By Linda Mather and Shirley Ferris
For The Beachcomber
Each year, the Vashon Scholarship Foundation honors someone who makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in our island community. This year we choose to celebrate Lisa Cyra and Char Phillips, two women whose efforts to provide for families during the pandemic have been extraordinary.
In their words, “There is no roadmap for navigating these challenging times.” As they explained, “Daily routines came to a stop. It doesn’t matter what your job description was; now it’s whatever needs to be done.”
Combining their talents and skills, they became a force for good, a dynamic duo determined to address the needs of our island community. “We’re just going to pretend we’re on bus routes, but instead of picking up kids, we are going to hand out food.”
Char knew all the routes and Lisa knew how to prepare delicious food under pressure. They were passionate about reaching out to feed children and their families.
Lisa admitted, “I didn’t sleep, and I didn’t hesitate.” The contagious spirit of “making the best of things” has guided these two women to go above and beyond in their efforts to nurture the island. “People came out of the woodwork to help,” they said. That kitchen was rocking!
What most people probably know best about Char is her dedication to the Guide Dog program, which was completely upended by COVID. At the beginning of the pandemic, 120 students and their families were active in the program. People’s lives have been enriched by their relationships with guide dogs, whose training comes from the hands and heart of Char and her team. Not to be deterred by limitations, Char moved the training program online until given permission to meet with handlers and puppies one-on-one. Her bold spirit empowers her to see where help is needed and she steps up with practical know-how to get results.
Each of these women, in her own way, feels compelled to create the world they want to live in right here at home. According to Lisa, “Food is love.” She knows the importance of nourishing food and for years has led the effort to serve kids “real food” that is fresh, local, organic, and beautiful. Partnering with local farms, she finds culinary options for the school menus. In fact, berries, delicata squash and kale by the bale come right from Char’s garden to Lisa’s high school kitchen.
These two women are unstoppable. They do not hesitate to address problems with innovative solutions; furthermore, they carry on joyfully to make Vashon Island a “dream place to live.” By mid-March 2020, Lisa, Char and the kitchen staff were preparing and delivering over 200 breakfasts and lunches a day, a number that eventually reached 450. During the summer the dynamic duo continued their efforts by providing “picnics to go,” often enjoyed somewhere on the high school grounds.
This year’s recipient of the Making a Difference Now Scholarship will be a student who mirrors Lisa and Char’s optimism and desire to step up, show up, get your hands dirty, and bring positive energy to bear on finding solutions. The scholarship will celebrate a graduating senior, who invites others in, to work and play together: inclusive, curious, responsible, resilient.
This scholarship provides a unique opportunity to honor a student as well as honorees Lisa Cyra and Char Phillips. The Making a Difference Now Award is funded entirely by our own community. This is your chance to step up and help a student who shows they understand the importance of investing in one’s community.
Consider joining us by making a contribution at vashoncommunityscholarshipfoundation.org.