SCWS Featured Volunteers
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”– Winston Churchill
We appreciate every one of the Senior Center of West Seattle’s volunteers, and we could not function without their amazing generosity and skill. The volunteers profiled below are just a few of our extraordinary volunteers.
Meet Stop ‘N Shop Volunteer Larry Schwab
Story and photo: Charles Wallace, Stop ‘N Shop volunteer
Larry Schwab has been a Stop ‘N Shop volunteer for three years, helping us transport unsellable items to other nonprofit charities. We’re so grateful for Larry’s help—it has been hard to fill this essential role because it requires heavy lifting and a large vehicle.
Even when he had some serious medical issues, Larry has remained consistent and reliable in his support of the Senior Center’s thrift store. We can tell that it’s important to Larry that he spends time helping others.
Originally from Bismark, North Dakota, Larry has lived in West Seattle since 1975. He really enjoys art and music, and Larry plays the guitar, piano and harmonica.
He also has a small landscape maintenance business. He’s a friendly guy, and many of his clients are members of the Senior Center, so some of you may already know him!
Junko Belcourt enjoys getting to know customers at the Stop ‘N Shop. “I like helping them find useful items, as well as unusual treasures they might like,” she says. Junko loves history, so when she finds an interesting vintage item in the shop, she likes imagining the life that item may have had.
Junko grew up in Japan, attended dental college and worked as a dental assistant before traveling around Australia for a couple of years on a working holiday visa. She later also traveled to many places in Europe and Asia with her husband and children.
She wears many hats at the Stop ‘N Shop, helping with cashiering, providing customer service and processing donated items. Junko’s colleagues enjoy her calm demeanor, sense of humor and curiosity about the interesting items that are donated to the shop.
Meet Stop ‘N Shop Volunteer Chuck Bowden
On a Tuesday or a Thursday, you are likely to find Chuck Bowden talking about stereos, TVs or tools with a customer at the Stop ‘N Shop. Chuck has been volunteering with us for seven years and says he has found his niche with testing, tuning, refurbishing, fixing, cleaning and marketing all our audio and video products. He’s also a great listener with a wonderful, dry sense of humor.
Chuck’s interest in electronics started at age 10 with an electronic circuit set and a shortwave radio kit. In college he cast a wide net with a bachelor’s in humanities and an electrical engineering specialization. His first job was at the marine store at Shilshole Marina and, after a year or so, he was hired by Fluke Electronics in Everett to be a technical writer. After writing manuals for 15 years, he became a marketing specialist in the research and development of new product ideas. This brought years of international travel and lots of listening to and observing people in the electronics industry to help people use Fluke products.
When asked what keeps him volunteering, Chuck says, “When I see someone studying the electronic products, I really enjoy talking with that person and listening carefully to what they say and figuring out what they might need. I like seeing the hidden gems of older products that come in as donations. There was a 1970 Sanyo toaster made in Japan. It was a thing of beauty with its mirror-chrome sides and pivoting handle. Then there was the 1858 Jaeger LeCoultre Atmis Clock that runs off changes in air temperature.”
By Tessa Bowden, Stop ‘n Shop Coordinator
Photo: Gail Wodzin
Meet Volunteer Cynthia Fuda
Just like a ray of sunshine, Cynthia brings light to the Senior Center. In just a couple of years, Cynthia has volunteered in almost every area of our programs.
Her volunteer work with us began in 2021 after Cynthia lost her husband. A friend of hers filled out the volunteer application for her because she could see that Cynthia needed to get out of her house and find joy in her community again. That is exactly what Cynthia says she found here. “This place brought out my joy and happiness again.”
She began as a front desk receptionist and then moved on to volunteering at Margie’s Café where she enjoys serving up yummy lunches on Fridays. Cynthia also loves to give tours and share all the exciting things about the Senior Center with new people who walk through our doors. Most recently, she has also started to use her creative flair to help with the window displays in the Stop ‘N Shop thrift store. She may also be the one serving you lunch at our monthly birthday lunches. Cynthia wears so many hats here, and she wears each one with style and grace.
Cynthia was born in Guam and, because her dad was in the Navy, they moved a lot before landing in Seattle. Because of moving so often, she enjoyed volunteering at a young age to get to know people. She lived on Capitol Hill with her three brothers and three sisters and attended Holy Names Academy. She has now lived in West Seattle for nearly 50 years. She worked as a manager at both West Seattle Safeways, a career that allowed her to meet and get to know most of the West Seattle community.
Cynthia has two children and five grandkids who she sees regularly. While raising her children, all the neighborhood kids loved to be at “Mama Cindi’s” house and raid the refrigerator. She still prides herself in having an open-door policy, and she loves to throw parties. She’s also close to her own 97-year-old mom and says her three favorite places are her own home, her mom’s home and the Senior Center of West Seattle. Cynthia’s kindness and generosity spill over into everything she does at the Senior Center.
By Sara Sara Hanson-Andreu, Volunteer Coordinator
Meet Stop ‘N Shop Volunteer Sue Luke
By: Tessa Bowden, Stop ‘N Shop Coordinator Photo: Gail Wodzin
Sue has been volunteering at the Senior Center’s thrift store for almost a decade! When asked what she likes about the Stop ‘N Shop, she says “the interesting customers and the friendly staff.”
Sue had an impressive career that included positions with the Forest Service, Army, Air Force, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. She also taught English to university students in China and to third-grade children in Honduras. After exploring the world, Sue settled in West Seattle and has been here for more than 10 years.
So, come by the Stop ‘N Shop on a Tuesday—in addition to finding treasures and items you need, you’re bound to strike up an interesting conversation with Sue!
