Four local organizations were honored for their service to the community during the first annual “Hometown Heroes” celebration at the Sammamish Valley Grange on Thursday, Nov. 18.
The event recognized volunteers and representatives at EvergreenHealth, Children’s Country Home, Woodinville Firefighters Benevolent Fund and International Nutritional Sustainable Partners (INSP). Each honoree received a $500 check from the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce.
“Tears were shed. Joy was had,” said Kimberly Ellertson, executive director of the chamber. “I just think it’s such an honor to be in this community and get to honor some hometown heroes.”
Recipient Brandy Badger, owner of Badger Whole Farms in Redmond, said she felt a strong calling to help feed community members after food banks shut down during the pandemic in spring 2020.
She purchased food from other local farmers and posted on Facebook about the free items, she said. That’s when the cars started to flood her street, she said, waiting for their share of food.
“I drove my neighbors crazy,” Badger said. “We didn’t realize that the response was going to be so great.”
Badger, alongside her husband Eric Badger, established International Nutritional Sustainable Partners (INSP) as a nonprofit in May 2020. The organization, which used to operate out of the Woodinville Sports Fields parking lot, currently distributes food to residents each week at American Legion Post 127.
During the height of the pandemic, she said, INSP connected with local nonprofits Farmer Frog and EastWest Food Rescue to bring about 40,000 pounds of potatoes to the farm for distribution last year. She quickly reached out to surrounding churches, local nonprofits and government entities about handing out the produce.
So far, Badger said, the partners have moved about 100 million pounds of food to feed over 3 million people nationwide and 1.5 million people locally.
Badger was awarded the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service by King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert this month as well. She also earned the 2021 Team Award, which is sponsored by the Governor’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, for feeding local veterans.
“I'm very emotional this week because I wasn't doing all of this to be honored,” she said while fighting back tears. “People were hungry, that’s why.”
Badger said she is currently working to secure funding that would allow the continuation of her work toward ending food insecurity. To learn more about INSP, visit https://www.weareinsp.org.
“We're not stopping. It's not over,” she said. “We're on a four-year mission.”
EvergreenHealth is another hometown hero that continues to fight on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ellertson.
In February 2020, a fellow EvergreenHealth doctor made a call to CEO Dr. Jeff Tomlin that would set the tone for the next several months.
“He said to me, ‘I hope you’re sitting down,’” Tomlin said. “Those two tests that we sent for COVID-19, they came back positive. We were one of the first hospitals in the United States to prove this was going to be a pandemic beyond China.”
Over the years, Tomlin said, trauma services manager Barb Jensen organized multiple trainings and plans for emergency situations to prepare for events like a pandemic or chemical spill. He compared her to an “Old Testament prophet” because she had the foresight to plan far in advance for a disaster.
Prior to the pandemic, he said, EvergreenHealth also sent staff members to conferences with the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
Jensen said this preparation was the reason entire hospital floors of COVID-19 positive patients began to test negative for the virus.
“Our staff stepped up every single day,” she said. “We got organized, we started to plan and it goes on to this day.”
Dr. Ryan Padgett, who specializes in emergency medicine, said he tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020. Despite his healthy track record, he spent two weeks fighting for his life on a ventilator at EvergreenHealth.
“I nearly died,” Padgett said. “I'm proud to be a part of the team and so thankful that they were there when I needed them.”
Children’s Country Home, based in Woodinville, was also selected as a hometown hero for its commitment to medically fragile children. The clinic offers housing for pediatric patients whose medical conditions require nursing and monitoring on a 24-hour basis.
“The children’s whole world really is their caregivers, their parents, their guardians and their caseworkers,” Executive Director Diane Kolb said.
The pediatric group home collaborates with local organizations to ensure all children have the opportunity to participate in activities on- or off-site. Kolb said the nonprofit also provides schooling and educational needs for the children in partnership with the Northshore School District.
The house is located in a family-centered neighborhood, according to the organization’s website. It features bright, colorful rooms and living areas as well as an extensive and accessible yard. For more information about the organization, visit childrenscountryhome.org/.
Finally, the chamber recognized the Woodinville Firefighters Benevolent Fund as a hometown hero for its contributions to local children and families around Christmastime.
Dustin Wuebel, president of the benevolent fund, said the nonprofit has been creative with raising funds to operate its Shop with a Cop program during the holidays. The annual event, which is organized by the Woodinville Police Department, helps over 120 local kids have a better holiday season.
He said 25-30 families, or about 125 children, within the Northshore School District are chosen for the Shop with a Cop program every year. Due to the pandemic, he said, the nonprofit shifted to handing out toys and meals to the families instead of physically shopping with the children like past years.
During its annual summer golf tournament, he said, the organization raised around $17,000 for disadvantaged families in the Woodinville area. He said the new contract with Eastside Fire & Rescue will not change how funds are distributed.
“We have contracted with Eastside Fire, but our funds can stay the same,” Wuebel said. “We're going to be able to merge together in the near future and still keep doing the same, great things.”
Over the years, the fund has assisted people with medical expenses, purchased coats for kids, helped pay for funeral expenses and provided preschool tuition for young students—among other things.
“It can be a pretty moving experience when you witness these little kids and the things that go on within the families,” he said.
For more information about donating to the benevolent fund, visit www.wffbf.org/.