Thanks to two folks who really made a difference

    Sometimes "good job," "thanks for all you’ve done," or "kudos from all of us" just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to properly paying homage to people who have worked hard to make our community better — and it’s also a pity that they often only get the attention they deserve when their tenure is at and end.
   So it is with two of the stalwarts, the linchpins, of this city’s nonprofit sector, Don Drake and Kay Sardo.
   Sardo, the executive director of the Opportunity Council for the past 11 years, recently announced her retirement. During her tenure, the Opportunity Council grew to be one of the largest nonprofit service agencies in Bellingham, with an annual operating budget of more than $14 million; the agency worked with the YWCA to open Dorothy Place, a transitional housing facility for survivors of domestic violence, and helped establish the Interfaith Community Health Center in 2002. These are milestones, but all pale in significance to the day-to-day assistance and caring doled out in heaping portions by the OC staff and volunteers.
   Sardo came to Bellingham in 1995 from New York City, where she has been working for the New York City Community Development Agency, training teachers and developing programs to fight illiteracy.
   Drake, until earlier this year the longtime head of the Whatcom Community Foundation, has taken a position of the Salem Art Association in Salem, Ore.
   The Whatcom Community Foundation’s mission is to take the endowed and non-endowed grants its receives and to distribute these monies to assist other worthy local individuals, businesses, nonprofits groups, and private foundations, and to help these groups attain their own funding through grants.
   Like the United Way, donors do not give to the Foundation — they give to other groups through the Foundation. As of their last audit, the Foundation’s assets were just shy of very healthy $5 million.
   Salem is getting a good one, and the town is lucky to get Don.
   As these folks chart new courses for their lives, whether in Salem at a new job or here in Bellingham enjoying a much-deserved retirement, they can reflect on time well-spent, and confident in the knowledge that all their hard work made Bellingham a better place to live for all of us.
   Truly this pair of dedicated professionals has made a difference. How many lives have they enhanced by the steady guidance of their respective organizations? That number is not quantifiable, but how we feel about this pair is not: They will truly be missed.

John Thompson is publisher and editor of The Bellingham Business Journal. He can be reached by calling 647-8805, or via e-mail at

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