Meet Jennifer Garrett
Jennifer Garrett is one of our doubly-amazing volunteers because she works double duty— volunteering in both our Meals On Wheels and Westside Friends programs.
Every Wednesday mornings, Jennifer is here bright and early to help pack meals that go out for delivery with our Meals On Wheels volunteers. After she helps pack the meals, Jennifer gets in her car and delivers meals to six to eight homes every week. “Having access to food is most important,” Jennifer says. “This is a small part of making that happen. For some folks, this weekly delivery may be their only interaction that week.”
In our outreach program, Westside Friends, Jennifer has been visiting with the same participant since she began in 2018. She really enjoys their weekly visits. They both enjoy cooking, so Jennifer will sometimes pick up items at the store for them to cook a meal together. They also often take walks to work off some of that good homemade food.
Jennifer grew up in Bellingham, which she says was a great place to grow up. She would hop on a bus with a nickel, and her mom didn’t have to worry because every bus ended up back at the bus station, so she literally couldn’t get lost! She graduated from the University of Washington in 1988. Today, her two passions are her cats and music. She’s a professional part-time cat-sitter and plays bass guitar, violin and piano. She and her partner have a music studio in their basement and enjoy music together.
Jennifer’s grandma had passed away the year before she began volunteering at the Senior Center. She feels that her volunteer time, especially with Westside Friends, has benefited her just as much as the people she helps. “It feels like such a small, easy thing for me… with huge rewards.”
Meet Angela Nichols
Angela Nichols is a well-loved member of the West Seattle community. She owned Funky Janes for approximately 20 years. She is now semi-retired.
Her experience in retail has really helped the Stop ‘N Shop. She is good at so many things and is always willing to pitch in and help.
Angela cashiers on Tuesday afternoons. The staff and regular customers appreciate her sweet and gentle presence.
Written by: Aylene Kandappu, Stop ‘N Shop Manager Photo by: Gail Wodzin, volunteer
Meet Barbara Fogle, Stop ‘N Shop Volunteer
Written by: Aylene Kandappu, Stop ‘N Shop Manager
Barb Fogle is our Friday cashier, who has been volunteering in the Stop ‘N Shop for more than three years. We are so grateful for her close attention to detail and ability to research items’ value, so we can price them correctly. Barb is one of those amazing people who manages to have a professional career, make gourmet meals, help sick relatives and still find the time and energy to volunteer. She and her husband are West Seattle residents who have figured out how to work hard and play hard. She loves to travel and always gives us plenty of notice so we can find a substitute.
The regular Friday customers always ask about her when she is on a trip.
Meet Micki Cluff
Micki is a big fan of Corgis, and you can see her walking her pet around West Seattle every day.
She has lived in West Seattle since the mid 1980’s. Micki and her husband used to own a video rental business called, Mr. O’s Video. Perhaps you remember it?
A few years ago, Micki retired from her dental hygienist position, and she currently volunteers in the shop twice a week. We are very fortunate because Micki is willing to help do so many different tasks. She spends one morning up front helping customers and another in the back room sorting through incoming donations. We would be buried in piles of donations if not for volunteers like Micki!
Written by: Aylene Kandappu, Stop ‘N Shop Manager
Photo credit: Gail Ann Phot
Meet Darlene Cowman
Darlene’s warm smile, sharp mind and quick wit made her a wonderful volunteer front desk receptionist for more than three years. And, Darlene’s experience in technology helped her to be super proficient on the computer and able to assist with special projects.
These days, you will find Darlene volunteering in Margie’s Café on Thursdays. She says volunteering here has given her new friendships, and adds, “I had no idea how fun this would be and attached I would getto the people!” She says that one of the best things about moving from the front desk to Margie’s Café is that she knows so many of the names of our members and guests.
Darlene is a true Seattle native who grew up in the north end and attended Lincoln High School. After living in Montlake Terrace and Renton, she now resides in West Seattle. Darlene has family close by with a brother and sister in Bothell, and she’s an aunt and great aunt to their numerous offspring.
Darlene was lucky to work in IT for the phone company for 32 years and describes it as a great job. She enjoyed getting to change departments throughout her career and expand her knowledge regularly. She retired from the company in 2002 and went on to work in technology for Bartell Drugs for nine years.
In addition to volunteering, Darlene enjoys traveling, biking and home do-it-yourself projects. She is very handy and has made many improvements to her home by herself. Darlene is exploring the idea of moving out of state and is looking to Arizona as an option. We are hoping this doesn’t happen any time soon, as she is a true treasure to the Senior Center!
Written by: Sara Hanson-Andreu, Senior Center Volunteer Coordinator
Photo credit: Arica Sykes-Dawley, volunteer
Meet Dennis Wiese
There are some volunteers here at the Senior Center that we barely get a chance to see. They are here early on Wednesday mornings, and then they’re off to bring Meals on Wheels food deliveries to seniors in our community. Many of our community members depend on these meals for their health and well-being, and we would not be able to provide them without volunteers like Dennis Wiese.
Dennis began volunteering with Meals on Wheels about three years ago. Not only does Dennis deliver meals every Wednesday, but he also comes in on Tuesdays to help us with inventory and on Thursdays to do paperwork and assist our Meals on Wheels coordinator.
Dennis was born in Wisconsin but moved around a lot because his dad was in the military. He ended up in Idaho where he studied Political Science at the University of Idaho and then went on to study Elementary Education at Central Washington University. His career path took him through a few turns from retail to real estate, and he ended up teaching elementary Special Education in Alaska for 15 years. He enjoyed his time in Alaska and has fond memories of fishing trips with his family.
