Farewell, Pierce County

I vividly remember my first day in the County. I didn’t know what to expect! Many of the staff knew me from my work in the community. Those who didn’t wondered who the strange guy was roaming the hallways.

About two months after my arrival, we held our first all-staff meeting at Bates Technical College. I stood outside and greeted everyone like a preacher in the rain. I’ll remember that day forever and all the days through my last.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to say during that meeting, but I knew that my life experiences led me to the County. I could relate to those we served.

I grew up poor with six brothers and sisters in a 900-square foot house. My father was a Palestinian immigrant. For as long as I can remember, he held three jobs until he was hired by the VA to be a janitor. As a kid, I would go to work with him on the weekends and help clean the floors or play bumper pool with veterans from the psychiatric ward. My mother died of cancer at the early age of 42. Despite her suffering, she worked hard. We ate government peanut butter and drank powdered milk.

Much of this is not important to most of you, but it gives some context as to why I came to the County. Each of us has a story. We can relate to each other because many of us lived through the successes and struggles. Most of us at some time or another have needed help. In this land of wealth and affluence, millions of the people we serve live in the most desperate situations. Sometimes we fail to provide enough. This is especially true to the most vulnerable.

Pierce County Human Services serves the most fragile – the elderly, disabled, poor, the sick, abused women and children, the medically compromised, immigrants and refugees who speak little to no English. We work hard to provide them with opportunities for success in their lives and in communities. We help them lead healthier, happier and more productive lives. Through this work, Pierce County Human Services, and our partners in the community, are positively affecting generations to come.

The Human Services Department is the hidden gem in the County…the voice for the voiceless. Each year our department serves literally thousands of people!

From keeping people’s heat on through our low-income housing assistance, to providing in-home care services, putting food in the bellies of the poor and fragile, and teaching kids in those important early years, our work is vital. The myriad of programs we provide changes lives one at a time!

Throughout its history, the department has proven we can overcome barriers. That together, as community citizens and workers, we can move beyond our differences and enhance our efforts to create a level playing field that is accessible to those who need it.

As we move forward, we cannot be complacent. We cannot rest while people need us. The human cost is too high, and the outcome is too essential. We cannot compromise. Sometimes compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof.

You are here because you recognize that taking care of people is one of society’s most fundamental responsibilities. You are here because giving shelter to a person supports their dignity and comfort to be at peace. You are here because you care how people live. You are here to represent the spirit of dignity and justice.

My hope for Pierce County Human Services, our partners and friends, is that you all continue to serve with purpose. Purpose does not always need to involve calculations or numbers. Purpose is about the quality of life and dignity we give someone. Purpose is human, not economic.

I want to thank each person and each organization that partnered with me and the Pierce County Human Services Department during my three years at the County!

So, as I depart, remember what you need to do. Remember what you hear from those that cannot speak for themselves. Remember that we cannot do it alone. Remember that you are part of the solution!

I am not going far. I will be heading back to the Korean Women’s Association where I will renew my commitment to serve the community. I’ll miss you, but my door will always be open to the residents of Pierce County. Let’s keep on flying! While you continue to serve from the inside, know that from the outside, I will work tirelessly to help you change lives…one person at a time!

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.” – Dave Barry