By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Erling Hesla is just back from an electrical engineering conference in Las Vegas. Soon he’ll be off again, this time to India to mentor students.
At 88, he’s a busy man.
It’s a good thing he’ll be around next week. After decades of service, mostly to the elderly, he has an award to pick up.
On Wednesday, the Camano Island man will receive the second annual Raili M. Hanson Inspirational Award at Breakfast with Bethany. Proceeds from the event at Everett’s downtown Holiday Inn will support Bethany of the Northwest, a nonprofit organization that cares for elderly and disabled residents at several Everett-area facilities.
Jim Stephanson, director of development for the Bethany of the Northwest Foundation, calls Hesla “the kind of person who gives his all to anything he does.”
“He’s just a treasure for us,” Stephanson said.
The award is named in memory of the late Raili Hanson, who along with Hesla served on the foundation board. A retired nurse and the wife of former Herald publisher Larry Hanson, Raili Hanson’s life exemplified caring for others. She died in 2010.
Longtime Everett teacher and volunteer Shirley Morrow was the award’s first recipient a year ago.
Stephanson said the foundation had about 15 nominations from the community for this year’s award. “So many people nominated Erling, there was a groundswell of support,” he said.
Hesla’s involvement with Bethany stretches back to the late 1960s. He was living in Everett’s new Eastmont neighborhood, where his family attended Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. “We had little children and more on the way, all those exciting things,” said Hesla, a retired electrical engineer.
At the time, the area’s Lutheran churches chose representatives to serve the Bethany charity, which started in Everett in 1931 with what Hesla calls “an old folks home.”
Hesla was president of the organization’s operating board. Later, the fundraising Bethany of the Northwest Foundation was formed and he joined that board.
Stephanson said Hesla still helps the agency as part of an emeritus group. “He’s our historian,” said Stephanson, adding that Hesla’s institutional knowledge covers Bethany’s long evolution.
The agency’s Everett locations include Bethany at Pacific at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Pacific campus and Bethany at Silver Lake. It provides assisted living, nursing and rehabilitation, and care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Many residents are low-income seniors.
Hesla helped as Bethany transformed from a charity relying on private donations to an agency where government support became critical. With that change came regulations requiring a move from an old facility on Everett’s Broadway.
“I’m an engineer. Bricks and mortar come naturally. We were wondering what shall we do, where shall we move? That transition was difficult, but we did it,” Hesla said. “The whole thing has changed for the better.”
Larry Hanson, who will present the award Wednesday, has known Hesla since they were neighbors in Eastmont. They are both involved in a project that would bring engineers into local schools to encourage careers in math and science.
“Erling is this passionate, quiet, behind-the scenes kind of person. As member of the board, he was a very analytical, organizationally savvy kind of guy,” Hanson said. “Erling was the person who first encouraged Raili to become a Bethany volunteer. He was her inspiration.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Breakfast with Bethany, a fundraiser for Bethany of the Northwest, will be held at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the downtown Everett Holiday Inn, 3105 Pine St. With the theme “Taking Care of Those Who Took Care of Us,” the breakfast will benefit residents of Bethany’s Everett area facilities serving elderly and disabled people. To RSVP, call 425-551-6403 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.