After retirement in 2010, Dennis volunteered with Reading Partners, working with students to help them improve their reading skills. After so many years working with kids, he realized he wanted to do something to help the other end of the spectrum—seniors. That is how he came to volunteer at the Senior Center.
Dennis enjoys meeting and helping people and is a true “people person.” He says his time at the Senior Center “makes me more compassionate, I want to help!” What makes it all worth it, he says, is visiting with people and hearing the calls from people expressing gratitude for Meals on Wheels. Dennis sees that many seniors are lonely, and this critical service helps to alleviate some of that loneliness.
When Dennis is not sharing his time with the seniors in our community, he enjoys gardening, reading and traveling. Most of all he enjoys time with his wife of 54 years, his three children and four grandchildren ranging from 2-15 years in age. They are lucky to have such a kind and compassionate grandpa!
Meet Mary Jane Michaels
At the Senior Center’s thrift store—the Stop ‘N Shop— we are lucky to have so many fantastic volunteers. This month, we want you to meet Mary Jane Michaels, a retired OB/GYN Residency Coordinator originally from Connecticut.
When she retired, Mary Jane moved to West Seattle to be closer to her only son and his family. Her caring daughter-in-law made her move to Seattle so much easier by including her in many of the family’s activities. Mary Jane said that the Senior Center of West Seattle and a group called Newcomers really helped her connect with new friends.
Since 2014, Mary Jane has been a volunteer in the Stop ‘N Shop. She helps us tag hundreds of items every month during her twice per week shifts. Thank you, Mary Jane!
Meet Stop ‘N Shop Volunteer Noelle
Stop ‘N Shop volunteer Noelle lived in central Seattle for several decades, but moved back to West Seattle because she missed its beauty. We’re glad to have her in the neighborhood!
Noelle finds great satisfaction in organizing and keeps our retail display shelves and back work areas neat and tidy. We should have a before and after camera shot of all her projects! Thank you, Noelle
Meet John Llewellyn
John wanted to be an attorney since he was a kid. He made that dream come true, but it was quite a journey getting there!
John studied pre-law at Green River Community College, WSU and UW. After he was drafted in 1972 and came back with a bit of an ‘attitude’ as he says, he paused his legal studies. Instead, he became a chemist and worked in quality control and microbiology for Rainier Brewery. Once the novelty of free beer wore off, he got bored with the repetition of the job and decided to become a science teacher.
He taught science at Ingraham high school until several Seattle schools closed in the 1970s forcing John out of a job. He pivoted again, using his early computer knowledge to get an interview with King County. He walked into the county’s room that housed three new IBM 286 computers, and nobody knew what to do with them, except him! His career with King County spanned 16 years.
It was in 1999 that a dispute with a neighbor over a boundary line led him back to law. He hired an attorney, and at one point he had to correct that attorney about the law. The attorney said to John, “If you’re so smart, why didn’t you go to law school?” It was that encounter that prompted him to go back to study law at Seattle University. At age 52 he passed the Bar exam on the first try.
In 2005 John opened his own law firm, and he now has a team of four attorneys. For more than 16 years he has volunteered at the Senior Center by providing free legal services to seniors. For John, it’s a way to give back and a way to gain clients that may need his specialized services in estate planning, probate, guardianship and power of attorney.
When John is not working you may find him on the slopes—he’s been skiing since he was five years old. Or he could be working on batch #478 of his home-brew. John is also an avid gardener and enjoys doing ornamental gardening with his wife on his large lot in West Seattle.
John has no plans to retire. “This is the most fun job,” he says. “I get to help people. It is so fulfilling and sometimes I even get paid! If you can do a job you like, you never need to retire!”
John has been helping seniors for a long time, and we are happy to hear that his important work will continue for years to come!
Meet Fran Zickes
Saturdays are a great day to shop! Especially because you will get to meet Fran! Fran Zickes has been working in our thrift shop for 13 years – and will happily give you exceptional service with a smile! Fran started at the Senior Center working in the Café. She did that for about 6 months before she moved to the shop which she found to be more fun! Fran was retired, and wanted to find something to do with her time – and her husband was volunteering here for Meals On Wheels and roped her in too!
She has worked with 2 shop Managers before Aylene (our current Manager). Fran says Aylene is wonderful to work with; she is so supportive, so dedicated and truly a pleasure to work with. The irony is, that Aylene would use these same words to describe working with Fran. Above all, Fran’s favorite part of volunteering in the shop, is the customers, “I learn a lot from them” she says. Fran loves seeing all the donations – she says she’s not a shopper, but when she shops, it’s at the Stop N’ Shop! “Most of my wardrobe is from here,” says Fran.
Fran was working as a Flight Attendant in 1970, when she was transferred from Chicago to Seattle. She grew up in Southern California. After flying around, Fran began working in education as an Instructional Assistant. She worked in public and private schools locally in West Seattle for almost 15 years. Fran has spent the last 50 years in Seattle! She will also be celebrating 50 years of marriage to her husband Bob this year! They met on a ski mountain in Spokane, he was in the Air Force. They have one son, but no Grandchildren (yet).
Fran shared one of her memorable life changing events, and that was when she went to Liberia to visit a friend in the Peace Corps. She spent 2 weeks there, and will never forget how happy the people were, even though they had so little. This humbling experience has stuck with her throughout her life.
Fran also spends time helping to keep Alki beach clean, and she has been donating blood since the 80’s. She plays golf year-round and is in the Ladies Club at the West Seattle Golf Course. She also plays volleyball, does yoga and walks every day.
Fran loves volunteering here, and she truly enjoys the people she works with. Fran, we salute you and your long term dedication to the Senior Center!
