So close, so close, 28-23 — the Seahawks nearly had it Sunday in their NFC Divisional battle against the Packers. For Everett’s Jerry Garner, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, it was a day for wearing dark green and gold, the color of cheese. But then, so is every day.
“My high school was 15 minutes from Lambeau Field. The Baptist church I attended was a block away,” said Garner, 49, who on Monday was wearing his custom Packers jersey, with the number 1 and “Papa G” on the back.
So while our Hawks are out of the running for a shot at Super Bowl LIV, Garner’s Packers are off to the NFC Championship bout Sunday with San Francisco’s 49ers. Still, let’s give those Packer Backers a gracious shout-out. It turns out, they’re a generous bunch.
“They basically chose us as a charity group they wanted to support,” said Gregg Milne, president of the board of directors for Christmas House.
Last month, the Northwest Packer Backers presented Christmas House with a check for “$2,019 in 2019,” Garner said. Although he’s a Seahawks fan, Milne stopped by the Packers group’s Dec. 29 game-watch gathering at the Mustard Seed Grill & Pub in Bellevue to get the donation.
An Everett-based nonprofit, Christmas House annually provides thousands of holiday gifts for children — infants to 18-year-olds — from low-income Snohomish County families. Founded in a garage in 1981, it’s grown into an operation that each December fills the Everett Boys & Girls Club with toys and other presents for nearly two weeks of free “shopping days.”
During the 2019 holiday season, Milne said, Christmas House provided gifts to 7,029 children from 2,381 families. “It takes about 46,000 gifts to do that,” Milne said last week.
The Packer Backers have supported the nonprofit for more than a decade. “”It’s quite amazing what they do,” Garner said of Christmas House. “We probably have donated over $30,000 in the last 15 years.”
“Kids can’t help the situation they’re in,” Garner said.
In addition to the club’s 2019 donation, the Christmas House website shows a $2,075 gift from the Northwest Packer Backers in 2018, and $2,650 in 2017. “They’ve been doing it for quite awhile,” Milne said. A 2010 Herald article listed a $1,500 donation to Christmas House from the Northwest Packer Backers.
Along with the camaraderie of watching their storied Packers together, “the philanthropy work we do is to give back to the communities we love and work in,” Garner said. His group also supports Northwest Harvest, a hunger relief agency.
Garner’s U.S. Navy service brought him to the Northwest in 1989. Today he works in IT, as a computer support specialist in Bellevue. He and his wife, Traci Garner, live in south Everett, where their apartment is packed with all things Packers.
A Green Bay banner hangs on one wall, a Packers clock on another. Framed behind glass is a vintage photo of crowd-filled Lambeau and a Brett Favre football card. There’s a plastic cheese wedge, a Mr. Potato Head in Packers gear, gold and green pom-poms, and a helmet that belonged to Donald Driver, a former Green Bay wide receiver who’s been on “Dancing with the Stars.”
The Garners’ one share of stock in Green Bay Packers, Inc. — perhaps not as great a treasure as the photo of their baby grandson — is on display, too. Green Bay Packers, Inc. was founded in 1923 as a publicly owned nonprofit corporation. Its common stock has been offered five times since 1923, the last time in 2012.
Garner said their investment helped refurbish Lambeau.
They lived in Green Bay for a time years ago, after Jerry left the Navy. “I loved it, but it gets a little cold — minus degrees,” said Traci Garner, who is secretary of the Packer Backers. Her husband, recalling a 12-foot snowfall back home, is happy to cheer on his home team from the Northwest.
At Bellevue’s Mustard Seed, one of two Packer Backers gathering places — the other is the Rhein Haus in Tacoma — he said the group gets along with Seahawks fans. The opposing groups take turns chanting, “Sea … Hawks,” and “Go Pack Go,” he said.
Garner said older Seahawks fans are more apt than younger ones to get along with rival cheeseheads. Some, he said, may have liked the Packers before the Hawks’ first season in 1976. Mostly, Garner said, “everybody respects each other.”
“The thing about the Green Bay group is people feeling they have a home away from home,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.