A ray of hope

Let’s face it.  It’s been a hard week.  Like many of you, I have been closely watching the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Certainly, Putin vastly underestimated the spirit of independence of the Ukrainian people.  Sadly, he is not backing down, and we are seeing the war escalate – with civilians now in the crosshairs.

At some level, it feels like we are reliving the Nazi invasions of their neighbors in 1939 as we hear about the brutality that is happening. It’s difficult to watch the latest developments without feeling helpless and depressed. I expect you feel some of this, too, and I want to remind you that we provide the Employee Assistance Program to help you work through difficult times.

However, I had one of my favorite and inspiring events of year happen this week – the 2022 Daffodil Festival Court came to the County-City Building.

Every year we invite the princesses to stop by the Council and Executive offices, to both congratulate and thank them.  I first became associated with these amazing young women who serve our community as Daffodil Princesses when I was a Puyallup School Board member in 2002.  My connection to them continued when I served in the State House and Senate and the Pierce County legislators would host them in the Capitol.  It was always slightly awkward in Olympia.  The Apple Blossom Festival Court would be honored – all three of them.  And then the Daffodil princesses would arrive – all 23 of them in their bright yellow dresses!  I was so proud of highlighting to the entire state these young leaders from Pierce County!

But now as the County Executive, I get the chance to talk with them, hear their future plans, and answer their insightful questions about the County, public service and leadership.

You can’t help but be captivated by the leadership qualities and sense of community these young women demonstrate. They are leaders in their respective high schools today, and I know they will be leaders in our community in the future!

The theme of the 2022 Daffodil Festival is “Hope Rises” and the princesses certainly gave me hope!  The 89th Daffodil Parade will be April 9th in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting.  I hope you can reconnect with this celebration of Spring in our community.

Another uplifting “reconnection” happened this week. I attended one of my first “in-person” community fundraising events in two years.  A couple hundred masked people gathered for the annual Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity “Changing Lives” luncheon at the Bicentennial Pavilion.

It was both very good and a little odd to interact with each other as we’ve largely forgotten how to socialize and participate in these types of events. Do we shake hands, again? Or even hug?

If you’ve never attended it, the Habitat luncheon is guaranteed to elicit strong emotions as you hear the powerful stories of people whose lives have been transformed by a stable, secure place to live – built by their community.

In the videos below you can learn more about Reena, a woman who has lived in her Habitat home for 10 years.  In the video she looks back at what the last decade in her home has taught her and meant to her sons.

Cierra and her adorable daughter are about to move into their “forever” home. The joy and pride they exude in their video, and the messages the ‘builders” left for them on the wall studs, were just the encouragement I needed.  I appreciated seeing their happiness, and I’m sure you will, too.

Here’s another positive development: we will hit a fantastic milestone tomorrow. This Saturday marks the end of COVID testing at the sites we hosted for months during the pandemic.  We have administered nearly 230,000 tests and we are formally closing up shop after this weekend – you can still get COVID tests from your pharmacist or doctor, as well as in-home tests.  My thanks to Jody Ferguson and the entire Emergency Management team, County employee volunteers and members of the community who worked so hard to get our community tested and vaccinated from COVID.

I’ll close by highlighting the 2022 Innovation in Economic Development Award we received Wednesday from the Washington Economic Development Association. I was proud to accept the award for our business accelerator program on behalf of Betty Capestany and our Economic Development team, the people of Pierce County, and our partners (the Black Collective, Asian Pacific Cultural Center, Korean Women’s Association, Mi Centro, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and more).  Together, we are providing opportunities for entrepreneurs of color to start or expand their businesses. We knew the program has been a success, but it’s great to get this validation at the state level – we are also getting inquiries from across the country from those who want to emulate it!

I’m thankful for these glimmers of hope this week.

Thanks for reading,