News and Features

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Island News and Features

NeedLESS Plastic, by John Strathman -

Photo: John collecting beach debris on an Ocean Legacy expedition

 
In a 2016 survey, The Pew Research Center reported that 74% of Americans said: “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." But only 20% said that they make an effort to live in ways that help protect the environment “all the time.” 

It’s really tough to be environmentally conscious when it comes to plastic. Plastic is a ubiquitous workhorse and a seemingly essential component of our way of life. It’s everywhere, in almost everything we use, for many good reasons. Plastic is light, strong, durable, and cheap. Try to get everything on your grocery list and avoid plastic. Good luck. Try to go a day without using anything plastic. Not gonna happen. But, there ARE many opportunities to reduce our use.
 

The problem with plastic is that we produce, use and discard far more than we can manage. Much plastic waste is mismanaged. Worldwide, 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year. That’s a garbage truck every minute. By 2050, there will be as much plastic in the oceans (by weight) as fish. A million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are killed by plastic trash in the ocean every year. Microplastics (bits of plastic less than 5mm) have been found in bottled drinking water, shellfish, finned fish, sea salt, even in the air in the Pyrenees mountains, 100 miles from the nearest town. And, yes, it is found in human poop. We eat, drink, and inhale plastic every day. It is believed to be toxic. 

In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic waste from other countries. That was a game-changer. Much of the plastic we dutifully deposited in our blue bins was baled up and sent to China. They don’t want our trash anymore. So, recyclers like Waste Management are scrambling to find other markets for plastic (somewhere else to send it). Much is sent to developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and India where 80% of plastic is mismanaged – incinerated, land-filled, or illegally dumped. Recyclers in the U.S. are forced to landfill or incinerate plastic they can’t find a market for. Six times as much plastic is incinerated in the United States as is recycled! 

My interest in plastic pollution was triggered on a trip to the gorgeous islands of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia in 2016. Before that, I didn’t think much about my own plastic consumption. I used whatever I wanted, figuring it was okay as long as I tossed my plastic into the recycling bin when I was done with it. In Sorong, a city of 100,000, I saw plastic containers all over the streets and canals so choked with plastic garbage it was hard to see any water. There were discarded plastic water cups and bottles everywhere. There are no blue bins there, no big trucks to collect the waste and take it away. On the beautiful island where we stayed, home to some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, resort staff cleaned the beach of plastic debris early each morning before guests arose to see it. I kayaked to the other side of the island only to find a beautiful beach covered with plastic trash. It was a shocker!
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
I’ve started to look for ways in which I can do my small bit to deal with plastic pollution. I’ve educated myself by reading articles online and visiting websites. I discovered a non-profit called Ocean Legacy, based near Vancouver, B.C., that collects marine debris from remote beaches and recycles as much of it as possible. My wife Deb and I visited the Ocean Legacy warehouse last November and spent a day sorting tons of plastic trash – everything from rope, floats and other fishing gear, drink bottles, plastic barrels, disposable lighters, straws, tires – you name it. I kept in touch with the organization and in June I joined them on a beach cleaning expedition near Bamfield, B.C. on the west coast of Vancouver Island. For 6 days, I boulder-hopped and crawled under salal at the high-tide line to recover plastic trash that had washed ashore. We filled at least thirty 2-yard “super sacks” with junk. The days were long and exhausting. But it was also quite inspiring to hang out with a dozen fearless millennials who love the ocean and hate to see it trashed.
Beach debris example from Ocean Legacy expedition
 

"Super sacks" loaded with beach debris. Photo credit: Ocean Legacy
 

Of course, plastic is not just a problem in far-away places. I've picked up plenty of plastic bags, water bottles, and miscellaneous plastic waste from Guemes Island beaches. So, in my small way, here are a few things I'm doing to reduce plastic waste in my little corner of the world:
  • Working with others to help ban lightweight plastic shopping bags in Anacortes and at the state level.
  • I feed wild birds. I’ve accumulated a pile of colorful woven polypropylene bags that once contained sunflower seeds. Friends give me chicken feed and other bags.  They aren’t recyclable.  So, I repurpose them.  I watched YouTube videos, learned how to operate a sewing machine and have made at least 50 reusable, strong, washable grocery totes.  You may see islanders carrying them on the ferry or around town.
  • Deb and I try to avoid single-use plastic packaging whenever possible. Of course, we bring reusable bags to market, refusing wasteful, needless single-use plastic bags.  We try to buy stuff packed in glass bottles or jars or in steel cans (big sigh… unfortunately, cans are usually coated with plastic on the inside!) or wrapped in paper.  I was buying food for our little dog, which came in small polypropylene containers.  I switched to dog food that comes in steel cans. I found ketchup in glass bottles (remember those?) at Smart Food Service Warehouse Store (formerly Cash and Carry). I buy olive oil in gallon steel cans to avoid plastic jugs. We take reusable, washable small bags to the supermarket to put produce in, or don’t bag produce at all.
  • If I see a product that is packaged in plastic, I sometimes write the producer and ask them to consider ditching the plastic. I won't buy until they do!
  • We take a stainless steel container with us to restaurants and fill it with leftovers instead of taking a polystyrene carry-out container provided by the restaurant.
  • I take a reusable cup to Starbucks for coffee. They give me a $.10 discount.  To-go coffee cups are plastic-lined paper and not recyclable around here.  The disposable lids are polypropylene plastic, also not recyclable.
  • I don’t buy bottled water or soda. At best, those bottles are “down-cycled” to make carpeting or fleece, but ultimately are destined for the landfill.  I use a refillable water bottle.  Lots of places will allow you to refill it for free (Starbucks is one). Plastic drink bottles are a top item found on beach cleanups.
  • We don’t use single-use plastic drinking straws.
  • Deb makes re-usable beeswax wraps which we use instead of plastic film for food storage.
  • We used to buy ice cream in plastic tubs. A friend gave us an ice cream maker so now we enjoy ice cream without the plastic waste - and we don't have to worry about it melting in the ferry line!
 

