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In Our View: Volunteer Appreciation Week

Northwest defines service

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Volunteerism and National Service are part of the Pacific Northwest's cultural fabric. Generation after generation, service defines us. Eighty years ago next month, Camp Darrington, a project of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, opened, enrolling thousands of unemployed, twentysomething men. From battling forest fires to building roads, CCC members cultivated a sense of community service and received a modest stipend, room (or more accurately "tent") and board.
It's a tangible legacy. The trickier parts of the Mountain Loop Highway between Granite Falls and Darrington were built by CCCers beginning in 1936. World War II and the GI Bill anchored that spirit of service.
The National Service model quickly fell together. The Peace Corps was followed by Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and the establishment of VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America, a forerunner to AmeriCorps.) Northwesterners continued to stand out. Today the UW and Western Washington University are the country's prime producers of Peace Corps Volunteers, many trained in development-related disciplines such as agriculture, botany, and engineering. In 1970, Rep. Lloyd Meeds helped launch the Youth Conservation Corps, a summer environmental youth program with a CCC-style focus. Washington developed its own Conservation Corps, the WCC, in 1983, and the Washington Service Corps, both refined and launched by Bill Basl. Basl's defining experience was as a VISTA in Walla Walla in the early 1970s. Last year he was appointed by the Obama Administration to serve as the national director of AmeriCorps.
Volunteerism and National Service, however below-the-radar day to day, breathe life into the Northwest. The U.S. Navy, Snohomish County's second largest employer, is the consummate example. With an all-volunteer Navy and Armed Forces, the U.S. is dependent upon young women and men to dedicate several years -- and tragically at times, their lives -- to serving their country. Veterans and education benefits follow, but they pale in relation to the time and service rendered.
And there is service where the benefits are solely intrinsic. Serving as a Reading Corps tutor or helping a low-income family with their income taxes, for example.
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee will host the Ninth Annual Governor's Volunteer Service Awards. Natasha Burns and Dick Fale are both Everett honorees. Burns, a naturalized U.S. citizen, serves as a volunteer for Citizenship Days in Seattle and Mount Vernon. Fale has been a driver with the Volunteer Transportation Program at Catholic Community Services for 14 years.
Service above self is part of the Northwest's soul. We forget that at our peril.

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