At The Beachcomber, we’re thankful for an Island filled with talent

The Beachcomber has a strong staff — a small group of conscientious journalists who work hard each week to get the paper out.

But at a small community newspaper like ours, the staff is only part of the picture. The fact is, we rely to a huge degree on the community to help us fill our pages week after week — another group of dedicated Islanders who write for us, take photographs, send us news tips and provide news releases.

Often they do so to advance an issue or organization they’re involved with. The newspaper is a way to get the word out about their fundraiser, their class, their latest business endeavor. We deeply appreciate those contributions.

But a handful of people do something more. They write or take pictures for us not to advance a cause they’re interested in — but sometimes simply because we ask them to and often because they love their craft.

Thus, with 2008 coming to a close, I want to take a few moments to publicly thank some of those Islanders who stand out in their contributions to The Beach-comber. Countless Islanders contribute in small ways. I want to mention a few who have contributed significantly.

Margot Boyer was a dream come true when she called me one day and asked if she could write profiles for us. She was on sabbatical from her teaching job at North Seattle Community College and thus had a little time. What’s more, she was relatively new to the Island and decided, rightfully, in my opinion, that sitting down with interesting people and asking them their life stories would be a way into this Island, a path toward knowing it better.

Thus began “Keepers of the Place,” a monthly column about Islanders who are helping to sustain and enrich the Island. Her first piece profiled Larry Flynn. Her last piece (unfortunately, her sabbatical is now over) was about Yvonne Pitrof. All of them took readers into the lives of interesting Islanders, giving us the full story of who they are and how they came to be here, sustaining Vashon.

We’ll miss her columns. And we’re grateful for all she’s contributed.

Several other writers stand out for the lovely, sometimes provocative first-person columns they’ve written.

Rebecca Wittman — with her heartfelt look at family life, her rich vocabulary and her spot-on knowledge of grammar — has been a delight to work with. She’s taught us a thing or two at The Beachcomber!

Will North has been another fantastic contributor, whose thoughtful, beautifully written columns have explored the deeper meanings of life on Vashon. Though he’s new to the Island, his insights on our small community speak volumes and resonate with many.

Margaret Heffelfinger, often out of the blue, will send us pieces — interesting, sometimes quirky takes on Island life, gardening, politics or art. We’ve appreciated her pieces; they sometimes seem like gifts.

Other columnists who give again and again include Aimée Cartier, Lauri Hennessey, Mary Kay Rauma and Ann Spiers. And then there are the many people who have contributed to our special sections, like the recently published “gift guide.” It would be hard to thank them all — there are so many. Please know we’re grateful.

Our sports writers are also a blessing — particularly Charlie Pieterick, who faithfully covers basketball and baseball, Don Olson, who writes about football, soccer writer Gary Means, columnists David Jennings and Carl Blomgren, volleyball reporters Michelle Stearns and Mitch Treese, and Marian Easton and Mary Ann Kall, who cover Vashon Pirate Youth Football. Thanks go, too, to the coaches of each sport, who go out of their way to make sure we have the latest news. We couldn’t get out a sports page if it weren’t for these contributors.

Then there are the photographers, a remarkable source of support to a paper staffed by English majors. (What’s an f-stop, anyway?) Cindy Koch has gone on assignments with us to help us illustrate stories. Robert Teagardin, Ray Pfortner, Rondi Lightmark, John Sage, Marnie Jones and Peter Murray have contributed generously, often at the last minute. (What a relief it was, as I struggled Halloween night to capture good shots in the near-dark, to see Robert and John out there with their cameras.)

Other photographers add to our sports pages, such as Bill Gage and Rik Forschmiedt.

Finally, there are other Islanders who keep us in the loop, e-mailing us with news tips and story ideas. Karen du Four des Champs wins a prize in this category, as do Emma Amiad, Jean Bosch and Hilary Emmer.

A community newspaper is an important resource — an institution that, at best, can strengthen and enrich its community. But it’s a symbiotic relationship: We can’t support the community without the community supporting us.

As the year comes to a close, we want to thank this community for its ongoing and remarkable support. It’s made a world of difference.

— Leslie Brown is The Beachcomber’s editor.

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