Meet Jan Fisher
There are some volunteers that really have the passion—the passion to help and serve others. And, Jan Fisher is one of those volunteers!
Jan came to the Senior Center about seven years ago when a friend who played bridge here suggested she try volunteering. Jan had already served on many nonprofit boards in executive positions, but she really wanted to work with her hands and provide a service that she could see directly benefitting people. So, Jan joined our kitchen crew and immediately knew she was in the right role. She loves seeing people’s smiling faces as they enjoy food at the Senior Center.
Originally from Witchita, Jan got an undergraduate degree from Kansas State University and then went on to get her MBA in Economics at George Washing ton University. She spent time in Washington D.C. as a lobbyist for ARCO. When a public affairs position
opened in Seattle in 1990, she took the opportunity to move here. Her executive position had her overseeing government and community relations and communications for ARCO in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. She also got to experience life in Anchorage for a stint. After her time with ARCO, Jan worked in executive roles for Alaska Airlines and then finished her career at Boeing. As a retiree since 2010, Jan continues to be a lifelong learner. Her interests in phi losophy, theology and world religion led her to earn a Master’s degree in Spirituality.
Jan is effusive about the wonderful kitchen environment that Chef Francisco creates at the Senior Center. “He makes a happy kitchen!” she says. Jan is always impressed with how hard Francisco works, in addition to being extremely patient and dedicated to the volunteers and guests. This is just one of the reasons Jan continues to love her volunteer role. She describes the Senior Center as a “very vibrant community, with a big heart.” She also loves volunteering here because of the other volunteers she gets to spend time with. “It’s a celebration to be here!” she says.
When Jan is not volunteering, she might be traveling and spending time with her friends. She also enjoys photography, creative writing and watercolor. She is also busy darting around on her e-bike!
We are so grateful that Jan makes time to share her patience, wisdom and kindness with us here at the Senior Center. We are a better place because of volunteers like Jan!
Meet John Cluff
Stroll into the Senior Center on a Thursday morning and you will find John greeting you at the front desk. John originally got involved with the Senior Center playing pinochle about 10 years ago. A few years later, he offered to help with some accounting while one of our staff members was out—and then continued to help with it three days per week for a while. John enjoyed volunteering at the Senior Center so much that he began working at the front desk in 2017.
We feel fortunate that John makes time for the Senior Center, as he is extremely busy serving his community. John puts his bachelor’s degree in accounting to work by enjoying the role of treasurer on the Board of Directors of three different organizations—the Senior Center of West Seattle, Harley-Davidson and his condo association. He also serves on a Sound Generations committee that has representatives from each senior center.
John was born in Germany, attended high school in France and moved often while his dad served in the military. He completed his undergraduate studies at Pacific University in Oregon and received his master’s degree from the University of Iowa. It was at Pacific University that he met his wife, Micki, of 44 years. Micki is also a Senior Center volunteer, doing shifts in our Stop ‘N Shop thrift store.
When John is not busy computing numbers and helping seniors, his favorite hobby is riding his Harley. As a child, John always wanted a motorcycle, but his mom said ‘NO!’…as most moms would. When John was 50, his mother passed away, and shortly thereafter, he bought his first Harley. A fun thing to know about John is that he has been to every single state in the country. It was in John’s 50th year that he visited his 50th state—Alaska. John continues to love to travel. He and Micki are planning a trip to Antarctica in 2023. He also enjoys reading and playing pinochle with friends he’s made at the Senior Center.
Hopefully we can keep John coming back for years to come—he loves the social interactions he gets volunteering here. He enjoys the people and continuing to learn through his work. He says it “keeps his mind sharp” and there is “always something going on!” Thank you, John!
Meet Jenny Mayberry
When Jenny Mayberry is at the Senior Center, you will always see her wearing an apron and a smile. Jenny has been volunteering in our kitchen since January 2017, and she continued to help Chef Francisco prepare lunches for delivery during the pandemic.
Jenny was born in New Mexico and moved a lot while growing up. She studied marketing at Eastern Illinois University and eventually landed in Minnesota where she worked in sales for Kraft for 30 years. Jenny and her husband raised three daughters and a son in the Midwest before moving to Seattle in 2017 when her husband took a job with Amazon.
Jenny has previously volunteered tutoring children and helping in assisted living facilities. She was inspired to help seniors after seeing the positive impact volunteers had on her mom’s life in her senior years. Jenny says she always feels better when she is “giving back, making a difference in the lives of people.”
With her adult children and two granddaughters spread out between New York, Washington, D.C., Arkansas and China, Jenny is uncertain where her next chapter may take her. While she and her husband are planning their next move, she will continue pursuing her hobbies that include volunteering, hiking, daily walks, reading, cooking classes, wine tasting and trav el. We know that wherever Jenny lands on her journey, the organization that gains her as a volunteer will be very fortunate.
Jenny misses seeing people coming into the Senior Center for lunch. Despite not having people dining in the building last year, she says the kitchen felt busier because they are producing more meals for delivery than they were before the pandemic. One of the things Jenny loves best about working in the kitchen is learning new cooking techniques from Chef Francis co. She has learned to make different sauces, prepare Mexican food including tamales and cook meat in a variety of new ways. It’s a delicious and rewarding volunteer role for Jenny!
Meet Joyce Maund
If you venture into our Stop ‘N Shop on a Thursday or Sunday, you may notice a volunteer extraordinaire with pink hair! Several years ago, when Joyce Maund first dyed her hair, someone told her she looked like Pink, and she has kept her hair pink ever since.
About a year after Joyce retired in 2013, she needed to get out of the house and so she started coming to the Senior Center’s Weight Watchers meetings.