I’m old enough to remember when plastic wasn’t nearly so pervasive. Pop bottles were heavy glass, returnable, and as kids we collected them and returned them to the store for money. Milk came in a paper carton without a stupid plastic spout on the side. Meat was wrapped in butcher paper, not sitting on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic film. We had drinking fountains and steel canteens, not plastic water bottles. I dunno, maybe we were dehydrated all the time? 

That’s my plastic story. What’s yours?There's so much we can all do to help reduce plastic waste. The world needs LESS plastic! 

We invite you to tell us your story/share your plastic reduction tips. We'd like to compile tips from islanders and share them (anonymously) on our website. Taking action to reduce plastic waste begins by raising awareness and re-thinking our purchases. You can help!
Read more
Guemes Neighborhood Farm Stands -

Got Greens?

Guemes Island is home to many talented home gardeners. A few go beyond the small patch of herbs and lettuce and grow abundant vegetables, flowers and fruit that they sell from roadside stands around the island. Check out the offerings at these stands. It’s best to get there early in the day while supplies last. Payments are on the honor system.

Cedar Petrick, 5253 South Shore Drive, is open weekends throughout the summer offering a variety of vegetables and flowers. Chicken and duck eggs are also available.

Chris Damarjian (pictured on the left above), 7001 Guemes Island Road, stocks her stand on Friday mornings with organic vegetables and fruit. She often sells out by the end of the day. Check back over the weekend for late additions and flower bouquets. Also, handmade beeswax food wraps.

Tom Deach’s Garden on Edens (pictured on the right above), 4623 Edens Road, sells vegetables and flowers and stocks the farm cart by the road during the week as things are harvested. The proceeds benefit Carol Deach’s Jamaican children’s education program.

If you need fresh homegrown eggs, you need only drive the “egg route” around the island until you find an egg stand that still has a dozen for sale. Mimnaugh’s on Paradise Lane, Davelaar’s and Petrick’s on South Shore Drive west of the Store, (if the sign is out) Horneman’s on Edens Road east of Deach’s farm stand, the farmhouse on Eden’s Road at Section Ave, or Stamper’s north on Section Ave.

A Guemes frittata of just picked greens and fresh eggs can be on your menu if you hit the stands early. If you miss out, the Anacortes Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday morning until October 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Depot at 7th and R Streets in Anacortes.
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Neighbor News

NeedLESS Plastic, by John Strathman

Photo: John collecting beach debris on an Ocean Legacy expedition

 
In a 2016 survey, The Pew Research Center reported that 74% of Americans said: “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." But only 20% said that they make an effort to live in ways that help protect the environment “all the time.” 

It’s really tough to be environmentally conscious when it comes to plastic. Plastic is a ubiquitous workhorse and a seemingly essential component of our way of life. It’s everywhere, in almost everything we use, for many good reasons. Plastic is light, strong, durable, and cheap. Try to get everything on your grocery list and avoid plastic. Good luck. Try to go a day without using anything plastic. Not gonna happen. But, there ARE many opportunities to reduce our use.
 

The problem with plastic is that we produce, use and discard far more than we can manage. Much plastic waste is mismanaged. Worldwide, 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year. That’s a garbage truck every minute. By 2050, there will be as much plastic in the oceans (by weight) as fish. A million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are killed by plastic trash in the ocean every year. Microplastics (bits of plastic less than 5mm) have been found in bottled drinking water, shellfish, finned fish, sea salt, even in the air in the Pyrenees mountains, 100 miles from the nearest town. And, yes, it is found in human poop. We eat, drink, and inhale plastic every day. It is believed to be toxic. 

In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic waste from other countries. That was a game-changer. Much of the plastic we dutifully deposited in our blue bins was baled up and sent to China. They don’t want our trash anymore. So, recyclers like Waste Management are scrambling to find other markets for plastic (somewhere else to send it). Much is sent to developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and India where 80% of plastic is mismanaged – incinerated, land-filled, or illegally dumped. Recyclers in the U.S. are forced to landfill or incinerate plastic they can’t find a market for. Six times as much plastic is incinerated in the United States as is recycled! 

