springs from camp through the love of Jesus."
One volunteer has said of her: "I just love listening to her talk about HIV/AIDS and her experiences in the medical field. You can tell she knows so much and she has a real way of communicating her knowledge in tangible ways."
Thanks so much Mary for being such an irreplaceable part of REACH! You have been a constant inspiration to many!
We appreciate the art of word-smithing here at REACH, but if you ever want to hear someone shed new light on a complex concept, we encourage you to tune in to this month's Volunteer of the Month, Adam McInturf, aka "Cobalt". A graduate of Multnomah University, he still sticks close to the academic grounds—we're guessing he must be addicted to knowledge. He works there at the bookstore and spends more time than the average book clerk travelling around the country on book tours. When he's not honing his intellect pursuits, Adam can be found engaged in the intentional community called "Church of the Servant King." But even he has his quirky side: he is a huge Blazers fan and wears flannel every day.
We tell you these things because they demonstrate his capacity for why we have chosen him as our Volunteer of the Month. His dedication toward his REACH mentee for the last couple of years is made of the same stuff that makes the REACH legacy what it is. Adam says that the impact his relationship with his mentee has made on his own life has been "seeing him grow and mature before my eyes, so that our relationship is not just me mentoring him, but really a mutual friendship."
Congratulations Adam, and thanks for all you do!
Usually when we set out to nominate and select our next Volunteer of the Month, we decide on someone who demonstrates a superior amount of dedication and compassion for our kids and families. This month we selected Jordan Lobban aka "J-Lo" because she stands out to us as someone who demonstrates these qualities on multiple levels and in many areas of her life.
Jordan isn't just a dedicated wife to her husband Justin of two and a half years (who, by the way, designed our "Local is Global" t-shirts); she has been a committed mentor to a REACH kid for the same amount of time, continually and creatively encouraging and challenging her toward a life of hope and courage. Jordan doesn't just show up for a Sounders game with a blue wig and fake eye lashes, but she also comes to REACH camp with the same energy and enthusiasm, going as far as to dress up as a space alien on Intergalactic Night, or coming forward to sign for a member from the deaf community. And not only does she work for Starbucks Corporate leading the way in supporting employees, but she makes an annual pledge to REACH through the Starbucks Make Your Mark program.
It's because of people like Jordan that REACH is truly able to make an impact. Congratulations, Jordan! Thanks for being a Champion for REACH!
If you've never met Jessica, we are terribly sorry, because we LOVE her. We discovered her—or she discovered us—in 2008 in Portland for an obscure recruiting trip that seemed like it would be hardly worth the effort—until of course she came to our table. She was moving to Tacoma and was looking for an opportunity to make a difference! Since then, Jessica aka "Ocean" has been a dedicated mentor to a REACH child and a coveted counselor at REACH camp.
Why specifically do we say we love Jessica? It could be because she's like us—full of spunk, enjoys Indian food, and loves camping. Those are all good reasons; but what we really means is that she has demonstrated a sincere and deep care for her REACH mentee and has been willing to go above and beyond our expectations as a volunteer. She says, "I think it's important to live a life not just focused on myself. One of the things I love about mentoring is that I really have to be selfless to love and serve my mentee."
Whatever her passions—whether it be becoming a teacher, someday adopting a child, life guarding at the YMCA, or serving as a REACH mentor, Jessica will always have a compassionate spirit with the interests of others at heart.
Congratulations to Curtis Twiggs, our January 2011 Volunteer of the Month!
Curtis is a fairly new volunteer at REACH. It all started when he came in and swept our fellow staff member Tara off her feet! For the last year we have benefitted greatly from this relationship—after all, we have a happier Tara. No, we're not biased at all.
In a way, Curtis has been a knight in shining armor for all of us. He has blessed a REACH young adult with friendship, helped drive turkeys to REACH families in the snow for Thanksgiving, and given us tech support on demand. This month he's marrying Tara, rescuing her from her high-rise apartment and taking her to small town Enumclaw. Fortunately for us, we're not losing our coworker. We are, as they say, "gaining a coworker-in-law".
So join us in thanking Curtis "Twiggy Smalls", our Knight on a White Charger!
Congratulations to Lydia "Esmerelda" Yekalam, volunteer since 2007, and our youngest Volunteer of the Month so far!
