Sylvia Anderson’s work in Everett began as a job, but became something greater.
Anderson, 62, spoke at Everett’s Xfinity Arena conference center Wednesday as she was honored during the annual Breakfast with Bethany.
The fundraising event helps patients and residents at Bethany of the Northwest’s Everett area facilities. A nonprofit that has served people in Snohomish County since 1931, Bethany offers nursing care, rehabilitation, assisted living and senior apartments. More than 70 percent of residents are low-income seniors.
Anderson received the Bethany of the Northwest Foundation’s Raili M. Hanson Inspirational Award. It was named for longtime Bethany volunteer and board member Raili Hanson, who died in 2010 after struggling with Parkinson’s disease. A registered nurse and the wife of former Herald Publisher Larry Hanson, she worked many years in Everett General Hospital’s mother-baby unit.
“Raili loved Bethany,” Hanson told the crowd before presenting Anderson with the seventh annual award given in his late wife’s memory. Raili, he said, served on both Bethany’s governing board and its foundation board. “She didn’t let Parkinson’s stop her,” he said.
Hanson noted that Anderson was co-chairwoman of the Everett Community Streets Initiative task force. That group met for months in 2014. It completed a report that brought changes that include better coordination among agencies and a police-social worker partnership to address drug abuse, homelessness and mental health issues.
“Sylvia believes that together we can restore hope and dignity,” Hanson said.
In accepting the honor, Anderson mentioned its “inspirational” title. Years ago, she said, she was inspired by a mentor, Barbara Comte, when she worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Pierce County. At the time, Anderson said, she didn’t yet have a college degree and wasn’t sure she could be “anything but a receptionist.”
Comte had Anderson accompany her to high-level meetings and urged her to further her education. Anderson, originally from Texas, graduated from The Evergreen State College and eventually became executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Pierce County.
“Somebody believed in me,” Anderson said. She shared that when she learned she would receive the award, she contacted Comte. They hadn’t been in touch for years. Anderson said she told her long-ago mentor, “I’m getting this award because you inspired me to be everything I could be.”
At the Everett Gospel Mission, she said, more than 300 people are sheltered each night, “and that doesn’t count people just getting a meal.”
In a keynote speech at the breakfast, Gary Hauff expressed gratitude for the care his mother, nicknamed “Pete,” received at Bethany at Silver Lake, and now as a resident of Bethany at Pacific, a facility at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Pacific campus.
“In 1980 everything changed. Mom was diagnosed with MS,” said Hauff, associate director of philanthropy with the Institute of Flight. She has now lost much of her mobility, he said. More than a facility appropriate for his mother’s retirement and one that accepts Medicaid and Medicare, Hauff said his family wanted a place “that promotes dignity.”
“If my mom were here this morning, she would say ‘Thank you, Bethany,’ ” Hauff said.
Breakfast proceeds will support Bethany’s Dignity Project, which helps pay for items and services to improve residents’ quality of life. More than $35,000 was donated at the event, said Julie Reymore, Bethany of the Northwest Foundation coordinator.
The agency was originally Bethany Home for the Aged, housed in Everett’s old Bethania College at 3322 Broadway. While Bethany cares for the elderly, Anderson focuses on people seeking refuge from the streets.
Asked about the label “Tweakerville,” posted on a reader-board sign by automotive shop owner and Everett mayoral write-in candidate Gary Watts, Anderson said “that tweaker is somebody’s somebody.”
At the Everett Gospel Mission, she said, “I do know we help change lives every day.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.