My interest in plastic pollution was triggered on a trip to the gorgeous islands of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia in 2016. Before that, I didn’t think much about my own plastic consumption. I used whatever I wanted, figuring it was okay as long as I tossed my plastic into the recycling bin when I was done with it. In Sorong, a city of 100,000, I saw plastic containers all over the streets and canals so choked with plastic garbage it was hard to see any water. There were discarded plastic water cups and bottles everywhere. There are no blue bins there, no big trucks to collect the waste and take it away. On the beautiful island where we stayed, home to some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, resort staff cleaned the beach of plastic debris early each morning before guests arose to see it. I kayaked to the other side of the island only to find a beautiful beach covered with plastic trash. It was a shocker!
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
I’ve started to look for ways in which I can do my small bit to deal with plastic pollution. I’ve educated myself by reading articles online and visiting websites. I discovered a non-profit called Ocean Legacy, based near Vancouver, B.C., that collects marine debris from remote beaches and recycles as much of it as possible. My wife Deb and I visited the Ocean Legacy warehouse last November and spent a day sorting tons of plastic trash – everything from rope, floats and other fishing gear, drink bottles, plastic barrels, disposable lighters, straws, tires – you name it. I kept in touch with the organization and in June I joined them on a beach cleaning expedition near Bamfield, B.C. on the west coast of Vancouver Island. For 6 days, I boulder-hopped and crawled under salal at the high-tide line to recover plastic trash that had washed ashore. We filled at least thirty 2-yard “super sacks” with junk. The days were long and exhausting. But it was also quite inspiring to hang out with a dozen fearless millennials who love the ocean and hate to see it trashed.
Beach debris example from Ocean Legacy expedition
 

"Super sacks" loaded with beach debris. Photo credit: Ocean Legacy
 

Of course, plastic is not just a problem in far-away places. I've picked up plenty of plastic bags, water bottles, and miscellaneous plastic waste from Guemes Island beaches. So, in my small way, here are a few things I'm doing to reduce plastic waste in my little corner of the world:
  • Working with others to help ban lightweight plastic shopping bags in Anacortes and at the state level.
  • I feed wild birds. I’ve accumulated a pile of colorful woven polypropylene bags that once contained sunflower seeds. Friends give me chicken feed and other bags.  They aren’t recyclable.  So, I repurpose them.  I watched YouTube videos, learned how to operate a sewing machine and have made at least 50 reusable, strong, washable grocery totes.  You may see islanders carrying them on the ferry or around town.
  • Deb and I try to avoid single-use plastic packaging whenever possible. Of course, we bring reusable bags to market, refusing wasteful, needless single-use plastic bags.  We try to buy stuff packed in glass bottles or jars or in steel cans (big sigh… unfortunately, cans are usually coated with plastic on the inside!) or wrapped in paper.  I was buying food for our little dog, which came in small polypropylene containers.  I switched to dog food that comes in steel cans. I found ketchup in glass bottles (remember those?) at Smart Food Service Warehouse Store (formerly Cash and Carry). I buy olive oil in gallon steel cans to avoid plastic jugs. We take reusable, washable small bags to the supermarket to put produce in, or don’t bag produce at all.
  • If I see a product that is packaged in plastic, I sometimes write the producer and ask them to consider ditching the plastic. I won't buy until they do!
  • We take a stainless steel container with us to restaurants and fill it with leftovers instead of taking a polystyrene carry-out container provided by the restaurant.
  • I take a reusable cup to Starbucks for coffee. They give me a $.10 discount.  To-go coffee cups are plastic-lined paper and not recyclable around here.  The disposable lids are polypropylene plastic, also not recyclable.
  • I don’t buy bottled water or soda. At best, those bottles are “down-cycled” to make carpeting or fleece, but ultimately are destined for the landfill.  I use a refillable water bottle.  Lots of places will allow you to refill it for free (Starbucks is one). Plastic drink bottles are a top item found on beach cleanups.
  • We don’t use single-use plastic drinking straws.
  • Deb makes re-usable beeswax wraps which we use instead of plastic film for food storage.
  • We used to buy ice cream in plastic tubs. A friend gave us an ice cream maker so now we enjoy ice cream without the plastic waste - and we don't have to worry about it melting in the ferry line!
 

I’m old enough to remember when plastic wasn’t nearly so pervasive. Pop bottles were heavy glass, returnable, and as kids we collected them and returned them to the store for money. Milk came in a paper carton without a stupid plastic spout on the side. Meat was wrapped in butcher paper, not sitting on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic film. We had drinking fountains and steel canteens, not plastic water bottles. I dunno, maybe we were dehydrated all the time? 

That’s my plastic story. What’s yours?There's so much we can all do to help reduce plastic waste. The world needs LESS plastic! 

We invite you to tell us your story/share your plastic reduction tips. We'd like to compile tips from islanders and share them (anonymously) on our website. Taking action to reduce plastic waste begins by raising awareness and re-thinking our purchases. You can help!
Read more
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NeedLESS Plastic, by John Strathman

Guemes Neighborhood Farm Stands

Got Greens?

Guemes Island is home to many talented home gardeners. A few go beyond the small patch of herbs and lettuce and grow abundant vegetables, flowers and fruit that they sell from roadside stands around the island. Check out the offerings at these stands. It’s best to get there early in the day while supplies last. Payments are on the honor system.

Cedar Petrick, 5253 South Shore Drive, is open weekends throughout the summer offering a variety of vegetables and flowers. Chicken and duck eggs are also available.

