MUKILTEO — Angry swells beat against the rocky break. The rain and wind lashed at the old lighthouse and rattled the windows in the lookout.
Inside the tower, Nancy Joao was content watching the weather rage.
She has volunteered at the Mukilteo lighthouse for more than a decade, part of a society that has kept the station open, providing a light in the darkness.
Her volunteer work is spent doing a little bit of everything, depending on the day. She could be working in the gift shop, archiving and helping create displays, but her favorite part is spending time in the tower while tourists visit.
“Working here is so much fun — we get to tell people the history,” Joao said. “We get visitors from all over the world who want to see our lighthouse.”
Volunteer needs for the lighthouse can run high, especially during the busy tourism season.
Their yearly need is more than 40 volunteers who can help in the gift shop, give tours or help maintain the grounds. Volunteers even help with the occasional wedding. Volunteers do everything but the electrical work, Joao said.
The work often spills over to other areas of her life, but she is OK with that. The volunteer work she has done, plus the dear friends she has made, have made it all worthwhile.
“I’ve made lifelong friends here, best friends, and that makes volunteering here very special,” Joao said.
Not long ago she and another volunteer decided to go out and have a bite to eat, but her friend insisted that they try not to talk about the lighthouse.
“I said ‘OK’ but I told her that ‘If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, we never would have met,’ ” Joao said.
One of Joao’s friends, Ellen Koch,* met her while volunteering at the lighthouse. She has served on the board and as president of the Mukilteo Historical Society and has watched as Joao bloomed as a volunteer.
“She is always so positive and eager to help. If I ever need anything, then I know I can count on her,” Koch said. “If she says she is going to do something, she does it.”
Joao considers the lighthouse to be the unofficial museum for the city by the sea, if not its heart.
Reporter Justin Arnold: 425-339-3432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Correction, Feb. 5, 2009: This article originally misidentified Ellen Koch.