For more than 40 years, I have lived, worked and raised a family in this community. In this time, our greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities have grown and diversified, enabling greater opportunities and imparting expanded responsibilities for the broad health, viability and sustainability of the place we call home.
Serving as your Pierce County Council member for eight years and for the past two as the executive director of the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District, one of two parks districts that serve our peninsulas, I have worked with many and have learned a great deal as I worked with people across our communities.
Time has brought me to consider, among other things, what makes a community? It’s not just a place we live but a place where people from different backgrounds, experiences and views share a collective responsibility for the human, economic, educational and environmental well-being.
What enables a community in the face of all challenges to thrive, stay vibrant and be resilient?
Among all, I believe the difference can be found in the commitment of its people — local vision, determination and a genuine interest in investing the resources and building partnerships that are essential in its capacity to meet needs, face challenges, provide opportunities and motivate us to make the place we live, work and raise our families a better place.
Just more than six years ago, a small group of our friends and neighbors, inspired by an opportunity to help our new Metropolitan Park District acquire a 19-acre parcel of land for a future park, started what is now the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation — our greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula community’s foundation.
Together, on this first project, people from our community, many of whom had never before met, worked to raise more than $500,000 toward the $1.2 million needed for the Harbor Family Park site.
Since it formed in 2006, the all-volunteer organization has moved in bold directions to help raise more than $2 million in assets that have directly benefited our community, from helping to acquire land for public parks and trails, to ensuring the Pacific Northwest’s first certified Boundless Playground at Sehmel Homestead Park, to providing fiscal sponsorships in support of a variety of community projects and programs.
I joined the foundation’s board of directors in 2012, a pivotal and evolutionary year for the organization. This year, the foundation opened its umbrella to a nature-based early childhood education center (Curious by Nature), joined forces with Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One on the 9/11 Memorial Project and held a series of community visioning workshops during which nearly 60 people from three dozen organizations and agencies from across the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas participated.
And that’s just the short list!
One of the most exciting local initiatives is the birth of our community’s foundation. Working in collaboration with the community, the foundation helps to strengthen and expand the arts and culture, education, parks and environment, recreation and social capital assets of our greater Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas.
Across the country, ordinary citizens, like those of us who serve our community foundation, are mobilizing across ideological and political lines to find creative ways to address their unique needs. Today, there are more than 750 community foundations in the United States and 27 in Washington state; a few, such as The Seattle Foundation, Kitsap Community Foundation, Blue Mountain and The Tacoma Community Foundation, have been around for several decades and are reasonably well-funded.
Many more, however, are younger organizations that are working hard to take positive steps to build resources to support their communities. All are formed by local citizens and governed by boards, and they determine their priorities along with their donors.
From the beginning, our foundation’s vision has centered on bringing people and neighborhoods together, working as one toward common goals that improve the quality of life across our communities. This year, we made significant strides to deepen that commitment in several important ways, to serve and empower all across the greater Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas to make a difference.
The apple pie and turkey may be gone by the weekend, but the gift you choose to give this community will make a lasting impact.
Through the “ONE Community” initiative, you can join me and more than 500 individuals, businesses and community organizations that are united to help build, bridge and enrich our community by supporting your passions.
Five core areas, one peninsula community, and one good reason — 100 percent of your gifts are put to work right here in our community.For more information about the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, call 253-514-6338 or visit www.gigharborfoundation.org.