Chris Damarjian (pictured on the left above), 7001 Guemes Island Road, stocks her stand on Friday mornings with organic vegetables and fruit. She often sells out by the end of the day. Check back over the weekend for late additions and flower bouquets. Also, handmade beeswax food wraps.

Tom Deach’s Garden on Edens (pictured on the right above), 4623 Edens Road, sells vegetables and flowers and stocks the farm cart by the road during the week as things are harvested. The proceeds benefit Carol Deach’s Jamaican children’s education program.

If you need fresh homegrown eggs, you need only drive the “egg route” around the island until you find an egg stand that still has a dozen for sale. Mimnaugh’s on Paradise Lane, Davelaar’s and Petrick’s on South Shore Drive west of the Store, (if the sign is out) Horneman’s on Edens Road east of Deach’s farm stand, the farmhouse on Eden’s Road at Section Ave, or Stamper’s north on Section Ave.

A Guemes frittata of just picked greens and fresh eggs can be on your menu if you hit the stands early. If you miss out, the Anacortes Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday morning until October 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Depot at 7th and R Streets in Anacortes.
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Guemes Neighborhood Farm Stands

Rick Norrie – New Stage Project Manager

Photo: Rick Norrie (right), new project manager for the Schoolhouse Park Stage, studies the stage plans with Tom Fouts

 

Community Center Board Welcomes Rick Norrie as Stage Project Manager


On May 16, the Guemes Island Community Center Association board announced at its monthly meeting that Rick Norrie was appointed to be the new project manager for the Schoolhouse Park Stage project. The project has nearly completed Phase 1 (crawlspace slab, foundation, ramps, decking, electrical panel, and acoustic sound wall). Phase 2 will begin soon to install uprights, shear walls, roof, and sound platform and complete the electrical work and landscaping. 

Related post: The Benefits of Volunteering
 
Following a 14-year military career in the Navy, which brought him to Whidbey Island, Rick Norrie joined the Island County Sheriff’s Office in 1987. He was introduced to Renee Van Iterson, daughter of the late Ria Foster, and Guemes Island, where Renee was raised. It was love at first sight on both accounts. Renee and Rick married and began living on Guemes fulltime in 1993. 

Rick was schooled in woodworking and construction by his father-in-law, master craftsman Tony Foster, who Rick says “could pretty much  build anything.” He enjoys working in his shop doing woodturning and learning when he is not volunteering or working in his private investigative business doing background checks. 

During his 31 years in law enforcement, he became a drug-recognition expert and was nationally recognized for his ability to spot symptoms of drug and alcohol impairment. He traveled across the state promoting drug education and early intervention. Rick retired in June 2018. 

Wanting to give back to the community that “has benefitted my family so much,” Rick joined the volunteer Guemes Island Fire Department and has already taken the strenuous firefighting course and plans to take the challenging EMT course this fall. 

When he learned about the need for construction and constructive management of the stage project, he again volunteered his services. Rick’s goals for the stage project are to realign the project, improve communication, and overcome adversity and conflict so that the community can work together to accomplish short-term and long-term goals in a reasonable time frame. With a positive and inclusive attitude, he states, “I want to help the community achieve its dream.” 

Please contact Rick Norrie at 360-661-5770 with questions or to volunteer.
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Rick Norrie – New Stage Project Manager

Lisa McCloud — Zumba Gold, Island-Style

Lisa leads Zumba Gold classes at the Community Center on Mondays and Fridays from 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. and Wednesdays from 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. If you'd like to learn more about Zumba Gold or be added to the Zumba Gold distribution list for info and updates, you can contact Lisa at laughoftenandmuch@yahoo.com

------

 

On Wednesday, April 10th, a dear friend from Seattle came to Guemes to attend my first OFFICIAL Zumba Gold class as a certified instructor. Over a glass of post-Zumba wine at the General Store she shared that she had become a little emotional during the class with the recognition that this new chapter in my life was the culmination of so many things that I love dearly including (but not limited to) community, dance, island living and learning to take myself less seriously.

 

Eight years ago, when my husband, Kurt, and I first set foot on Guemes to look at a house for sale, like so many others before us, we didn’t know the island existed. This seems crazy given that my father had grown up in Anacortes and I had spent my formative years visiting family in the area. But despite that fact, it took us precisely one trip around the island with Karen Everett to become smitten with this haven. We loved our home in West Seattle and had no plans to leave but here we are celebrating nearly two years as full-timers in our happy place. We are fortunate that our jobs allow us the flexibility to work remotely, of which we are taking full advantage. I have been with A Place for Mom, a senior care referral company, for nine years and am enjoying a new role as a coach to our partner support team. Kurt is celebrating 17 years as a residential home mortgage lender with an office in Anacortes.

 

Thanks to my extroverted husband and some fan-freaking-tastic neighbors (island-wide) I have quickly come to appreciate the joy of community. You have to experience it to understand and I feel incredibly grateful for that gift. In fact, I have my community to thank for encouraging me to become a licensed Zumba Gold instructor which has been an unexpected source of tremendous joy for me. Dance has always been an outlet for me and I’m grateful to be able to share it in a way that is simple, silly AND SO GOOD FOR YOU.

  

My favorite feedback came from a new Zumba participant after her first class when she said, “I wanted to apologize for laughing at you, but oh my gosh, your face (expressions)!” So come and dance and sweat and laugh at me! Or better yet, laugh at yourself. Life is too short to take ourselves so seriously.

