Tulalip Tribes 'raise hands' in charity to Marysville, Arlington groups

'Organ Lady' and registered nurse Colleen Williams presents Tulalip Tribes Board member Stan Jones Sr., Tulalip Tribes Chair Mel Sheldon and Tulalip Tribes Board member Marie Zackuse with a plaque honoring the Tribes for their 'commitment to educating youth on healthy choices' by supporting the Organ Ladies program.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes "raised their hands" in charity to more than 125 organizations throughout the state of Washington Sept. 19, as the Tulalip Resort Casino's Orca Ballroom hosted more than 300 guests for the Tribes' "Raising Hands" evening dinner program.

State Rep. John McCoy, who also serves as manager of Quil Ceda Village, joined Tulalip Tribes Chair Mel Sheldon in explaining that the Tribes have donated $33.5 million to more than 225 charitable organizations since 1993. McCoy noted that, while 60 percent of their charitable donations are drawn from gaming, the remaining 40 percent comes from Tribal resources.

"We have about the same amount of money to give out each quarter, between $200,000-$300,000, but we receive $3 million in requests," McCoy said.

McCoy recalled returning to the Tulalip Reservation in 1994, when it had only 230 employees. Today, the Tribes have more than 3,500 direct and indirect employees. McCoy credited the Tribes' investment in the education of their youth with helping this happen, as well as their creation of Quil Ceda Village.

"By reinvesting in the community, we're investing in you," McCoy told the dinner's attendees. "We use your services. You're an important part of this community, and we can't thank you enough. We all take care of those who have difficulty speaking for themselves. Tulalip is not an absentee owner. We're here to stay, so we need to work and play with each other."

McCoy praised the charitable organizations for helping to foster a positive economic climate, that can attract both jobs and businesses.

Sheldon recalled a United Way meeting held at the Tulalip Resort Casino at 7 a.m., where the presenter told his audience that he was impressed by the level of turnout for a meeting that early in the morning.

"The one thing we all have in common is that we want to make this a better community," Sheldon said. "We want to raise those who have fallen, whose lives might not have turned out how they should."

Sheldon recognized McCoy for "fighting in Olympia" for money from the state legislature that helps the Tulalips "raise their hands" to charities. He also honored Tulalip Tribes Board member Stan Jones Sr. for helping to "bring our songs and our language back."

A video presentation included Kathy Gambil, of the Everett Navy League, who noted that the Tribes' donations funded 365 Thanksgiving baskets and 500 Christmas baskets for the families of sailors in need last year.

Marysville Fire Chief Greg Corn estimated that the Tribes have donated $75,000 to the Marysville Fire District this year, and $750,000 to the fire district over the course of a 10-12-year period. Although this year's donations have yet to be factored into the district's upcoming budget, Corn recalled that previous years' donations had gone toward a jaws of life, hazardous materials equipment and defibrillators.

Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland estimated that the school district has received roughly $500,000 in donations from the Tribes in the past year, including approximately $86,000 that went to the reading room at Tulalip Elementary, $196,000 to the expeditionary learning program at Tulalip Heritage High School, and $30,000 to the literacy initiative at Quil Ceda Elementary, which also received Tribal funds for its math recovery program.

"Organ Lady" and registered nurse Colleen Williams presented Sheldon, Jones and Tulalip Tribes Board member Marie Zackuse with a plaque honoring the Tribes for their "commitment to educating youth on healthy choices" by supporting the Organ Ladies program. Arlington-based Kathy Ketchum was the original Organ Lady in 1989, and the program has since expanded to Mount Vernon, where Williams is headquartered. The Organ Ladies received $10,000 from the Tribes this year, which Williams expects will help them meet 2,500 students throughout Snohomish County.

"We've spoken to 28,000 kids and received 12,000 letters from them, after we present our 'Inside Story,'" Williams said of the program, which allows students to don gloves and feel the difference between healthy and damaged human organs. "Young people think they're invincible, but once they can touch those insides, they realize that just because they don't see what's happening to their bodies, it doesn't mean it's not happening."

Williams cited the numbers of students and parents alike who have quit smoking due to the program as evidence that the lessons passed on by the Organ Ladies extend far beyond their classroom settings.

Burned Children Recovery Foundation Founder and President Michael Mathis also thanked the Tribes for their donations over the years. The Burned Children Recovery Foundation, which uses Arlington Rotarian Jim Minifie's house on Lake McMurray as a site for part of its annual Camp Phoenix program, commemorated 20 years of service Dec. 11 of last year, and recently passed the mark of 103,000 children helped. Mathis also expressed his gratitude to the Tribes for the five scholarships they provide to regional children.

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