A fond farewell
by Lee Harper, PNA Executive Director
With extraordinary gratitude and quite a bit of sadness, and after almost ten years as the Executive Director of this fantastic organization, I have decided to step down in early October.
On a sunny and warm day in my 20s, I participated in my first PNA event: Garage Sale Day. As I happily wandered among sale booths and kids’ lemonade stands, I was overwhelmed with the kindness, the smiles, and the community I saw.
It is seared in my memory as one of my favorite days ever and it still is my favorite PNA “holiday” each year! (For years, the couch we found graced our front porch.)
I thought “working at PNA would be a dream job!” as its mission to build community resonated so deeply with me.
Fifteen years later, in 2010, founding Executive Director Ed Medeiros retired, and I was delighted and honored to be selected as the next Executive Director.
I was welcomed so warmly, and have felt deeply embraced and appreciated by this community. Over the past nine years, it has been a privilege to lead the PNA, and to work alongside so many of you—staff, board, members, and volunteers, all passionately committed to community.
Together, we have had some remarkable successes over the years. They are too many to list, but here are a few:
- Legislating for property exemptions for the Phinney Center, and for senior centers around the state, which meant hundreds of thousands of dollars redirected towards our mission to build community, and these savings will continue in perpetuity.
- Together, the community raised almost $7 million to purchase the Phinney Center, add elevators and accessible entrances to both buildings, and do some much-needed capital repairs, including seismic work. We are so grateful for the support of our generous community!
- Phinney Cooperativa Preescolar en Español (PCPE), a Spanish immersion preschool co-op, opened its doors in 2010, and it has been wonderful to see the growth of this program, now serving 55 families each school year. In 2002, Tampopo, a Japanese language immersion preschool program, joined the PNA.
- In 2013, our nationally-recognized Memory Loss Program received the Honoring Our Elders, Light a Fire Award from Seattle Met, an incredible honor.
- And the PNA Village, a program enabling people to stay in their homes and communities as they age, launched in 2012 and now has hundreds of members and volunteers.
- Leveraging our position in the community, we formed the PNA Business Group in 2012 after the Greenwood-Phinney Chamber closed, to connect, support and promote businesses in the Phinney/Greenwood area. We are 265 members strong.
- And we recently took over the PhinneyWood.com blog, a “news and happenings” blog for the Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods. Check it out at PhinneyWood.com.
- And on June 8, during Garage Sale Day, we will have a sneak peek for the public into the Community Wood Shop, our newest program.
- A true test of community happens when disaster strikes. In 2016, a horrific gas explosion in Greenwood left 12 people homeless, 30 employees jobless, and 53 business owners impacted, including three businesses that were outright destroyed. The PNA stepped in to lead the community response and recovery from the impacts of the explosion; $330,000 was raised and distributed to those affected, and King County Executive Dow Constantine chose to honor the PNA with his Award for Community Resilience. Again, we were overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of our community.
I am stepping down from my role here, but the work continues.
We have been working with the City on transferring the Greenwood Senior Center property to PNA for more than eight years, and I am hopeful that the transfer will happen before I leave the organization. If not, I am confident that the next leader will be able to close the deal so we can get to work on the many structural improvements that have long been needed including, incredibly, making the building fully accessible for the more than 3,000 seniors, their families, and caregivers who use it every year (a 240 percent increase in nine years!).
I won’t be leaving my position until October. This gives our strong, committed Board of Directors enough time to find the right leader to take on new challenges and opportunities.
In the meantime, have a wonderful summer, and thank you for making these last ten years so rewarding! I am so grateful for my time here, and am excited to see what the next ten years of PNA look like!
Hope to sip lemonade with you at Garage Sale Day on June 8!
1. Lee’s favorite “holiday” is PhinneyWood Garage Sale Day. It was also her first exposure to the PNA.
2. Lee’s love of all animals is well-documented, as exemplified by this goat-selfie.
3. Lee accepts a check for the 2016 Greenwood Explosion Fund from Community Council Chairman Michael Cornell in front of a mural painted on the plywood covering a shattered window at Razzis.
4. Lee celebrates the opening of the Zoo’s tiger exhibit at the 2015 PNA auction (she’d always wanted to wear a big costume suit).