Five honored United Way for their “Spirit” of giving

TULALIP — People who have volunteered countless hours and given generously to help others were to be recognized Thursday as United Way presented its annual Spirit of Snohomish County awards.

State Rep. Mike Sells, whose efforts include building a strong relationship between the local labor community and United Way of Snohomish County, was among those honored at the agency’s Spirit of Snohomish County Breakfast at Tulalip Resort Casino.

The Everett Democrat, who represents the 38th Legislative District, received the United Way Reeves/Sievers Founders’ Award, given each year to honor a lifetime of service. The award is named for J.A. Reeves and Roy Sievers, who formed the Everett Community Chest in 1940. That organization evolved into United Way of Snohomish County, which recently marked its 75th anniversary.

“Like most everything I’ve ever done, it’s been a team effort to be involved in the community,” Sells said Wednesday.

He was a teacher in the Everett School District for more than 30 years. He taught at Jackson Elementary School, North Junior High and Evergreen Middle School, and was involved with juvenile parole services and the district’s Phoenix alternative program.

First elected to the House in 2004, Sells is chairman of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. For 37 years until his recent retirement, he was executive secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council, which coordinates more than 60 unions in the county representing more than 42,000 workers.

The award recognizes Sells’ work to bring area unions together with United Way on projects that include ramp building, the Letter Carriers Food Drive and Toys for Tots holiday giving. Sells also served as the Everett Education Association’s president, and on the boards of the Everett Housing Authority, Central Washington University and United Way of Snohomish County.

“I’ve had a variety of experiences,” said Sells, 70. “Every day’s been a learning day. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

These other award winners were to be honored at the breakfast:

Spirit of Giving Award: Debra Warden and Steve Kohlmyer.

The Edmonds couple has given generously to the United Way of Snohomish County endowment fund, and through the agency’s Tocqueville Society, which recognizes philanthropic leadership. They also are volunteers who recently helped with Project Homeless Connect and the Letter Carriers Food Drive.

Spirit of Volunteering Award: Greg and Emily Hinrichs.

Emily Hinrichs, a United Way volunteer since 1997, was a founding member of the agency’s Kids Matter Vision Council. The Marysville couple give hundreds of hours to United Way volunteer projects, and serve at their church and area food banks.

Spirit of Advocacy Award: Jim Litz and Tiffany Litz.

A father and daughter from Mill Creek, they participated for the past five years in United Way’s annual lobby day in Olympia. As United Way representatives, they educated lawmakers about issues important to the community here. Jim Litz has served on United Way’s marketing committee and was the agency’s board chairman in 2012. Through their advocacy work, they supported legislation related to the 2-1-1 referral network, homelessness and poverty.

Spirit of Labor Award: Jackie Rae.

A Snohomish County PUD employee, Rae has worked on the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive, the Toys for Tots drive, Project Homeless Connect and ramp-building projects. She has participated in United Way’s lobby day in Olympia. The Everett woman is a member and unit financial officer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77. She serves on the county and state labor councils, on United Way’s board of directors, and on the Snohomish County Boundary Review Board.

The keynote speech at the event was to be delivered by Stacey Steward, the U.S. president of United Way Worldwide.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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