7 outstanding Parks volunteers: The Denny Awards

Home » 7 outstanding Parks volunteers: The Denny Awards

It’s time once again to celebrate the winners of the Denny Awards, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s annual awards for outstanding volunteer stewardship.

In the words of the very fine press release from Parks: The winners are a cross-section of Seattle’s most tenacious, creative and hard-working volunteers who donate precious time and energy to improving Seattle’s parks and programs.

Today Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Parks, announced the following winners. Thank you so much, to the winners, the nominees, and to everyone who volunteers in our city’s treasured Parks system. 

Special Gardens Award: Mary Anne Parmeter, Kubota Garden Foundation

Mary Anne Parmeter has donated thousands of hours to Kubota Garden and the Kobuta Garden Foundation in the past 22 years. As a founding board member, Mary Anne has held many roles. Since 1991 she has served as the editor and publisher of the Kubota Garden Foundation Newsletter, was Secretary for several terms and currently responds to calls to the foundation’s voice mail system. She developed and wrote the Garden’s Tour Guide program. She spent hours researching historical information for the guide, including interviewing Tom Kubota — the son of the Garden’s founder, Fujitaro Kubota. Not only did she write the guide book, she still trains the Tour Guides and takes a personal interest in seeing them succeed.

Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Award:Lance Smith, Seattle Volunteer Naturalist

For 16 years, Seattle Volunteer Naturalist Lance Smith has tirelessly dedicated his talent, passion and skills to providing environmental education programs throughout Seattle parks for students of nature ages 2 – 92. Lance averages 185 hours of programming each year. In 16 years, he took one brief hiatus from the program after his twins were born. Using his degree in Entomology, Lance trains new and veteran volunteer naturalists on insect identification, as well as tips and tricks for teaching insects to varied age groups. In 2012, the traditional docent program expanded to become the citywide Seattle Naturalist Program. Lance was an integral part of this transition. His ideas resulted in an improved training program that is more relevant for the volunteers. 

Community Stewardship Award:Craig Thompson, East Duwamish Greenbelt/Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Since 2001, Craig Thompson has been on a mission to reclaim the overgrown, crime ridden hillside at the north end of the East Duwamish Greenbelt and to activate Dr. Jose Rizal Park.

He has spent hundreds of hours clearing brush himself and organizing work parties for thousands of volunteers. After a decade of volunteer leadership and personal stewardship, Craig’s hard work is paying off.  With the completion of the Mountains to Sound Greenway trail through the greenbelt and park, activity has increased tenfold. Craig now spearheads activation. He continues to solicit and lead volunteer groups.

He has provided mentorship and support to the new Off Leash Dog Area Steward.  He inspired and continues to lead an Orchard Steward group, which has renovated and maintains an orchard in the park. And, he is now a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward.

Park Activation Award: Othello Park Alliance, Othello Park

The roots of the Othello Park Alliance (OPA) go back to a tragic and deadly shooting on one of the basketball courts at Othello Park in 2005. Neighbors stepped up, helping to create positive, family friendly events in the park. In 2008 those neighbors formed The Othello Park Alliance. For four years, OPA has produced the Othello Park International Music and Arts Festival, an annual signature event. More than 1,500 people attend this event annually. In 2011, the Music and Arts Festival was formally accepted as a Seafair-sanctioned community event. This group gathers grants, donations and sponsorships of more than $15,000 each year to fund the annual Music and Arts Festival. They have also raised more than $278,000 to organize, coordinate and fund six design processes and park improvement projects. 

Corporate Citizens Award: Skanska USA Building Inc, Magnuson Park Picnic Shelter

In May 2011, Skanska USA Building Inc. approached Seattle Parks and Recreation with an offer to complete a small project. Skanska is a worldwide contractor with local roots in Seattle, and its standing Community Involvement Committee (CIC) seeks opportunities to give back to the local community. In collaboration, Parks and Skanska identified Magnuson Park Picnic Shelter #1.  The project had been fully designed, and sat waiting for construction funding for four years. Members of Skanska’s CIC, along with skilled-labor staff, worked tirelessly over the course of nine months, spending much of their personal time generating construction schedules and communicating with vendors to procure donated materials and services. Construction was completed in just over one month. The total project’s estimated value is $200,000. All materials were donated to Skanska by industry subcontractor partners.

Making a Difference Award:Gray Newlin, Out There Poetry Camp

Gray Newlin created Seattle Parks and Recreation’s first ever week-long poetry camp for LGBTQQ youth and allies. The Out There Poetry Camp brought in 20 local, adult LGBTQQ poets, artists and performers who provided five hours of topics each day, and inspired young participants to find and strengthen their authentic voices: as youth and as LGBTQQ persons. The camp culminated in a Friday night Camper Showcase event at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. Although she had never organized an event of this scope before, and — at 18 — was attending her first year of college, Gray provided amazing leadership. The value of the camp — counting cash, in-kind sponsors and volunteer time — came to more than $8,000; although, the actual cash used to implement it was less than $1,000. And it was free to campers.

Superintendent’s Award: Tom Douglas Restaurants, Salmon-Chanted Evenings at Victor Steinbrueck Park

In 2011, Tom Douglas approached Seattle Parks and Recreation about offering “fish, friendship and fun” in Victor Steinbrueck Park. Tom’s initial idea was to set up a casual outdoor dining event that would be hosted by different restaurants throughout downtown Seattle. No other restaurateurs took up the idea, so Tom Douglas and his staff – notably Pamela Hinckley — did it themselves. And Salmon-Chanted Evenings was born. Once a month from June through September, you can find Tom Douglas in Victor Steinbrueck Park with his staff serving up freshly cooked salmon dinners to park visitors. All the proceeds from the events are donated to Seattle Parks and Recreation. To date, the event has raised more than $30,000 that goes directly back into Victor Steinbrueck Park. He and his staff have donated more than 335 hours to produce the events. Watch a video.

As I am, Seattle Parks and Recreation is extremely grateful to the thousands of people who dedicate themselves to making Seattle Parks and Recreation better. This year’s nominees include:

  • Richard Appleton, Nora’s Woods and Leschi Natural Area
  • Somchai Chaipatanapong, Ballroom Dance Instructor at Yesler Community Center
  • David Dougherty, Founder of the Olmsted Park Trust
  • Carol Fisher, President of the Lifelong Recreation Council Advisory Council
  • Richard “Dick” Foley, Volunteer for the Japanese Garden Party
  • Friends of Green Lake, Stewardship of Green Lake and Green Lake Park
  • Friends of International Children’s Park, International Children’s Park Renovation
  • Keith Gellar, Forest Steward at Plum Tree Park
  • Sue Geving, President of the Northgate Community Center Advisory Council
  • Groundswell Northwest, Volunteers Bringing Parks and Greenspaces to Northwest Seattle
  • Donna Hartmann-Miller, Friends for a Greater Maple Leaf Park
  • Lifelong Recreation Advisory Council, Recreation and Socialization for Seniors
  • Alfred Love, Volunteer Basketball Coach
  • Russell Odell, Youth Mock Trial Instructor at Jefferson Community Center
  • ServPro, Professionally Cleaned Southwest Teen Life Center, Pool and Neighborhood Service Center
  • Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center, Nature and Science Education at Seward Park

Each year, more than 40,000 volunteers donate about 350,000 hours to Seattle Parks and Recreation. Their service is valued at between $8 and $10 million annually.

Winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony on November 29, 2012.