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Lisa McCloud — Zumba Gold, Island-Style

GICCA Welcomes New Board Members

In January 2019, the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) welcomed two new board members. One is a long-time islander and one is a relative newcomer. They come together with the common goal of serving our community. Almost like bookends, our treasured multi-generational families that are steeped in tradition and our new arrivals who are discovering the many things we all love about this island join to continue writing the colorful and evolving story of Guemes Island.


Carol Deach is a third-generation Guemes Islander born to Alice and Marv Shoultz in 1950. Her many adventures growing up on the island could fill volumes and they include attending school at the Guemes Schoolhouse until it closed in 1960. Her higher education, then marriage to Tom Deach, followed by the birth of their two children took her young family to other parts of the state, and then to Idaho. She and Tom returned to Guemes in 2010. Carol’s training in art and special education has benefited our community in many ways. Carol was president of the Guemes Island Historical Society and helps with the popular summer Guemes Science Camp as a teacher and organizer. Her vegetable and flower farm stand on Edens Road helps fund her volunteer work with Great Shape! Inc., a humanitarian organization that provides access to education and health care for children and families in Jamaica.

Libby Boucher and her husband, Tony, found their way to Guemes through the brother of a friend who owned property on the island. After a few years of perusing real estate ads and dreaming of island life while still young enough to enjoy it, they made the decision to leave their jobs in Sammamish, and move north to Guemes in 2017. Not quite empty nesters, they have one of their three sons also living here. Tony still works from home. Libby left a career as an office manager at an elementary school where she was president of her local office employees union. Volunteering was also an important part of her life in Sammamish and she wasted no time becoming involved here on Guemes. You’ll see her in the Guemes Library on most Wednesdays. If you ask Libby why she enjoys volunteering, she’ll tell you it’s the best way to meet people when you move to a new location.

Location brings us back to that common ground. There are many of our long-time residents who over the years have served on the board that governs our 105-year-old Community Center. That foundation and support provide a match to the new energy and enthusiasm that honors tradition and keeps our community working together and moving forward. We welcome the contributions Carol and Libby bring to GICCA.
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GICCA Welcomes New Board Members

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Guemes Connects is one of many island organizations that address a need or provide a service to residents. 

The Connects volunteers provide on-island skilled, compassionate assistance with respite care, transportation, home maintenance, medical equipment, housing, and meals for shut-ins. The organization’s mission is to foster a network of support for the Guemes Island community. They are committed to meeting the needs of anyone needing assistance regardless of age, illness, disability, race or religion.

Guemes Connects sponsors The Gathering Lunch, a weekly lunch program open to everyone, residents, visitors, and workers. Meals are prepared and served by volunteers every Thursday from 11:30 to 12:15 from October through April at the Guemes Church. There is a suggested donation of $5.00 for this “home cooked” meal. Check the Events Calendar on myguemes.org for the weekly menu. Free blood pressure checks are available from 11:15 to 12:30. Take-home meals are available by request for shut-ins only.

The following coordinators can help if you have a need or know someone who needs occasional assistance.
  • Meals – Lorraine Francis 360-293-8364
  • Respite Care – Sue Nichol 206-755-7937 or Juby Fouts 360-293-2704
  • Home Maintenance/Yard Care – Bill Clark 360-299-3230
  • Medical Equipment – Juby Fouts 360-293-2704 or Barb Ohms 360-298-1885
  • Housing Assistance – Ron Knowles 360-588-9922
  • Transportation – Susan Rombeek 360-293-0777 or Anne Passarelli 360-299-2549
Please give the Transportation Coordinators 24-hour notice so they can arrange rides. If you cannot reach a coordinator or wish to volunteer your time or skills, please contact Lorraine Francis or Juby Fouts. Additional volunteers or new Gathering Lunch cooks are always welcome.
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The Road Is Long – by Deb Strathman

... but "The road to a friend's house is never too long." - Danish proverb


Pamplona -> [Güemes] -> Santiago (450 miles)

 
When Father Ernesto, Paqui, Miguel, and Marina, from Güemes, Spain, visited Guemes Island in April this year, I didn't divulge my intentions to hike the Camino de Santiago. I'd dreamed about completing the epic pilgrimage for years but, at that point, it was still just a dream. I had read books, watched movies, and talked about my dream, but taking the next step was a big commitment - and more than a little daunting. Ernesto's visit was the driver that put my "Camino wheels" (and, ultimately, my feet) into motion. I was committed to making my dream a reality - and maybe visiting Güemes, Spain as well! 

After talking with family and completing the necessary preparations and travel plans, my husband, John, our daughter, Gina, and I flew from San Francisco to Paris, to Madrid, and then to Pamplona, Spain.  On September 13th, we began the month-long walk from Pamplona to Santiago - 15 miles per day, carrying 15-lb packs. 

But this isn't a story about us or our Camino. It's a reminder of the special, lasting bond between two Guemeses and the extraordinary hospitality and kindness extended by the people of both ...
 
