February 19, 2001
Food for thought on the roadside
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
KENMORE - The billboard in Kenmore isn't typical of most. It doesn't hawk ice cream or Big Macs. And it doesn't attract tourists ... yet. But it has had its share of publicity in the Seattle Times and in two Eastside newspapers.
Standing on the side of Northeast Bothell Way amidst traffic lights and espresso shops, this billboard makes a difference in peoples'lives.
There's no way to know the total number of people who have been impacted by it, but many have reported that the words on the billboard have helped them in some way. Whether it helped to heal a relationship or turn around a bad attitude or caused someone to smile, people say the billboard has brightened their day while commuting to work.
Actually, the billboard is a large marquee and it is referred to as "the readerboard" by locals. It stands in front of the Kenmore Community Church about halfway between Kenmore Village and downtown Bothell.
Owned by the church, the readerboard has been greeting motorists in stop-and-go traffic since Jimmy Carter was president.
At times, its messages of wisdom and humor are as welcome as a glass of ice water in the hot Sahara Desert. If a driver is frustrated with other drivers zipping in and out of lanes and cutting off others, the readerboard might offer levity with "Frogs have it easy, they can eat what bugs them."
Or if a driver has an unresolved argument with a spouse or a co-worker, the readerboard might advise "An apology is a good way to have the last word" or "Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else get your way."
Sayings such as these, and many more, are chosen each week by longtime church member, Mildred Anderson who heads the church missions and outreach team. Anderson, who was a missionary in Japan for 37 years, sees the readerboard as another part of her outreach mission.
"A lot of people know us as the church with the readerboard," said Pastor Mark Rogers.
He explained, "The intent is for it to be an outreach, to make people laugh and to think."
The church, he said, averages one readerboard-related phone call per month.
"People call and say that something they read on the board was a blessing to them," Pastor Rogers said, then laughed and recalled that some people also call to notify the church when a word is misspelled.
According to Mildred Anderson, many people have started attending the church because of the readerboard. And from that standpoint, she said, the readerboard has changed lives. And there are people who never call the church, but enjoy reading the sayings every week.
"I think the quotes are very witty. It gives you food for thought," said Kass Hedgecock who works at the restaurant next door to the church.
Pastor Rogers mentioned that he especially likes the inscriptions that play on words. One of his favorites is "Know God, know peace. No God, no peace."
Anderson said that her favorite saying is "One thing you can give and still keep is your word."
And while on the subject of keeping words, Mildred Anderson keeps plenty. She has a shoe box stuffed with newspaper clippings and hand-written notes full of inspiring words she has gleaned from magazines, newspaper columns or gift books. Pastor Rogers said that some clever sayings arrive at his desk by e-mail.
The readerboard was built as a memorial to a church member who had thought of the idea and had helped to raise money for it.
The former church member had done many things for the church and left money in his will for a church parking lot. However, Kenmore Community Church was established long before the readerboard.
Church members first met in the Kenmore Community Hall in 1933. Later, in 1938, the church purchased an old roadhouse on Bothell Way called the Tip Top Inn.
Mildred Anderson was a pre-teen back then and remembers when the church held Sunday services in the roadhouse.
She said, "It was set up quite nicely with a hardwood floor where (roadhouse customers) had danced." Sunday School, she added, was held in the booths where customers ate. But eventually the roadhouse was torn down and a new church built in its place.
The new church is the one drivers pass daily as they head to work. It is the church with a mission to make a difference in the lives of weary commuters.
To contact Pastor Rogers, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org