Philanthropist awards

Jill Vail, from left, Joyce and Don Leak and John Russell were recognized Friday for their philanthropic work.

Photo courtesy of Ian Gleadle

Innovation, change and caring. Community leaders who take those three words to heart gathered Friday morning, Feb. 23, at the Camano Center to share a meal and recognize a few individuals in the collective group for their philanthropic actions in 2017.

Stanwood-Camano Area Foundation presented the Philanthropist of the Year Award Ceremony and Breakfast for the 12th year. Emcee Jeff Lind reminded guests the gathering was as much about raising money as about sharing a meal and honoring noteworthy contributions to the community.

In a rousing talk about philanthropists, Allison Warren-Barbour, president and CEO of United Way of Snohomish County, described how data shows that just 2.5 percent of the people in a community are the innovators that make an endeavor work. They have the “acute ability to understand complex ideas and are willing to take the risk,” she said.

See Honor, Page A6

Due to the willingness of many in the room and in the county to innovate and adopt a new way of working together to solve problems, a pilot program called Making Life Work is gaining momentum, she said. The program is a true collaborative effort of the Foundation, United Way and the philanthropists who have contributed the $630K in base funding, she said.

Floyd Jones, a stalwart Foundation supporter who died in January, was remembered. Teresa Metzger spoke of the culture of caring and generosity the former stockbroker and international philanthropist created in Stanwood-Camano communities.

“He provided the spark for me,” Metzger said, noting he gave away millions to causes because, in his words, it “brings me joy.”

His leadership touched numerous others, she said and likened him to a modern Jack in the Beanstalk, reaching from his roots in a poor farming family to attain education, a successful career and loving family, then giving away his millions – the golden eggs – to make life better in the communities he touched. Camano Center, Camano Island Library, Port Susan Flyway and the Stanwood Camano YMCA are a few examples of facilities established to help people because of Jones’ involvement.

Don and Joyce Leak of Camano Island were recognized and presented the Floyd and Dolores Jones Spirit of Philanthropy Award for best demonstrating Jones’ leadership and selflessness. Lind said the couple has provided consistent support, advice and inspiration to Foundation efforts and was, and are, particularly supportive of the new YMCA.

The couple has been involved in the community in other ways — supporting the American Association of University Women scholarships and the AAUW Tech Trek camp, the capital campaign for the new 2nd Chance Thrift Shop.

Volunteers are critical to the community in various capacities. John Russell, owner of the Stanwood UPS store, was recognized with the Heritage Bank Organization Making a Difference Award. Presenter Laura Byers spoke of how Russell “was always there to help” in his business and as a volunteer with Foundation and other community causes. She said he was a key player in establishing and continuing support for the Port Susan Farmers Market, the Community Scholarship Night and the city holiday tree lighting.

“He gives his heart and his time,” Byers said.

Another outstanding community volunteer, Jill Vail, a real state professional with Windermere, was honored with the Keith Erickson Pay It Forward Award for her “high energy” with the Stanwood High School Booster Club and community. ‘

Presenter and last year’s awardee Keith Erickson said Vail consistently “goes out of her way to make sure coaches and kids get what they need” and has spent hours organizing summer camps, a keepsake sports program. He said she was a founding member and is a continued supporter of the Stanwood High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Foundation Executive Director Bev Pronishian was honored for her dedication to the organization and skill in bringing people together. In presenting her a bouquet of flowers, Laura Byers noted how Pronishian coordinates so much more than the scholarship and grant programs for which the Foundation is generally known.

The Leaks, Russell, Vail and Pronishian are all “outstanding examples of selflessness,” Lind said. Lincoln Hill High School’s student body officers were the servers at the annual, and only, fundraising event.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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