Chamber names Rick Wallace this year’s grand marshal

Rick Wallace, taking a break from selling Voice of Vashon raffle tickets at Thriftway last week, is well known for his volunteer efforts (Courtesy Photo).

Rick Wallace, taking a break from selling Voice of Vashon raffle tickets at Thriftway last week, is well known for his volunteer efforts (Courtesy Photo).

Rick Wallace, a frequent volunteer for island organizations as diverse as VashonBe Prepared and the Vashon Opera, has been named grand marshal of the Strawberry Festival.

Wallace will have a place of honor this weekend at the festival, including in Saturday’s grand parade.

As is tradition, he was nominated by a community member for his civic work, then selected by the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Jim Marsh noted that Wallace has been nominated several times for his good deeds.

Wallace learned the news late last week.

“It’s hard for me to believe that islanders would put me in the same category as previous grand marshals,” he said, citing several, including Joe Ulatoski, Molly Reed, Emma Amiad, Ray Aspiri and Mike Kirk. “They are my heroes.”

Later, he took a break outside Thriftway, where he was selling raffle tickets to support Voice of Vashon, and reflected on his volunteer work.

“What I really, really love is helping others understand the importance of something I am involved in and achieving some common goal,” he said.

He noted that when he and his wife were looking to leave Los Angeles, they wanted a place where the could feel the community around them and be involved in ways that are not possible in a large city. That sense of community was evident as he greeted countless people by name as they came and went through Thriftway’s front doors — and in his words about this Strawberry Festival honor, saying that nothing he has done would have been possible without neighbors coming together to do the work, too.

“It’s a very special thing in a small community to be thanked by your neighbors,” he added.

Islander Rick Reed nominated Wallace on behalf of Voice of Vashon, submitting a lengthy letter that described Wallace’s volunteer efforts on Vashon for almost 20 years across seven different organizations.

Many islanders know Wallace for his role in helping the island prepare for an emergency. Wallace was instrumental in creating VashonBePrepared and served as its leader for many years, Reed wrote. He has also been largely responsible for creating, organizing and obtaining funding for the Emergency Operations Center in the main fire station on Bank Road and has assisted in the creation of a new, larger EOC, currently under construction, with improved technical and communications abilities.

Wallace, who has a background in public relations and radio and TV news, also helped create, develop, manage and fund Voice of Vashon. There he has done everything from helping the station get its first broadcast license to climbing the 81-foot tall water tank to install and maintain the broadcast facilities — often in bad weather.

“There is no doubt that he has been and currently remains the most indispensable person for the Voice of Vashon,” Reed wrote.

For Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, Wallace spent many hours working on the district’s strategic plan and last year assisted the district in its levy campaign. Quoted in Reed’s letter, Chief Charlie Krimmert said Wallace’s efforts have resulted in “new staff, new equipment and efforts that will save lives and property.”

For Vashon Opera, Wallace has provided “wise counsel and direction,” according to co-founder Jennifer Krikawa, and he has run the front of the house for every opera since the 2009 inaugural season. Once he entirely sponsored an opera with his wife Karen Baer.

When Neighborcare Health moved to the island after CHI Franciscan left in 2016, Wallace chaired the fundraising committee that raised needed funds — plus $100,000 extra — on a quicker time line than planned, leading one Neighborcare official to call the group Wallace led “the most effective fundraising committee I have ever worked with.”

The Friends of Mukai have also benefited from Wallace’s time and talents, with President Lynn Greiner crediting him with strategic planning, getting the board to coalesce around a shared vision and serving as a “key contributor” for a special event called “This Place Matters.”

At Vashon Community Care, Wallace worked with funders to obtain money for a generator so that VCC will not only be able to keep its residents warm in an emergency, but other medically fragile individuals as well.

“In summary, Rick Wallace cares,” Reed wrote in his nomination letter. “And he doesn’t just care, he does; and he does a lot. He has demonstrated time and time again that when he can help, he will bring his intelligence and hard work. … And oh yeah, his checkbook, too.”

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