Petersen, 67, received the Spirit of Snohomish County Reeves/Sievers' Founders Award, which the local United Way gives annually to honor a lifetime of service and philanthropy.
The award is named for J.A. Reeves and Roy Sievers, who in 1940 formed the Everett Community Chest. That organization preceded United Way of Snohomish County.
"I've always seen housing as the fundamental building block for thriving families. The next most important agenda is education," Petersen said after Wednesday's breakfast at the Tulalip Resort Casino.
Petersen is executive director of Housing Hope. The nonprofit organization provides low-income housing and other programs in Snohomish County. He is also an Everett School Board member. After almost eight years, his term on the board will end in December. His latest mission is HopeWorks, which is linked to Housing Hope and focuses on employment.
Introducing Petersen, Everett Community College President David Beyer, chairman of United Way's board of directors, said the Reeves/Sievers award "is our version of a lifetime achievement award."
Petersen, in a video shown at the breakfast, said that as an immigrant "I grew up knowing I was different." He was under age 2 in 1948 when his parents moved to Everett from Norway, which then was a poor country. His seaman father spoke English, but his mother did not.
After graduating from Everett High School, Petersen attended Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Pennsylvania. "I'm a Lute, a Quaker and a Seagull," he said.
Housing Hope was born when, in the 1980s, Petersen and others began seeing families with children among the homeless.
With Housing Hope families involved in more than a dozen school districts, Petersen said serving on the Everett School Board has helped him better understand the workings of local education. "And I had been the beneficiary of a wonderful education in Everett, as had my three daughters," he said.
The keynote speaker Wednesday was Donna Beegle. Today in Everett she will present a sold-out workshop called "Poverty 101," sponsored by United Way of Snohomish County. A child of migrant workers who was once homeless, Beegle has a doctoral degree and heads a training and consulting company, Communication Across Barriers, aimed at fighting poverty.
"I was privileged to have mentors come into my life," Beegle said Wednesday. "It is people to people."
These other award winners were announced at the breakfast:
Spirit of Snohomish County Labor Award: Chris Kelly.
A letter carrier at the Lynnwood Post Office, Kelly has been a driving force behind the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive for a decade. The May event is the largest one-day food collection event in Snohomish County. The award recognizes a union member who shows outstanding leadership.
Spirit of Snohomish County Adult Award: Peggy Kennedy.
Kennedy, 85, cofounded the Edmonds Food Bank more than 30 years ago. An outreach ministry of Edmonds United Methodist Church, the food bank began serving 34 families per week. It now has 110 volunteers and helps at least 500 families weekly. The award is given to someone who works or volunteers in human services.
Spirit of Snohomish County Youth Award: Tori Ly.
A 2013 graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, Ly has served for several years on the United Way of Snohomish County Kids Matter Vision Council. She has worked with adult volunteers reviewing grant proposals. Because Wednesday was Ly's first day of classes at the University of Washington, her award was accepted by her parents, Yen Truong and Chau Ly.
Spirit of Snohomish County Community Partner Award: Philips Healthcare.
Randy Hamlin, vice president of research and development at Philips Healthcare, accepted the award recognizing a corporation or organization that exemplifies a commitment to building strong communities. Philips Healthcare in Bothell consistently runs one of the county's largest United Way campaigns. Employees help with the agency's annual Days of Caring and volunteer throughout the year. This year, a company goal is to increase employee volunteer hours by 20 percent.
Dennis Smith, president and CEO of United Way of Snohomish County, announced an added award Wednesday. The agency honored Caren Skube, who retired from the Boeing Co. after 36 years. Skube was a liaison with the Boeing Employees Community Fund, which Smith called "the world's largest employee-run and funded foundation."
Through the years, the fund has given millions of dollars to United Way and other nonprofit groups.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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