Shortly after, she decided to start volunteering in our thrift shop. Joyce has worn every hat in the shop, from pricing, sorting to also cashiering. If you have a question, Joyce probably has an answer.
A Washington native, Joyce spent her youth in Ellensburg and Cle Elum. She even once lived in a lumber camp! After she made her way over the mountains to Seattle, she worked for a phone company for about six years before she started her family and raised three children. After 11 years she went back to work for Time Oil Company where she worked for 28 years as a Technical Research Assistant and then an Environmental Assistant. Joyce also worked in both West Seattle Curves facilities for nearly 10 years.
Joyce has lived in her West Seattle home for 54 years and currently enjoys sharing her home with her son and grandson. Joyce beams when she talks about her family. She has her three adult children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She describes them all as a close-knit family, “We all take care of each other and have each other’s backs!” she says.
When asked about her most memorable moment volunteering at the shop, Joyce said the first one that came to mind was the customer who kept trying on shirts on top of shirts on top of shirts! She kindly told him that he could keep the shirts, but that he needed to leave.
Joyce has a great way with people—she handles all types of customers and their questions and requests with grace. According to Joyce, the best part of volunteering is the friends she has made. She says, “Coming here to volunteer is my pick-me-up!”
Meet Beth Terry
Beth Terry has never been one to do things halfway. She continues to live that mantra in retirement as an active volunteer dedicating many hours of her free time to the Senior Center. She has been a volunteer since 2019 when she started helping in the Café.
Beth was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her father, a banker, and her mother, a flight attendant, met on the ski slopes when her father had offered free ski lessons and Beth’s mother was the only one who showed up. When Beth was young, her family moved to Kent for her father’s job at a bank. Beth continued to enjoy skiing with her older sister and parents as she was growing up.
When Beth was 9 years old, she was severely burned when her nightwear caught fire from the stove in their kitchen. Beth had to undergo many, many surgeries up until she was in her 40s. She describes her tragedy as the last step in the Washington State flammable nightwear law that passed in 1973. Beth is truly a survivor—she still gets emotional when she thinks about what her family went through during that time, especially her mother
Martin Piccoli –
From Volunteer to Interim Program Coordinator to Volunteer Again!
No words can say how wonderful it was to have Martin Piccoli step in and offer to be our Interim Program Coordinator when we found ourselves without one. He showed up and dove in to understand how we had been doing programming pre-COVID and to figure out what we could provide that would benefit our membership while our building was only open to a certain number of people and by appointment only.
He found ways to bring the activities back in a safe manner while providing top notch customer service. His ability to communicate clearly and in a friendly manner brought new life to our Senior Center by making outdoor signage letting people know that yes, indeed the Senior Center is open. People were also greeted by a friendly voice on the phone and a smiling face when they were in the building.
Martin also made us all laugh. There was so much uncertainty about the future that we really needed someone with his personality to walk through our door. He was a volunteer at the Senior Center and also a writing instructor. When he heard we needed some help, he offered to do the job until we were able to hire a permanent Program Coordinator.
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Lois Ames
She is the Grandma that we all want to have…sweet as pie! I often say that I wish I could put her in my pocket and take her home with me! I am talking about Lois Ames. Lois joins us on Fridays like clockwork (unless she happens to be on a cruise). Lois started volunteering at the Center in 2004. She used to help with the casino trips, and then began helping out with BINGO on Fridays. Lois loves helping with bingo on Fridays because of the contact she gets to enjoy with each of the players. She also keeps coming back because she loves handling money, and paying out the winnings to the lucky winners!
Lois grew up in West Seattle, and still has many friends here from her childhood days. After she was married, she moved to Bellevue in 1946 to raise her family of 5. Her, and her husband of 56 years, raised 3 daughters and 2 sons. Lois met her husband in their youth, he was a friend of her brothers. The family moved back to West Seattle in 2003. She now has 13 grandchildren, several great grandchildren (she lost track!) and one great, great grandchild! One of her sons lives with her and helps her out at home. If you come to our monthly birthday lunches, you will often see them attending the lunches together.
Lois loves to get up early and watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. She also enjoys gardening and pulling weeds! She is proud of her fuchsias that she manages to overwinter every year. Spending time with her family is very important to her, and she loves to get out with her nieces for lunch dates. She also enjoys going shopping with her friends. Lois is proud of her Scandinavian heritage, and one of her favorite cruises was the Scandinavian cruise she took. Lois has been on 7 cruises, and one of the special ones was to Alaska with her mother.
We hope Lois will keep volunteering here for many more years to come. She describes the Center as her “second home” and believes that “helping people is important”. We are so happy that she is here every week to help us!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Myrna Loy Sedlacek
For over seven years we’ve been graced with the dedication, hard work, and distinct laughter coming from Myrna Loy downstairs in our thrift shop. While most of our volunteers work one day a week, you will find Myrna Loy sorting through donations in the shop on Mondays and Saturdays. A few years after Myrna Loy moved to Seattle from Wenatchee, her daughter brought her a volunteer application and nudged her to volunteer in the shop. Although she has always enjoyed thrifting, she was hesitant at first, but is now glad she did because she has made many strong friendships working here.
Myrna Loy is originally from Illinois. She moved to Wenatchee in 1997 with her husband, daughter, and son. She loved the area and enjoyed living there in the home they purchased from her aunt. After working for a title company for over 20 years in Illinois – which she truly enjoyed – she decided to try something new. Her genuine love for helping people served her well working for Costco as a demonstrator, giving out those delicious samples! She loved doing that job and worked there for about eight years. Myrna Loy says, “I have always loved helping people. I got that from my mother.”
