By Ruth Ferris
Gail Elliott, who has worked tirelessly to serve the community’s needy and senior citizens as director of the Eatonville Community Center’s Eatonville Family Agency, has announced her plans to retire in January. Gail can take pride in shaping an organization that is working hard to meet the challenge of the areas’ needy, whose needs continue to rise.
When asked what she considers her most important accomplishment, she was quick to say getting the building for the community center built.
The early director, Olga Anderson, operated the food bank out of a house. One Christmas, Gail and Olga called a committee meeting of those who had been working together on local hunger issues. This included PSIA, which is now known as Youth Connection, and the Eatonville mayor and some of the seniors. They applied for a Community Development Block Grant to build a community center. Gail wrote several grants, including ones for the kitchen, the walk-in cooler/freezer, and the soundproof panels for the gym. They started the process in 1981 and moved in in October 1983.
What she has enjoyed most about her job is the feeling that she is helping needy people and that programs have developed over the years to meet an increasing variety of needs.
One of the many programs that she is especially proud of is Food Stamp Outreach. Applicants for food stamps used to have to travel to Puyallup. Food Stamp Outreach contracted with South Sound Outreach to provide an employee to process food stamp applications at the community center. After that, they were able to work with the state Department of Social and Health Services to have a caseworker in the building so that those needing food stamps could get approval on the spot.
Gail is looking forward to spending time with her great-granddaughter, who lives in Tacoma and will be 2 years old in December.
Gail will end her career with one last joyful Christmas at the community center, where all families who qualify “shop” for toys and receive Christmas food boxes as part of an all-out community endeavor to make the season bright for all.
The Eatonville Family Agency Board will host an opportunity for the community to celebrate her achievements and to wish her well.
Ruth Ferris is a member of the Eatonville Family Agency board.