The Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation is getting a new executive director.
Local volunteer and non-profit marketing consultant Sara Stratton took the reins officially on Oct. 20, replacing Jay Thomas, who served as director for the last two years.
“As I prepare to leave, I have mixed emotions as Enumclaw is the most unique community I’ve ever worked for. This town really cares about its seniors, veterans, disabled, youth and families,” Thomas said. “RFWF is at the heart of this community and it’s been my pleasure to serve as E.D. over the last couple of years.”
Thomas has taken a position with the Group Health Community Foundation as program officer for the South Sound region.
“His role will be to build relationships with grantees and fund organizations/initiatives around the state that advance health equity within their communities,” RFWF board member Larry Kauffman said in an email.
Stratton isn’t new to the nonprofit’s works, being a volunteer herself.
“I’ve been volunteering for a bit with the backpack program, and when the schools shut down, I worked with the different volunteers to keep that going every Friday,” Stratton said in a recent interview. The foundation’s backpack program provides low-income students with food over the weekend. “I just really have a heart for people in need, in our community especially but beyond our community as well.”
Of course, it’s not just Stratton’s volunteer work with the foundation that put her in the running for executive director.
“She brings with her a strong background in nonprofit work and a passionate heart for the programs in our foundation and the people we serve,” Kauffman said. “As a volunteer and contributor to RFWF for years she also knows and understands the million dollar value of our volunteers. They are the very core of our successes.”
Stratton started her own nonprofit, the Ragini Project, in 2017. The goal of the nonprofit was to raise money by selling fair-trade jewelry, apparel, home goods, and more to go to families looking for an international adoption.
The nonprofit has since been handed over to a woman in Pennsylvania.
Stratton also coordinated the Enumclaw Rotary Street Fair in 2015, as well as the Expo Center’s Wine and Chocolate Festival that same year.
RFWF’s new executive director said that she’s looking forward to strengthening the programs the foundation currently offers.
This includes the aforementioned backpack program; the senior hot meals program, which delivers food to local seniors in partnership with the local senior center; the Full Bellies program at Calvary Presbyterian; the Care Van program, which helps people all across the Plateau have access to non-emergency medical care; and working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters in local schools.
“It’s amazing that the organization has been, at least from a programming perspective, largely led by volunteers,” she said.
As far as expanding programming, Stratton said she wants to hear from the community about what services it thinks it needs.
“Homelessness, addiction, mental health, bullying, suicide prevention — those would be some of the big [topics], I think not only in Enumclaw but regionally, country-wide,” she said. “I think that those would probably be the most common ones that we hear from the community wanting solutions for.”
To get in contact with the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation, call 360-802-3206 or stop in at their office on 1675 Cole St.
Stratton’s elevation to the head of the RFWF comes just in time for her to put the finishing touches on Holiday Fantasy, the foundation’s annual — and only — fundraiser.
Of course, this year, the fundraiser will be virtual.
“This year’s event will feature a virtual silent auction with over 200 wonderful items and an online live auction where guests can bid on exciting adventures, vacation packages, and unique items,” the foundation’s website reads. “Holiday Fantasy is made possible by individuals and companies who generously sponsor this event.”
The event is scheduled for Dec. 4 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.; to purchase tickets, call 360-802-3206.