While Lydia did volunteer at camp this year, we better know her through her involvement with the Gig Harbor High School REACH/WAYS Club, a volunteer program of REACH Ministries. Now in her second year as Co-President of the club, Lydia has repeatedly spearheaded efforts to bring in new members, plan new activities and carry on old traditions. For each carwash, blood drive, volunteer trip to an AIDS hospice or soup kitchen, educational forum or other fundraiser, Lydia maintains an irreplaceable presence.
Lydia's desires to make a difference in the world extend beyond the Puget Sound to travelling to third world countries to help children who are not receiving the care they need. We are confident that Lydia is on her way to becoming a strong leader wherever life takes her. Her far-beyond-her-years compassionate leadership in her current community is the first step to achieving her dream.
Please join us in congratulating Rob Brinton, aka "Navigator", our November 2010 Volunteer of the Month!
Rob has been advising REACH for the last 3 years in matters surrounding the psychosocial developmental needs of the families we serve. He has his own practice as a licensed counselor (B Counseling Services) and is an artist on the side. Rob demonstrates his brilliance in teaching communication skills during REACH volunteer training, where only he could get away with using the Volkswagen logo to illustrate an important tool: "validation, validation, validation". In addition to his creativity in facilitating discussion with volunteers as well as some of our teens, Rob has the courage to exhibit his inner child and is unafraid to tear it up on the dance floor while donning a Woody suit from Toy Story. He once said, "One of the best ways to break the ice with people is by making a fool of yourself." Well Rob, you are a man of your word, and we commend you for it.
Hats off to Rob for always taking it a step further!
At REACH Camp you will find many volunteers under the guise of our favorite superheroes. But only one volunteer can boast for bearing the name of a the World's Greatest Detective...So give it up for the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the Masked Manhunter...Batman, aka Jake Westhoff!
We love Jake because he's not afraid to prowl around in the dark dressed in a neon green full- bodied costume just so campfire can be a little more fun and entertaining than it already is. We love him because he has no shame singing at the top of his lungs about how hippos got so big in the middle. We love him because he does crazy things like rallying for us to bring Buddy Holly back from the dead for a rousing benefit concert to support REACH kids. We love him because he has an excellent sense of humor and humility to yield himself as a victim for an overkill water balloon prank.
We love Jake because he carries the heart, energy and enthusiasm of REACH. So hats off and a BIF! BAM! POW! to Jake, who does it all!
Mike and Kathy Holbert
Join us in celebrating Mike and Kathy Holbert, aka "Root" and "Magnolia".
If you came to camp this year you might have noticed a couple rovers who silently served by setting up decorations, running snack to the pool, or directing traffic for four hours straight. You might have learned a thing or two about their love for the beach, hiking, travelling or their two cats. You might have learned that Mike is a Respiratory Therapist and that Kathy was a nurse aide before retiring last year, and now volunteers for Show Mercy International and as a mentor for a REACH mom.
But what you may not know about this dynamic duo is that they have a history with REACH that many volunteers are unable to profess: they are former REACH parents. Their son Matthew acquired the HIV virus through a blood transfusion soon after his birth, and together with his parents and sister attended the first REACH camp in 1997. Though Matthew passed away 10 years later, Mike and Kathy tell their story with a grace and confidence that demonstrates a sense of hope and victory despite unruly circumstances.
So, to Mike and Kathy, who are a grace and hope-filled inspiration to us all!
Congratulations goes to Cameron Gomez, aka "Butter My Biscuits", volunteer since 2007!
One of our most enthusiastic and witty volunteers, Cameron is not afraid to make a fool of himself while singing about hippos, especially those that have been "eating pumpkin pancakes hot off the griddle". Cameron is also well known for pulling pranks involving water balloons and his creative rapping skills—all very cool and popular among REACH teens. Cameron is the kind of guy that can connect with a REACH teen within the first ten minutes. He has an incredible heart for our kids and brings an element of comical surprise to the REACH culture.
Please join us in congratulating Cameron, the best person to invite to a party because he is himself an icebreaker!
Our Volunteer of the Month for July is Jenni Jamieson, a.k.a. "Timber". Jenni started out volunteering for REACH as a camp counselor in 1998. She became a REACH mentor in 2003, and has faithfully been meeting with her two (now teenage!) mentees ever since.