Myrna Loy also got her unique name from her mother. As you may have guessed, she was in fact named after the famous actress Myrna Loy from the early age of film. Her mother always insisted on everyone using her full name.
She made it clear that her name was not Myrna…it is Myrna Loy!
Spunky Myrna Loy loves working in the Stop N’ Shop! She says, “It’s fun; it’s hard work; you don’t just sit around!” She spends a lot of her time here going through the new donations. She says it’s a hoot seeing some of the things people donate…and sometimes a little bit stinky! She recalls a time when there was a nice looking Tupperware piece donated, but when she opened it, she was just about knocked over with the odor of the rotting cantaloupe inside. There is never a dull moment down in the shop! Many of Myrna Loy’s closest friends are people she has met volunteering here.
When Myrna Loy is not volunteering in our shop, she enjoys gardening and cooking. She also has a strong love for birds, especially hummingbirds. Above all, Myrna spends a good deal of her time helping her friends and other volunteers.
She has an amazing sense of humor and is extremely generous with her time when it comes to helping others. She is the first one there willing to help out another person in need in our community. We are truly blessed and so very grateful to have her in our community, and we hope that she will keep us all laughing for years to come!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Byrke Dykes
2019 Jean Carroll Exceptional Volunteer Service Award Recipient
Many mornings you will find Burke in our computer lab, plugging away and ensuring our computers are running properly. He is our official, unofficial, IT guy! Burke started teaching computer classes here in the mid-90s. Before he started volunteering his skills, our lab was burglarized and all the computers were stolen. Burke helped to scrounge up donated computers to fill the lab again so that people would have computers to use here. In 2008, Burke helped to write a grant to acquire new computers for the first time. Then about ten years later, Burke wrote another grant for the computers we currently have…Thank you, Burke!
Burke retired in 1993 from a successful career at Boeing as an engineer. Before he retired, he started building his first computer. He reflects back on those days as “a fun time!” There was a constant raging argument over computer design. “It was wonderful,” Burke says. “Do you design for functionality or for appearance?” Burke always voted for functionality. He built several successful websites, and of
them he said, “You could always find what you were looking for on my websites!” Burke built the very first website for the Senior Center. And if that wasn’t enough, Burke also learned to fly and got his pilot’s license after he retired from Boeing!
Burke grew up east of the mountains in Prosser. He grew up on a small working farm with his younger twin siblings. He described his parents as “planners” because he actually shares the same birthday as the twins who were born four years after he was! When I asked him if having twin siblings was fun, he said, “Hell no! They ganged up against me!” At about eight years old, he started working for other farmers in the area. In the mid-afternoon, all the wives would make up a big meal for all the boys working the farms. He described harvest time as wonderful and has fond memories of life on the farm.
These wonderful days on the farm came to an end when Burke left home to go to UW to study physics. Some years later, he was drafted to fight in the Korean War. Burke also enjoys theater and attends the annual Shakespeare Festival in Oregon where he sees seven plays in four days!
Burke describes the Center as his “home away from home.” He believes one of the most important things in life is to be of help to someone else, not out of obligation, but to voluntarily help others. He finds this satisfaction by volunteering many hours at the Center, not only keeping up the computers in our lab, but also offering help to individuals having issues or questions about their own computers, along with serving on our Board of Directors. It’s for these reasons and many others that we are so pleased to award him the 2019 Jean Carroll Exceptional Volunteer Service Award. Thank you so very, very much, Burke, for ALL that you do for the Center!
And if you see a silver Mazda, steel top convertible darting around town with a license plate that reads BOYTOY, give a wave to Burke!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Bianka Thomka
Back in 2016, Bianca Thomka saw an ad for volunteers in the West Seattle Blog and felt that it was a good time to give back to her community, so she responded. Ever since then, she’s been volunteering in a variety of important roles at the Senior Center. She’s assisted our Social Workers with all of the data entry they are
required to do, but don’t always have the time for. She’s been an integral member of our kitchen crew, helping to provide a home-cooked meal to those who join us for lunch during the week. She’s even stepped up to take the lead with this crew when the chef has been out sick or on vacation. Bianca’s been so incredibly valued in these roles, it’s hard to believe she found a way to be an even more extraordinary volunteer with her contributions to our monthly Rainbow Bingo fundraiser.
If you’ve ever rounded the corner into Hatten Hall before one of these monthly Rainbow Bingo events and found your jaw drop in awe when catching sight of the amazing decorations, Bianca is often the person behind them. Bianca will find out the theme of that month’s event and then research decorating options and possibilities online. Once the decorations are decided upon, Bianca will either make them herself or buy them and donate them to the Center.
Making them has included blowing up hundreds of balloons to create columns and to hang from the ceiling, gluing hundreds of colored strips of paper together (in correct rainbow order!) to create looped chains to form a radiating ceiling decoration, cutting out numerous Super Heroes logos on construction paper to hang from the ceiling or to affix to the walls, fashioning an adorable likeness of Cousin Itt to greet attendees at the entrance to the Hall, and so many more. She’s even built a frame to hold a backdrop customized to each of these events!
A little bit about Bianca…She was living in Los Angeles when she decided to relocate to Seattle in order to follow her best friend who had moved to the area earlier. Soon after coming to Seattle, she met her future husband at the old Ozzie’s bar on Queen Anne He actually proposed to her on the rooftop of the infamous karaoke bar! The two of them, along with their dog Dolly, now live in West Seattle where Bianca works part-time for the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
Bianca’s passion is in buying items and reselling them on her Etsy shop and her eBay store. Her online stores specialize in vintage items, coffee mugs, and unique treasures she procures in her hunts. If you’d like to see these treasures, you can visit her online shop on Etsy called The- FeatheredCurator or her eBay store called MoxieMugs.
