Appreciative or proud?

I learned a lot last Wednesday afternoon at the Human Services’ “Years of Service Celebration.”  For instance, Sarah Lacombe is a big fan of the musical Hamilton, as am I.  And, if I had to pick a song from Hamilton that best described my reaction to listening to the recognition of these dedicated employees, it would be “Blow Us All Away,” because I was blown away by their service – and as examples of all that you have done in 2020 for our community.

Heather Moss and her leadership team highlighted and thanked the teammates who were celebrating 5-year increments of service.  I have attached a copy of their PowerPoint presentation so you can see what I saw.

Combined, these 24 employees had more than 250 years at Pierce County, but I was especially struck by the thousands of lives in the County touched by their work.

As I listened to the stories, three things stood out powerfully.

First, I got a glimpse into some of their personal lives.  I learned: Paulina Kura loves to hike with her family; Barry Johnson is a sock fashionista; Annette Dawson-Miller’s wife, Jennifer, makes a killer vegan lasagna; I suspect Anna Downs’ son, Wallace, picked the T-Rex Christmas tree topper; and that Nellis Kim has tried curling!

But the celebration mostly reminded me that all of us have personally had to live through the stresses of COVID on our families and friends.  Some are helping their kids with remote learning, some are having babies, some struggle with medical issues, and some, sadly, have lost loved ones.  My dear Aunt Lynn is nearing the end of her battle with cancer, and I can’t visit her.   None of us have been immune from the pandemic and our efforts to battle it.

Second, I was reminded that, despite COVID, each of the honorees – and all their colleagues in Human Services – have continued to serve many of the most vulnerable in our community.  Let’s be clear, COVID has made caring for those who need us even more challenging.  And COVID has impacted many of those we serve even more severely than most of us.

Remote early childhood education is much harder than in-person. Supporting those with disabilities is much more difficult via Facebook.  Combating the sense of isolation for our senior community is more important and more challenging when you can’t gather them together face-to-face. Reaching out to veterans who are struggling has never been more important.  And our Human Services team had to do it without their biggest source of support – their personal connections with their teams and colleagues.  They are people, after all, and are motivated and energized by in-person interactions.  Notice how many of their comments in the presentation refer to their teammates as being the best part of doing this important work!

Finally, on top of everything I have mentioned, Heather and her team had the awesome opportunity and responsibility to spend over $33M in federal CARES funding to support those most in need in Pierce County.  They developed new programs to fund childcare, supported veterans’ programs, provided for emergency food, extended our homeless services, and worked to keep people in their homes.

With a year-end deadline to spend the money, I know many of the staff in Human Services – as well as Economic Development, Emergency Management, and our Finance teams – will have their holidays cut short to make sure we help as many of our residents as possible. We owe all of them our gratitude for their service and selflessness.

Saida Agayeva said it powerfully, “Although we can’t fix the past, we are very much committed to improve the present and possibly future for our Pierce County residents.”  I could not have said it any better myself.

Throughout the presentation, I felt deep appreciation for what our Human Services has done and deep pride in how they did it.  I debated in my mind as I listened whether I was more proud of their work or more appreciative?  My final answer?  Both!

Thanks for reading,