Blase Drotar hasn’t been living in Puyallup for very long, but in the year and a half he’s been here, he’s gone out of his way to make a difference in the community.
Drotar, 30, was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year at the Economic Forecast Breakfast and Rising Star Awards, hosted by the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce at the Pioneer Park Pavilion on Jan. 12.
“I was shocked,” Drotar said when he realized he was up for the award. “I didn’t expect to take it.”
Drotar became involved with the chamber in January of 2015, shortly after moving to the area all the way from the Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, Drotar was in the restaurant industry. At 17, he started working as a dishwasher at a pizza restaurant and moved up to a manager position. All the while, he was going to school for nursing.
But soon, things started to take a turn for the worst. Drotar wasn’t doing well in nursing school and found he was being underpaid for his work at the restaurant.
I had a string of bad jobs and relationships. I wanted to start over.
Blase Drotar, accountant at Horiuchi, Zimmerman, Bartels PS
“I had a string of bad jobs and relationships,” he said. “I wanted to start over.”
So Drotar quit the restaurant business and nursing school and put his house on the market. He moved back in with his parents — a hard decision, he said. Then he went back to school at Albright College in Pennsylvania to get a degree in accounting. His father had a small accounting business, and Drotar worked there for some time.
Then, when he finished his degree, Drotar packed his things and drove across the country to Washington state in July 2015.
“I love the outdoors, and this is the place to be for the outdoors,” Drotar said. “I came here with just what I could fit in my car. I was excited.”
Despite having a brother in Spokane, Drotar didn’t know anyone in the area, and he didn’t have a job lined up, either — but instead of getting nervous, he saw an opportunity ahead of him.
Drotar lived in Tacoma at first, then moved to Puyallup after he landed a job as an accountant at Horiuchi Zimmerman Bartels, PS.
His work introduced him to the Chamber of Commerce and to volunteer work, which he never had time for before.
Drotar became involved with the chamber’s Leadership Institute, a program that encourages chamber members to service their community. Throughout his time with the program, Drotar worked with the youth group at Gordon Family YMCA in Sumner, with Puyallup Rotary and at the Washington State Fair.
“I spent every weekend at the Fair for the chamber at (its) booth,” he said.
When asked what volunteering does for him, Drotar replied with, “What doesn’t it do for (me)? It makes me feel good, it excites me.” As with being an accountant, Drotar said volunteering can educate others in something they might not know how to do.
As president and CEO of the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce, Shelly Schlumpf noticed Drotar’s hard work. So did the chamber committee members that decide the recipients of the Rising Star Awards.
Blase was part of our Leadership Institute class last year and the community knew that. Blase had a unique situation where he came from the East Coast and didn’t know very many people over here. He was very intentional about connecting with the community.
Shelly Schlumpf, president and CEO of Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce
“Blase was part of our Leadership Institute class last year, and the community knew that,” Schlumpf said. “Blase had a unique situation where he came from the East Coast and didn’t know very many people over here. He was very intentional about connecting with the community.”
In his spare time, Drotar enjoys reading and cooking and — of course — volunteering. At the YMCA, he connected to the young adults in the YMCA’s Teen Late Night program in particular.
“I think for the community, (Drotar) knew that he had a heart for young adults,” Schlumpf said. “It was great to see someone who was (volunteering) both for the business community as well as the young adult community.”
Drotar plans to stay in Puyallup and continue his volunteer work. He’s come a long way to get to Puyallup, but says it’s all been worth it.
“The risk is worth the reward,” he said. “Puyallup is home.”