By Ruth Ferris
As the long-term director of the Eatonville Family Agency was retiring, the need for its services was continuing to climb.
The agency had given out 1,797 food baskets in 2008. That number had risen to 2,353 in 2010, and it was still climbing in 2012 to 3,170. The number of children needing backpacks of food for the weekend had jumped from 50 to 60 just this year. Those giving out Christmas gifts for children of families in need at the Eatonville Community Center saw parents who were having to ask for help for the first time in their lives. This was all happening at a time that many financial grants were shrinking.
The person to fill the director job needed to be an experienced administrator, an experienced manager of funds, dignified and competent – yet warm and open-hearted, willing to continue the tradition of welcoming those asking for help in a gentle, caring way, while also skillful and aggressive in pursuing funds to meet their needs. What the agency needed was a miracle, and Lori Culver appeared.
Making the miracle even more dramatic, she felt that finding the agency was a miracle, too.
Culver comes to the Family Agency with many talents. She led the state agency of Oklahoma Educational Television Authority in administering its educational outreach and was responsible for implementing agency strategic planning and policies. As a senior grants officer, she had been responsible for planning, implementing and managing all station fund-raising efforts.
Her success at this was outstanding, and those she worked with had the highest praise for her work.
Culver received an Emmy Award for producing a statewide story collection project featuring World War II veterans, and she was nominated for two additional Emmys. She received national PBS Development awards for Special Event Fund-raising and Special Achievement. She was appointed to the board of directors for the Oklahoma City Literacy Coalition, and she was recognized as an Oklahoma Champion of Health.
Her route from there to Eatonville involves humor and romance. She was in a chicken costume reading to children at an event designed to raise awareness of the need to support literacy programs. Randy, the man who became her husband, saw her at this event and was so charmed that he determined to win her hand. They were married three years ago, and she followed him to Eatonville when he was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a C-17 loadmaster.
She says, “We knew we wanted to live in Eatonville because of its natural beauty, its size and the great people.”
Randy, who retired from the Air Force on Dec. 31, is working on a second masters degree, “and we decided to make Eatonville our permanent home,” Lori said.
Lori’s words about what appealed to her about being the executive director of Eatonville Family Agency reveal the type of person she is.
“My 20-year career has been spent working for public broadcasting, first at KLRU-TV in Austin, Texas, and then at OETA-TV in Oklahoma City. This is where I gained experience in non-profit management and fund-raising, believing in the importance of working for the community,” she said. “After 20 years, I began to feel a strong desire for a change. I was committed to work in the non-profit arena, but I wanted to get involved with an organization that served people directly. Public TV is a wonderful service, but its audience is out there behind the TV screen. I wanted to work with people directly.
“When I was offered the director position at the Family Agency, it was the answer to this prayer.”
Culver said she is “honored to serve in this capacity” and to work “hard as part of a great team to ensure that we are able to continue offering food, clothing, senior programs, and other services to our community.” She added, “It has been so moving seeing the outpouring of love that (retiring director) Gail Elliott has received. I know she will be missed by so many.”
Culver said she looks forward “to getting involved in community activities and meeting people. I encourage people to drop by or call (360-832-6805) or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they want to learn more about the agency and the services we provide.”
Ruth Ferris is a member of the Eatonville Family Agency’s board of directors.