Family Agency goes from one good leader to another

By Ruth Ferris Eatonville Family Agency turns a new page. Lori Holliday Culver bids a sad goodbye as she and the agency enthusiastically welcome Leah Vanderstoep as the new executive director. In Lori's last Power Point presentation to the board, she used the picture of a relay runner handing off the baton to the next runner. Being the parent and the grandparent of competitive relay runners, I loved the analogy. The first runner not only runs at top speed but works to make a smooth handoff so that the second runner joins the pace at her top speed. When done well, it creates a moment of beauty. Lori has given her extraordinary talent at an all-out pace to EFA. In her time as executive director, she rose to the challenge of overseeing an agency that is on the front lines, responding to those in need at a critical time: numbers of visitors to the food bank increased; numbers of backpacks for kids increased; numbers of those seeking domestic violence help increased; the numbers of students needing school supplies increased. She inspired her board with stories of helping to get a homeless man ready for a job interview and helping another client whose teeth had been knocked out by an abuser to get teeth. To get the help she needed, she inspired townspeople with talents from hair cutting to dental skill to share them with these clients. In the process, the clients were enabled to move forward with their lives and to become more productive citizens. She and her staff had the additional challenge of learning to assist those applying for national health care. She rallied townspeople to write to their representatives in Congress in Olympia when funding for food for the hungry was at risk of being cut. That energy evolved into Hunger Hurts: Be A Hunger Hero, a campaign dedicated to having no hunger in the Eatonville region. Leah Vanderstoep brings her amazing energy to take the baton from Lori. Her education included a degree in political science from Western Washington University with a focus in Community Development and a year of study at The United States International University in Mexico D.F., Mexico. She quickly put that knowledge to work as the Resident Services Coordinator first at Mercy Housing in Bellingham, and then for the Archdiocesan Housing Authority in Mount Vernon. There she designed and coordinated community programs at low-income farmer worker housing communities. She did grant writing and she coordinated with WWU and other organizations to recruit volunteers to tutor students in an afterschool program. Youth programs grew to include working with the North Cascades Institute to recruit youth for service learning, which included environmental education trips. That was followed by partnering with WSU and Grow Food to offer Agricultural Entrepreneurship courses in Spanish to her clients. Bringing enthusiasm to existing programs and having the creativity to take them in new directions is her gift. We are lucky to have a new director whose talents have been recognized nationally. Leah's programs at Catholic Housing Services received the 2010 Margaret E Casey foundation award for programs nationally that best strengthened families. She won the 2010 President's Award of Merit at Catholic Community Services for outstanding service. One of her past employers described her as "taking a small, stale program and adding vitality to it, winning a prestigious award.GÇ¥ For Leah, national recognition goes hand in hand with jumping right in and giving service where it is needed. My first meeting with Leah was in the parking lot of the Community Center on a sunny Saturday, where she was working with those who were cleaning up the grounds for their church's 9/11 day of remembrance. Leah brings passion about her work and about life. Growing up in a family in the Okanogan with a father who was an art teacher, she combines love of art with love of the environment and respect for those who make a living off the land. She has gone from being a rodeo participant as a young girl to having her own ranch where she raises cattle in a way that values them and the land on which they graze. We welcome Leah as our next leader to serve the community of Eatonville. Like the Eatonville Family Agency on Facebook to get posts about their current needs and projects.
Ruth Ferris is a member of Eatonville Family Agency's board.


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