United Way names Spirit Award winners for Snohomish County

TULALIP — The United Way of Snohomish County’s annual Spirit Awards breakfast at the Tulalip Resort on Thursday, Sept. 6, showcased individuals and organizations who were judged to have improved the lives of others, and the quality of life of the community, through their service.

Community members from Marysville and Arlington were in attendance as groups that had benefitted their cities were recognized during the program. Cocoon House, which has a foster home faulty in Arlington, saw one of its volunteers, Dominick Juarez, receive this year’s Youth Award.

Several years ago, Juarez attended school infrequently and was involved with gangs, but now, at the age of 19, he works with at-risk teens in the Cocoon House “U-Turn” program, holds down two jobs and attends Everett Community College.

“Cocoon House is a place for all teens, not just the homeless,” said Juarez, who plans to transfer to the University of Washington to double major in biochemistry and neurobiology, and then continue onto dental school, after obtaining his associate’s degree. “Not a lot of people know about its resources. I want to be able to help them out after the help that I’ve been given, and I feel like I’m still getting.”

Juarez was singled out by the awards presenters for relating so well to his fellow teens in the U-Turn program, but Juarez echoed the remarks of keynote speaker Kathy LeMay, author of “The Generosity Plan,” by asserting that a great deal of the difference he’s made has simply involved him showing up.

Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland attended the breakfast and offered effusive praise for the United Way of Snohomish County.

“This is huge for Marysville, even more than it is for a number of other communities,” Nyland said. “The United Way has seen our needs and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us, well beyond what we could have asked for, including providing free books for every preschooler in Marysville and Tulalip. Their mission is a perfect fit with ours, because we both want to make sure that good things happen to our children before, during and after each school day.”

Nyland lauded the United Way not only for helping to inspire young people, including those like Juarez, but also for partially counteracting shortfalls in state and federal funding for useful community programs.

“These people are dedicated to making these programs possible by filling in the gaps that are increasing as a result of our decreasing public safety net,” Nyland said.

The morning’s four other awardees included Mary Jane Vujovic, who received the Adult Award for serving on United Way of Snohomish County’s Community Matters Vision Council; Allyn Triezenberg, who received the Spirit of Labor Award for organizing Snohomish County’s annual Letter Carrier’s Food Drive; Campbell’s StockPot, which received the Community Partner Award, and the family of Bob “Mr. Fundraiser” Smith, who received the Reeves/Sievers’ Founders Award for carrying on his legacy of service.

“It is an honor and a privilege to recognize the spirit of generosity in our community,” said Dennis G. Smith, president and CEO of United Way of Snohomish County. “The award winners are an inspiration to us all.”

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