When I finally contacted Father Ernesto about our Camino plans, he was delighted to hear that we'd like to visit his pilgrims' shelter in Güemes. He made arrangements to pick us up near Logroño, a 2-1/2 hr drive from Güemes. After 4 days of walking from Pamplona to Logroño (with blistered feet, already!), we were really looking forward to seeing our friends and giving my feet a couple of days rest. Ernesto, Paqui, and Miguel were a sight for sore eyes (and feet)! There was much hugging and laughing. We spent the day touring the Spanish countryside, including some beautiful little seaside villages, and around the village of Güemes on our way to Ernesto's albergue.
View from the hills above Güemes, Spain
 We visited the 2 churches where Father Ernesto serves, including one that displays photos from his "Guemes world tour."
 

Ernesto's albergue isn't just a pilgrims' hostel. It's a large estate owned by Father Ernesto. Practically the entire village of Güemes is engaged, somehow, in helping at Ernesto's albergue. Volunteers bring food, help cook, help with maintenance, and many other tasks. Paqui and Miguel and several others are an integral part of the albergue’s mission. Many pilgrims who stop at the hostel for the typical one-night stay decide to come back and volunteer for weeks or months. Three meals a day are served to pilgrims and all that's requested in return is a donation. The complex has a library, a common room, and an ermita, where pilgrims can sit and reflect on their journey. Ernesto's collection of slides from his travels line the walls and ceiling of his study. Notes of gratitude from pilgrims from around the world are compiled into large volumes - each one a treasured gift. Many pilgrim guidebooks call this the best hostel on the Camino del Norte. It was definitely the best that we saw on our journey across northern Spain (of course, maybe we're also a little partial). 
Ernesto, Gina, Deb, and John at the Albergue La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Spain
 Although we were pilgrims on the Camino, Ernesto insisted that we would not eat or sleep with the other 70+ pilgrims spending the night at his albergue that particular evening. Rather than twin beds or bunks in a large dormitory-style room, we had an entire living space, including 2 bedrooms and a private bath, in what was once was his parents' house (where Ernesto was born, 80 years ago), right on the grounds of the albergue.  Instead of the customary pilgrim's meal that we had experienced so far on the Camino, we ate with the wonderful staff in the large dining room - with mementos of Ernesto's travels and his life of caring for others covering the walls. The huge dining table was covered with plates of amazing food (Spanish paella, pasta with mushroom sauce, succulent roasted chicken) and lots of wine and other "merry-making" beverages. Dozens of volunteers shared in the feast. Barbara, a volunteer and former pilgrim from Dusseldorf, Germany, served as our translator.  There was much laughter and joy (no translation required) - obviously one big "family" enjoying a shared meal and time together. We were stuffed - and very "merry."
Paqui, Miguel, and other volunteers
 Our visit was short (parts of 2 days and 1 night) but we were grateful for the time we could spend together.  Ernesto, Paqui, Miguel, and Barbara drove us to Bilbao the following day.  We spent the afternoon and evening in Bilbao, where we visited the Guggenheim museum and participated in a "tapas tour." The following morning Gina flew to Barcelona and then home to California; John and I took a bus back to Logroño, where we picked up the Camino again - only 26 more days of walking to reach Santiago! 

My feet continued to be a problem; I was resigned that they would hurt for the rest of the trip. However, after a visit to a podiatrist in Burgos (5 days further down the road), a new pair of shoes, and another day of rest, things began to improve. 

About a week after leaving Ernesto and friends in Güemes, I received a text from them asking where we were - they wanted to take us out to dinner. "Wherever you are, we will find you."  What a fun surprise - and a little crazy, we thought. Were they really going to drive another 2-1/2 hr (one way) to have dinner with us and then turn around and drive back? Yes, they did! They found us in the sleepy little village of Castrojeriz (population 500). We shared another wonderful meal with these amazing people. Excellent food, excellent company - we felt so fortunate to be the recipients of their kindness and hospitality once again!
Ernesto, Paqui, Miguel, John, and Deb in Castrojeriz
After dinner, we said another fond farewell, with more hugs and smiles. Nineteen more Camino-days (~ 285 miles) awaited us when we set out again the following morning. We stayed in touch with our friends throughout our trip and shared this photo when we, finally, arrived in Santiago on October 16.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral - a World Heritage site in Galicia, Spain
Amazing journey. Amazing people. Special friends. 

If you'd like to keep the "Guemes connection" alive, I encourage you to include Güemes, Spain in your future travel plans. In the meantime, if you're interested in sending holiday greetings to Father Ernesto and team, here's the mailing address: 

Father Ernesto Bustio Albergue La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto Calle el Albergue, S/N, 39191 Güemes, Cantabria, Spain
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The Road Is Long – by Deb Strathman

A Visit to Güemes – by Ian Woofenden

After hosting our visitors from Güemes, Spain when they were on the island in April, Lisa and I were delighted to have the opportunity to receive their hospitality at the Albergue La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Spain in September. This hostel on the Camino del Norte was Ernesto’s birthplace and family home. Over the years, he and his supporters have turned it into a hostel that hosted more than 12,000 pilgrims walking to Santiago this year. 
We traveled to Europe, for the first time, to celebrate our 60th birthdays and to get a taste of places we’d dreamed of seeing in person. Scotland, Austria, and France were on the list, and seeing Güemes was a priority for us. We took a train from a village in France to the border with Spain where Ernesto, Paqui, and Miguel picked us up. (We were sorry not to see Marina, who is working and studying in Berlin.)
 