When asked her how volunteering at the Center has impacted her life, she replied “It makes me feel better; it’s enriching. It has made me less self-centered. I tout the Senior Center everywhere I go and I tell people how wonderful it is here!” She says she loves to see the joy in people’s eyes when they see the decorations she creates – it makes it all worthwhile!
Well, we all tout Bianca’s willingness to share so much of her time and her many creative talents, as well as her boundless energy and enthusiasm with our Center! We are so grateful for her ongoing dedication to our Center, to our community, and to creating such beautiful and festive atmospheres for events here. The fruits of her hard work are enjoyed by so many, over and over again.
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Terry Holm
Have you seen one of the “Greatest Movies You’ve Never Heard Of”? If you haven’t, it’s time to do so. Not only can you come and see a movie on Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm, but you can learn about the movie from Terry Holm. Terry will happily take some time to discuss his top movies with you. He refers to himself as the Curator of all the best movies! For almost 10 years, Terry has been showing movies at the Center from his long list of favorites. Terry began coming here to join in the dance classes. One day he heard the previous movie volunteer expressing some dissatisfaction with his job, and Terry jumped on the opportunity to take over a job that was near and dear to him. Terry said, “He didn’t know as much about movies as I do…well, who does?” That was it, in 2010 Terry took over the movies at the Center. He generously bought all new equipment and room darkening drapes to enhance the movie viewing experience for all.
As a Seattle native, Terry was 7 years old when his family got their first TV. He was only about 8 when he took the bus downtown by himself to see the triple feature for 25 cents! Terry’s apprenticeship at Boeing was interrupted by being drafted in 1968. When he returned, he went back to Boeing and worked as a precision toolmaker for 40 years. While he was working full-time, he returned to University of Washington for Cinema Studies, learning about film critics. If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, talk to Terry…he wrote a 54-page thesis on Hitchcock!
If Terry is not here sharing his favorites with you, you might find him at home watching one of his 800 DVD’s! He estimates he averages about 2 movies per day. Terry also enjoys taking Turner Classic Movie cruises – he has already sailed on 6, and has more planned for the future. We appreciate all the time, and movie knowledge Terry has brought to the Center over the past 10 years – and we look forward to many more…and FREE POPCORN!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Charlie Strong
When Charlie was young, he always got musical instruments for Christmas. One year his mom rented him a trumpet-she really wanted him to play the trumpet! Finally, when Charlie was about eight years old, he received a ukulele for Christmas. This was a good fit for Charlie. Music has always been a big part of his life.
Charlie has lived in West Seattle since 1945. He retired from Boeing after 32 years of doing art and drafting there. He spent several years playing guitar 3-4 nights a week in a band – they all dressed up as pirates and had a great time carousing around town!
In the summer of 1995, Charlie was asked to join The UKES, Unique Kind of Entertainers. This group was started by local musical legend, Ray Johnston, in 1995. It was a natural progression for Charlie to take over the UKES in 1999, when sadly, Ray passed away. Since then, the UKES have been playing together here at the Center for a Sing-a-Long on Mondays at 1pm.
Originally, the group averaged about eight to twelve players. Then, a couple years back the Seattle Times ran an article featuring the UKES and after that, the group doubled in size! About a month ago, they had 31 players – the largest group ever!
The group plays music out of the four song books that Charlie has compiled over the years. These books have been a group effort. They started with a group of songs from Ray’s library that was supplemented with his handwritten Dixieland arrangements. Charlie added words and chords to these arrangements. The books have been added to over the years by people from the group, The Seattle Ukulele Players Association, and The Edmonds Ukulele Group. Charlie says he has enough songs for two more books!
If you haven’t already met Charlie, stop in on a Monday at 1pm and you will find him, as well as some wonderful ukulele entertainment! When Charlie is not playing music, you can find him working on his beach cabin in Copalis and spending time with his seven grandchildren and his five great-grandchildren!
Charlie and The UKES play around town at community centers and retirement communities. Charlie says, “We play for food, like Jimmy Buffet said, I will play for Gumbo!” You can catch The UKES performing on January 17th at Brookdale on 35th in West Seattle.
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Darnell Nelson
If you noticed a flash of bling down in the Stop ‘N Shop, it was probably Darnell’s cuff links! He’s usually sporting a snazzy shirt with even snazzier cuff links!
Darnell Nelson has been working down in the shop for about a year and a half. He was born in Oklahoma and is the oldest of eight children. His family moved to Seattle in the mid 60’s.
For Darnell, academics came easy and he graduated with honors. He studied law and spent his career working in the Treasury department of the federal government.
When Darnell is not working at the shop, you might find him tending to his roses. He also enjoys geology. He says, “The rocks, they keep me grounded.”
On the flip side, there’s nothing grounding about the fact that he misses the tornados in Oklahoma. Growing up, he liked to watch a good storm come in over the plains.
When talking about volunteering at the Stop ‘N Shop, Darnell says he has seen some interesting characters come in. One of his most memorable moments was witnessing his first shoplifter. She milled around the store for over an hour, when she finally just walked out with a bunch of clothes. Acting on instinct, Darnell chased her down the street and said, “Don’t you know the law?”
We are lucky to have him on our shop crew, and he feels lucky to be here. What he likes best about working here is the people. “You’re al so interesting” he says.
