POULSBO — Ardis Morrow’s extensive community service resume runs deep. But she still did not anticipate the standing ovation of the entire hotel’s banquet room when she was awarded Person of the Year, at the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala and community awards dinner at Clearwater Casino Resort, Jan. 16.
An estimated 300 people attended.
”I really am flattered to be included with the other two nominees and to hear their obituaries while I’m still alive,” Morrow, 90, jokingly said of the other candidates and their bios. Glimmering in her gold dress, she said, “But really, this is a great privilege, thank you.”
Morrow, a former Port of Kingston commissioner and North Kitsap School Board member, is a longtime advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence. After her great-grandnephew died at age 3 from injuries inflicted by his father, she lobbied successfully for tougher penalties for domestic violence perpetrators and founded Eli’s Place, which provides transitional housing for domestic violence survivors. Eli’s House is named for her great-grandnephew.
She is also the namesake of Morrow Manor, long-term supportive housing for domestic violence survivors and their children proposed to be built in Poulsbo.
As the attendees recognized the chamber board’s 2015 president, Mark Costa, they also installed the chamber’s board of directors for 2016.
In his farewell as board president, Costa said the 2015 was a strong year for the chamber.
“Our member retention rate eclipsed 90 percent,” he said. “That’s an amazing number we need to celebrate. Our consistent value for chamber and members remains healthy and productive.”
He said the chamber has more money in the bank now than at any time in its six-decade history, and he thanked directors for their fiscal conservatism.
“This is the first time in the chamber’s 62-year history [that] a road map for the future is being accomplished,” he said. “If we maintain this trajectory, we will accomplish our goal of a new [Chamber of Commerce] building.”
Costa received a flag flown over the Capitol Building from a representative for Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Bremerton, and a copy of the book “The Spirit of Poulsbo” from Mayor Becky Erickson, who said to Costa, “This is our legacy.”
A gavel was presented to Costa by 2016 board president Ingemar Anderson.
“For me, a gavel was always something very special in terms of decisions,” Anderson said. “This gavel will remind you of all of the your decisions that made great progress and stability for the chamber in 2015.”
Anderson said the chamber must stay the course.
The new board members were installed by Erickson, who encouraged the chamber to work together through the great changes Poulsbo will soon face.
“Officers, together you will lead this organization,” she said. “It takes a team to form a strategic vision for the chamber. Above all, I urge you to collaborate … be respectful and kind.”
At the conclusion of dinner, the dessert dash brought on new excitement. Each of the 45 tables collaborated to make the top bid for a dessert; the highest bid was $750. In addition to the satisfaction of tasty treats, the chamber fundraiser raised more than $5,800.
Next, representatives of various service organizations presented their accomplishments for the last year and goals for 2016.
Maryann Bartley, representative of Soroptimists International of Greater North Kitsap, said, “Soroptimist is comprised of two Latin words: ‘soro,’ meaning ‘sister,’ and ‘mist,’ meaning ‘best.’ That’s what we are — we’re the best for women … Women helping women, improving the lives of women and girls in our community.”
She added, “We awarded three Live Your Dream awards in 2015 and donated $28,000 for our community.”
Poulsbo Kiwanis Club representatives Tom Saunders and Jody Matson talked about their organization’s smoke alarm program. “Over the last two years, we’ve installed nearly 800 smoke alarms in the community,” Matson said.
Leon Jones, representative of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Poulsbo, said, “Between Eagles organizations in the U.S. and Canada, this year we’ve raised $25 million in five years.”
Among other topics presented: funding for Morrow Manor, the upcoming opening of the Village Green Community Center, the upcoming Viking Tour group bike ride, and the importance of donations to Food for Kids.
Then, the community awards.
The first was the President’s Award, presented by Costa to Gateway Fellowship Hospitality Team.
“On average, each volunteer donates five hours per lunch for the chamber,” Costa said. “That’s 46 hours per event and 552 hours each year … that’s over 2,200 hours donated in four years.”
The group also provides complimentary hot meals to the less fortunate in our community. “In 2015 alone, they provided over 6,000 complimentary meals,” Costa said.
All told, 65 individuals and organizations were nominated for the awards. The recipients were announced by Poulsbo Branch Library manager Sharon Lee.
The winner of the Emerging Business of the Year award was Beautifully Polished, which offers a nail technician apprenticeship — a first on the peninsula — and has had multiple Top 5 and Top 10 honors from King 5’s Best of the Northwest. Owner Kerry Slone, who owns her building, has worked with Fishline’s Second Season to enable them to remain in her building, and she supports a Fishline program that grows food from starts.
“We’re all girl power here,” Slone said. “But I can’t do it without my wonderful team. We are incredibly proud to have the opportunity to keep Poulsbo beautifully polished.”
Eric Mahler won the Young Leader of the Year award. Owner of Caffe Cocina and member of the Viking Avenue Business Association, Mahler was an organizer of the 2015 Viking Avenue tree-lighting celebration and, according to Lee, turned the event into “a family friendly three-ring circus.”
“Thank you so much for helping me do what I set out to do for City of Poulsbo … And thank you for the support of my parents,” Mahler said.
Martha & Mary won the Organization of the Year award for its skilled and certified staff, its generosity, and its housing, rehab and childcare programs.
“Looking backwards 120 years, we are really excited for the future,” said Chad Solvie, Martha & Mary CEO.
The winner of the Pearce Dressel Award, aka Volunteer of the Year, was Kathi Foresee. She was described by Lee as “the quiet force that makes Poulsbo fun through events such as Viking Fest, 3rd of July Fireworks, the lutefisk-eating contest, and Miss West Sound.”
As the crowd cheered, Foresee held back tears. “I’m really moved,” she said.
Tim Ryan Construction won the Business of the Year award. The company, whose extensive portfolio includes the Suquamish Museum, West Sound Academy, and the Village Green Community Center, remodeled Fishline’s site in the former Poulsbo RV location, and donated extensively to Morrow Manor, which will provide housing for domestic violence survivors and their families.
“We are really lucky to captain a ship that dad set sail on 59 years ago,” Dan Ryan said. “We build buildings, but we like to think we build community as well.”
Gala sponsors were Suquamish Clearwater Casino, Kitsap Bank, Martha & Mary, Olympic Property Group, Banner Bank, Hill Moving, Les Schwab, Liberty Bay Bank, Olympic College, The Point Casino, Valley Nursery, Western Washington University, Edward Jones, North Kitsap Herald, Windermere Kingston, Advanced Rentals, Timberland Bank, Caffe Cocina, Bayside Engravers, Poulsbo Front Street, Kitsap Printing, and P5 Photography.