On the drive to Güemes, we got a taste of northern Spain’s coast and the Cantabrian countryside before landing at the albergue. Though I knew from our eight days with Ernesto and friends in our home that we were in the presence of a remarkable person, our three days at the hostel brought regular confirmation of his specialness. Ernesto is a person who has dedicated his life to caring for others while also having grand adventures—it seems like a great mix to me. 

The hostel is decorated throughout with evidence of the huge number of people who have benefited from his love, care, and sense of humor. Everywhere you look, there is artwork, appreciations, posters, and more from and about the people who have been influenced by Ernesto and his helpers. The place is full of talent, love, and good humor that seems to never falter, even while a new batch of 30-100 pilgrims arrives every afternoon. 



Lisa and I were particularly pleased to share and enjoy music with Paqui’s wife and others from the community one afternoon and evening. We were tickled to hear lots of American music in their repertoire and to enjoy their robust harmonies. There was lots of laughter as well. 

We toured both of the local churches that Ernesto serves, and got a great view of the small community of Güemes from the tower in the center church. We also took a day trip to Picos de Europa, a gorgeous mountainous region where Ernesto served early in his career as a priest. There and around Güemes, everyone seemed to know and revere Ernesto—there was a familial warmth that was obvious. 


We were able to hear Ernesto speak to one of the pilgrim groups in the round building on the albergue property that is dedicated to meditation and contemplation. I was particularly amused at how often Ernesto would tease or make jokes; he is a person who has done and accomplished so much, but has not lost his childlike humor and a humble sense of his own small place in the universe. Paqui and Miguel and several others are integral parts of the albergue’s mission, and the spirit we saw shining from them on the island is shared with pilgrims, volunteers, staff, and visitors. 

We had the opportunity to chat with some of the pilgrims, and even more with the hostel staff and volunteers. With some frequency, pilgrims who stop at the hostel for the typical one-night stay decide to come back and volunteer for weeks or months. While we were there, we connected with volunteers from Spain, Netherlands, and Columbia who were there to help—and to soak up more of the congenial spirit of the place. 

 Our visit was brief, ending with a ride to the nearest international airport in Bilbao. It left us with a lovely taste and a wish to return, perhaps to walk some of the Camino, or to spend time helping at the hostel. I encourage islanders with European travel plans to consider a stop at this small place that shares our island’s name. The place is quite scenic; the people are extraordinarily hospitable and kind. Building more connection between the village of Güemes, Spain and Guemes Island was our pleasure, and could be yours too.Read less
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A Visit to Güemes – by Ian Woofenden

Meet Your (Backyard) Neighbors

Guemes Island owl photos by Ian Woofenden, Connie Snell, and Deb Strathman

Whoooo's your neighbor?

Does your neighbor have a quiet and wise demeanor? Does s/he exude an air of mystery and diffidence? Do you hear him/her calling out at night? Does s/he hang out on your back fence and stare at anything that moves? Strange behavior for a neighbor? Not if s/he's an owl! What a hoot! 

Thank you to all the islanders and visitors who attended the presentation by Paul Bannick, Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls, on Saturday September 22. Paul's talk was informative and accompanied by his fabulous photographs of owls from the desert Southwest to the frozen arctic. The proceeds benefit the Guemes Island Environmental Trust.
 

Paul, a graduate from the University of Washington, is an award-winning wildlife photographer and acclaimed author. He combines his love of the outdoors, his skill as a photographer, and his passion for wilderness conservation into his books as well as his multimedia presentations that emphasize the natural history of North America with a focus on birds and habitat. 

Paul has been featured numerous times in local and national press, including in the Seattle Times, King 5 News, Evening Magazine, NPR, NBC Nightly News, etc. He currently serves as the Director of Major Gifts for Conservation Northwest, an organization dedicated to protecting and connecting wild areas and recovering native species from the Pacific Coast to the Canadian Rockies. 

Join us! Don't miss Owl!
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Meet Your (Backyard) Neighbors

Meet Your Neighbors – Dan Burnett & Stephanie Woolworth

Dan Burnett and Stephanie Woolworth will marry on August 18, 2018. They are embraced by the Guemes Island community, family, and friends.

 Stephanie was born during a Guemes Ferry outage as her mother, Phyllis, had to be “ferried” by other means to the hospital in Anacortes for the birth. A true “Guemes Girl,” Stephanie grew up with a love of animals, nature, art, and music. She has traveled extensively abroad to China, Australia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Ecuador, France, and England. She is back and will begin married life on Guemes.

 Dan’s college degrees in Spanish, music, and philosophy led him to join the Peace Corps in 2006. He was assigned to Bolivia where he built wells and worked on basic sanitation. As Dan immersed himself in the local community, he taught English, played soccer, and learned the indigenous music and native dialects. He was as well loved in Bolivia as he is now on Guemes Island. Dan began work as a rural postal carrier in Anacortes in 2010 and occasionally substituted for the Guemes route. Now a full-time resident, Dan built a “green” home with his own artistic touches in the southeast corner of the Island, which he will share with his wife Stephanie.