Honoring Jenni is long overdue. She is one of those quiet, behind-the-scenes volunteers that have helped REACH establish a trust connection with our kids and families. In fact, she with her joyful giggle and sparkling eyes has become the poster child for a REACH volunteer—literally, even, as her face is all over our website and other materials! Her favorite campfire song? "Lean On Me", and when she sings it, she means it. After a full day of providing occupational therapy for kids of all ages, she still faithfully provides a space for her REACH mentees to experience her love and support.
In September, she will be tying the knot to a Brazilian named Nelson. You might find them together kayaking or hiking, all the while Jenni practicing her newfound skill with Portuguese. Hopefully this means a new recruit for REACH Camp! Congratulations to Jenni, who is most likely to be the most constant thread line if REACH were a tapestry!
Ellen Ramm (Berwold)
We are proud to introduce you to Ellen Ramm (Berwold), our June 2010 Volunteer of the Month! Ellen, aka "Flipper", is a long-time volunteer. Over the years she has served as a camp counselor, mentor and member of the leadership team for The Zone at Camp.
One of the best words to describe Ellen is "friend." She's the kind of solid person that you know you can count on because of her dedication and compassion for things that matter. Some of Ellen's outstanding qualities are her faithfulness to our kids and families and her deep concern and interest for their well-being and success in life. If you're looking for Ellen (and you didn't find her at REACH), you might find her at her church and place of work, Mars Hill Church, or beside her new husband Justin—places where she continues to demonstrate her commitment in meaningful ways. On top of all that, "Flipper" loves to have fun and regularly shows her silly side at Camp paying lost button penalties, acting as Paula Abdul during the REACH Idol talent show and responding to her special dolphin call. She's someone we wish we had on staff!
So to Ellen, who is most likely to be truly friends with all her "friends" on Facebook!
This month we give props to Eric Nicolaysen, "E-Roc", volunteer since 2007, when he began mentoring a REACH kid.
One of the best ways we can describe Eric is to talk about his love for things like coffee, cooking and mountain biking. Eric doesn't have a favorite coffee drink—he's simply dedicated to the bean itself. He is full of energy and enthusiasm in a way that would impress even Tigger himself. In addition, Eric has a more serious side: he is creative in his ability to bring unlikely REACH teens together and empower them for a hopeful future, a gift that will only be enhanced by his soon-to-be M.Div from Mars Hill Graduate School. While he can put on a goofy face to lighten the mood, he is just as quick to say something insightful that will inevitably turn into a meaningful conversation. This is how Eric demonstrates his dedication to our REACH kids.
So, to Eric: most likely to herd a thousand sheep with a smile on his face and a spring in his step!
Congratulations go to Mark Romero, one of our few volunteers more commonly known by his camp name "Bones". Bones has been one of our most faithful supporters since the very beginning—in fact, he was even present during the planning of the first camp when REACH had only $500 to its name!
While throughout the year Bones is busy traveling for his work in the Procurement department at Boeing, he always carves out time over Labor Day weekend for REACH. Bones has served our REACH kids in a variety of different ways, and now assists us as the honorary "Head Rover" at camp since he is a brilliant master planner and knows the ropes so well. Some other things we admire about him are his passion for our kids and his capacity to allow their stories to affect him deeply. It is people like Bones that have been the driving force behind the trust relationship REACH has built with our kids and families over the last 14 years.
So, to Bones—the one most likely be working as an undercover agent to win the hearts of many!
We would like to introduce you to our March 2010 Volunteer of the Month: Krissy Williams! Krissy has proudly borne the name "Kiki" at camp for the last three years, which hardly says anything to describe her year-round dedication to her REACH mentee and the rest of the REACH Family. She has barely missed any REACH engagement, from Progressive Unit events, to mentor supports, from fundraising events to camp planning meetings for the Teen Zone.
Krissy makes a unique and valuable contribution to REACH that is noteworthy beyond the fact that her sister is a staff member. The first word we might use to describe her is "spicy", since she livens up a room of people with her enthusiasm and creative energy—a quality she brings to life without the help of a triple tall nonfat white chocolate Americano that she whips up regularly for her Starbucks patrons. When she first started as a REACH mentor we didn't even notice she wasn't quite old enough because her character outshines her age! We are proud to have her as a volunteer, and are confident she has much to offer the world when she graduates from Pacific Lutheran University this year with a degree in Social Work.
To Krissy Williams—most likely to provide just the right amount of spice for your chili!