Looking forward with PNA Board President Gabe Murphy

Looking forward with PNA Board President Gabe Murphy
By mattc

Crowds safely enjoy meals from local food trucks during Food Truck Friday outside the Phinney Center.

By Gabe Murphy

I overcame my introverted tendencies to join staff members Mary Campbell, Chardell Paine, and Matt Coomer, fellow board member Bill Thorness, and hundreds of you, our community, a few weeks ago at one of our Food Truck Friday events in the Phinney Center’s upper parking lot. I’m so glad I did!

What I saw at this outdoor summer event was very encouraging: folks for whom this was their first PNA event mixing and mingling with folks that we see regularly; individuals from around the corner and the other side of the city; spry youngsters with vibrantly-colored hair, older folks with naturally grey hair (and a few more wrinkles) and, yes, a few older folks with vibrantly-colored hair, too. It was great to hear many languages and see American Sign Language spoken in the lot that night as well.

The variety of people gathering at events like Food Truck Friday is a valuable asset—it’s easy, in Seattle, elsewhere, and online, to inadvertently interact primarily with folks that look, sound, and act like oneself—and the PNA is eager to continue to attract, embrace, and facilitate interactions between a diverse set of people. This desire is reflected in a vision statement that the board and staff recently drafted, discussed, edited, and adopted: “we envision strangers becoming neighbors, and neighbors becoming a welcoming and caring community.”

Having a clear, agreed-upon vision is important; taking steps to achieve that vision is equally important. With this distinction in mind, the PNA Board and staff also codified a set of four values that will help guide us in the weeks, months, and years ahead: Belonging, Inclusivity, Intentional Engagement, and Responsiveness. We believe that regularly reminding ourselves of these values, and allowing them to guide small and large decisions alike, will help the PNA continue to create a stronger, more connected community.

What changes, if any, shall we make to the Greenwood Senior Center now that we own the building outright? What programs should we invest additional time and energy in and which programs should we modify so that they better align with our vision and values? How can we best support our local businesses, housed and unhoused residents, and communities beyond our neighborhood?

These are a subset of the questions board members and staff are asking ourselves (and will be asking you) in the months ahead. With a clear vision, a set of values, and your input guiding us, we aim to develop a three- to five-year strategic plan that reflects and responds to the wants and needs of the community. We will consider not only those who are familiar with us, but also those individuals and groups that do not know about the PNA or feel a sense of belonging or comfort when they arrive.

A new, long-term strategic plan is just one of the important projects that the board will tackle over the next year; another is electing several new board members (in early 2022). We’re actively recruiting folks that are interested in shaping the organization and its role in the community in the years ahead. Please reach out to me, any other board member, or our Executive Director Christi Beckley if you might be interested in joining us! We’re eager to welcome new community voices to our board and/or any of the standing committees—Finance, Site, Board Development, Champions and EDI.

Several standing committees are chaired by board members that will complete their terms soon: we are indebted and grateful to Laura Fletcher (Finance), Evan Bourquard (Site), and Marty Chakoian (Board Development) for their valuable and influential contributions over the last 3 years! Evan, Marty, and Michael Kucher deserve additional recognition and gratitude; each is completing his second term on the board!

Seattle has encountered an unusually varied and difficult set of challenges during the ~2 years in which I’ve served on the board. Some variant of these difficulties will likely persist for years to come, and formidable new ones will undoubtedly arise. I believe that helping strangers to become neighbors, and neighbors to become a welcoming and caring community helps lessen the impact of current and future societal problems. I also believe that the PNA has the desire and ability to catalyze this important work—I wouldn’t have agreed to serve as board president if I didn’t! Facilitating events like Food Truck Friday is just one small way in which the PNA helps to build cohesion and resilience; I invite you to help us identify and implement other ways to accomplish this important goal in the years ahead.