 Stephanie and Dan found each other and common ground in international travel, art, and music. Their involvement with community, congregation, and family reflects their love for each other. Congratulations to this Guemes couple on their upcoming wedding!
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Meet Your Neighbors – Dan Burnett & Stephanie Woolworth

Meet Your Neighbor – Barb Ohms

Guemes Island Property Owners Association's
Citizen Of The Year, 2018
On June 9, 2018, the Guemes Island Property Owners Association (GIPOA) voted at its annual membership meeting to award the "Guemes Island Citizen Of The Year" to Barb Ohms. This award is presented once a year to a Guemes Island resident or residents who have given outstanding service to the Guemes Island community. Barb was recognized for her outstanding leadership as president of the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) and for her involvement with a number of other island organizations. 

As GICCA's president, Barb’s inclusive leadership style and active engagement have fostered teamwork and progress on a number of important community projects and committees. If you need to schedule an event at the Hall, she’s the gal to call. Barb's also the keeper of the comprehensive, island-wide Events Calendar on the GICCA website. 

Barb is an organizer with Guemes CERT, a Gathering Lunch cook, and can be found volunteering at most island events. Barb's commitment to the Guemes community is evidenced by her ongoing efforts to partner with and support other island organizations and to build on the work done by previous leaders to improve the many aspects of life on Guemes Island. 

Congratulations Barb! The Guemes Island community thanks you for your dedication, commitment, and hard work on behalf of all Islanders!

Photo: Howard Pellett, GIPOA President, presents Barb Ohms with the Citizen Of The Year award. Also pictured are Julie Pingree and Bob Stickrod. Photo credit: Carol Pellett
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Meet Your Neighbor – Barb Ohms

Meet Your Neighbor

Greg and Marlene Kleven

The Long Road To Guemes

Sometimes the truly unexpected happens for all the right reasons.  This was our recent experience on our road to the “other” Guemes. 

My wife Marlene and I were recently staying in Spain, renting a flat in San Sebastian, using the city as our base to explore the Basque countryside.  During our three-week visit, our oldest son and his wife came for a short stay.  At the conclusion of their visit, we dropped them off at the Bilbao airport and decided to continue our journey west to the city of Santander, the capital city of the Cantabria region on Spain’s north coast, located at the mouth of the Bay of Santander on the rocky La Magdalena Peninsula. We were planning on having breakfast near the beach or the boardwalk.  Much to our surprise, however, everything was closed.  We should have known. This is a Catholic nation and it was Sunday morning. We eventually found a small coffee shop open.  We ordered two “café con leches” and “toasta” then decided to continue our journey, entering a random town in our GPS on the coastline that would that would take us off the freeway and into the countryside. 

Within 45 minutes of driving to our selected destination of “Bayeu” we came upon the following road sign.“Marlene,” I said.  “Look at this.  It’s a road sign for Guemes.  We have to go.”
 

In the back of my mind I remembered there was a Guemes, Spain, but I had no idea where it was, until now.  Changing course we drove for roughly 10 minutes down a beautiful, pastoral, country road, filled with cows, grass, and rolling hills.  And then we pulled into Guemes town square, literally just as the church bells were ringing, reminding local villagers that Sunday mass was about to begin. I immediately jumped out of the car and took a video of the church bells ringing. 

Greg and Fermin
Somewhat overwhelmed with our recent discovery, we walked behind the church and discovered a bed and breakfast establishment with a small pub.  We walked inside. Using Google translate I ordered two diet cokes, a couple of sandwiches, and proceeded in “very poor Spanish” to explain that we were from Guemes, US.  Fortunately for us, the bartender understood English quite well and told us to wait at the bar.  Moments later the proprietor, Fermin, came out and excitedly told us that their local priest, Ernesto was visiting Guemes, US, with two of his associates, “that very day!”  He pulled up his Facebook account and showed us pictures of Ernesto with Guemes residents, Bob Anderson, Pastor Sally Balmer, and Ian Woofenden, to name a few.

I repeat, we did NOT plan this.  The story gets better.

  

Knowing there was a nine-hour difference between Guemes, Spain and Guemes, US, I sent a copy of the ringing church bells video to our friend and fellow Guemes parishioner, Lois Duncan.  That very morning when Ernesto and his friends were attending the Guemes Island church service, Lois stood up and played the ringing church bells of Guemes Spain.  Needless to say, everyone was quite amazed.  Ernesto was overjoyed.   

Bego with Marlene and Greg
Over 250,000 people have walked the centuries-old ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as “The Way." Father Ernesto’s Albergue is one of the stops where he has welcomed thousands of pilgrims from around the globe to a hot shower, a bed, food, and companionship.  During our visit we found out that Father Ernesto, who is now 80 years old, was actually born on the very site of his Albergue which can host up to 100 people a night.  On the evening we stayed at his Guemes Albergue there were roughly 50 pilgrims. Our hostess, Bego, introduced us to the audience of fellow, Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Brits, and Spaniards, as travelers from the “other” Guemes in the US.    

Our visit to the Guemes Albergue ended up being the highlight of our trip to Spain.  For Marlene and me, this was a journey that began in 1992 when we made our first “Guemes discovery” answering a Seattle Weekly add advertising a beach cottage for rent on a small island off Anacortes.  Little did we know that our journey would continue thousands of miles away along the Camino de Santiago in Spain 26 years later. The adventure continues.
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Meet Your Neighbor

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