Be sure to say hello to Darnell when you are shopping at our lovely thrift store soon – make sure you have a few minutes…Darnell LOVES to talk!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Amy Eby
Interviewing Amy Eby, one of our amazing Westside Friends volunteers, makes me wish that she could adopt me to be her friend! Her contagious smile, boundless energy, and quick sense of humor kept me laughing the whole time I spent with her. When Amy first moved to Seattle in 2000, she noticed many ‘grandmas’ and ‘grandpas’ around town. She was missing her family back in Indiana and had the urge to invite them all home for dinner. This motivated her to come in to the Senior Center (with a few of her friends in tow) to start an “Adopt a Grandparent Club.” Although her intentions were good, the Club did not become as popular as she had hoped.
Then life took a welcome turn when she started a family. She then spent the next 15 years raising her son and daughter and shared her ‘extra’ time within her kids’ schools. When her kids got a bit older, and “Now that they are not talking to me,” she says with a laugh, “I have some extra time to make a difference. It feels good.”
Amy came back to the Center in 2015 to volunteer with our Outreach Program, now called Westside Friends. She met with our Social Worker, Holly McNeill, and was matched with a client who needed some companionship. Amy consistently goes above and beyond with her client; she includes her as part of her family! She plans surprise birthday lunches for her client and joins her at most of her appointments. Amy is a doctor and this makes her a valuable advocate for her client.
Amy also includes her client in family and holiday dinners. She told a funny story of how her client was refusing to come to Christmas dinner. She did not want to be without her raised toilet seat. Amy went out in snowy weather and found a raised seat at the last minute. She was not about to let her sweet friend miss out on Christmas dinner!
This way of going out of her way to help her Westside Friend and including her as family is why we chose to honor Amy as our featured volunteer! Thank you, Amy, for all you do! You truly are an inspiration!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Shandee Jones
If you miss her morning arrival, donning a different hat from the day before (she has more than 30 hats to choose from), you may have to peek back in the kitchen to find her! Shandee (Valerie) Jones has been helping to keep our kitchen going and our dishes spotless for over a year now. Shandee also works in the Café once a week where she shares her warm smile and dry sense of humor with our members and guests. Many years ago, one of her friends gave her the nickname “Shandee.” Her friend considered her to be extremely sensitive, like a chandelier, and the name stuck!
Shandee moved here from Chicago over 20 years ago. She happened to visit the area during a sunny weekend. “I chose to move here before I knew about the grey,” she said.
Shandee comes from a big family with five sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. Following her mother’s lead, she received a degree in Social Work from Northern Illinois University. She decided, however, to take a different route and spent more than 16 years working as a Lab Tech for Amgen. When she was laid off, she decided to end her relationship with corporate America, which was much to our advantage!
When Shandee is not working, she enjoys music, making jewelry, bowling, dancing, and playing games. Studying her genealogy and learning about her family roots is also a passion for her. I asked her what she liked about working in the kitchen, and she said, “It’s like meditating, I can think about anything that comes to my mind while I’m doing dishes.” We are so grateful to have Shandee here! We look forward to seeing her happy face in the morning and to see what hat she has chosen for the day…
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Dale Gideon
If you’ve visited our Café lately, you may have had the pleasure of meeting Dale. After Dale applied to volunteer last Fall, he was traveling often with his job doing training and development for teachers in Texas. It took a while to reach him and get him behind our counter, but he was worth the wait!
Dale grew up in Texas with two older sisters. Maybe it was these sisters teaching him the way in life that led him to be a teacher to people of all ages. Dale’s teaching has ranged from pre-kindergarten up to junior college, with his favorite being high school seniors. He taught English Language Arts, Social Studies, Psychology, and Sociology over the years. One of his first volunteer experiences took him on an adventure to Estonia where he was a volunteer English Teacher. Being an adventurous young man in his mid-20’s, Dale didn’t even know who was meeting him at the airport when he arrived halfway across the globe…luckily someone showed up!
Dale left Texas in 2016 when his partner landed a job at Amazon. When he’s not working in the Café or selling cocktails at Rainbow Bingo, he enjoys reading, gardening, and cooking. Dale works hard, makes a mean sandwich, and is always willing to help out when we’re in a pinch! Dale is on a journey to find his next career path, and we selfishly hope that is a long journey! So be sure to stop by and enjoy his kindness, sandwiches, and his sense of humor while you still have the chance!
Volunteer Extraordinaire – Chuck Bowden
We Struck Good Luck when we got Chuck! Meet our Volunteer Extraordinaire, Chuck Bowden. I was lucky to get Chuck to slow down long enough for me to interview him for this article. He is a very busy man! Possibly because it’s the second chance he was given with a new kidney in 1995 that gives him his zest for life and his love of people. Chuck enjoys electronics, photography, astronomy, art, sailing, his grandchildren, and cooking for himself and his wife Tessa. The two of them met on a sailing adventure, and they live within a stone’s throw of the Senior Center.
Chuck said he has learned a lot about cooking from our Chef, Francisco. “It’s a joy to come to volunteer and work for a boss you really admire.” He also says, “I love the people, the management, and the volunteers. I look forward to my Tuesdays here.” You will see Chuck here many other days helping out down in the Stop N’ Shop thrift store, and participating in our EnhanceFitness Program.
Chuck has enjoyed tinkering in electronics since he was a young boy. With his college studies in electrical engineering and journalism from WSU, he went on to become a tech writer and a product planner for the Fluke Corporation for 25 years. His career granted him opportunity to do some international travel, which he says were some of the most impactful experiences in his life.
When Chuck is not busy volunteering or sharing adventures with Tessa, you may see him cruising around West Seattle on his E-bike. He rides his bike regularly between home and his work space–aka his man cave. He is currently getting it set up so he can share his love of tinkering with electronics with his two grandchildren more often. We are so grateful that Chuck loves this Senior Center because we love having him on our volunteer team!