Working Together: How Seattle Athletic Club Employees Helped Get a Beloved Northwest Center Client Back to Work
Sandy is the “light of the world,” says Sarah Shafter, membership and corporate accounts manager at the Seattle Athletic Club (SAC). “She is someone truly special and an integral part of our team.”
Sandy, a Northwest Center client and women’s locker room attendant “towel folder extraordinaire,” has worked at SAC for more than 12 years. “She’s an ‘institution’ and is loved by everyone at the club—members too,” says Shafter.
But last year, something happened that threatened to keep Sandy from the job she loves: a life-threatening stroke paralyzed her left side and affected her ability to talk and swallow.
SAC employees were devastated by the news. Sandy was in the hospital for more than three weeks and then was transferred to a nursing home. A few months later, she desperately wanted to return to work at SAC, but was not yet fully recovered.
“It looked like she would spend the rest of her life in the nursing home,” Shafter says.
That’s when SAC employees decided to nurse Sandy back to health on their own.
“Each employee would take turns to visit her and would bring her back to the club for therapy swims and workouts to build her strength up,” says Lisa Huisingh, housekeeping supervisor and childcare director at SAC.
Due to the employees’ efforts, Sandy made progress and began walking again.
“We knew if we didn’t step in to help Sandy, she could still be in the nursing home today,” Huisingh says. “We missed her so much while she was gone and it’s a miracle to have her back on her feet without having to use special equipment to get around.”
The club was so happy when Sandy came back to work, they awarded her “Employee of the Month.”
“She’s taught me so much in life over the years, “Huisingh says. “To always be friendly, that it’s okay to be silly, and to never ever give up. We are blessed to have Sandy back and see her beautiful smile again that lights our world!”
“I don’t have Down syndrome; it’s a lifestyle,” Barbie exclaims as she sorts through hundreds of fibers and yarn at Paradise Fibers in Spokane.
“My hobby is knitting and being able to work with yarn and fiber; every day is a dream come true,” says Barbie. “Working here makes me feel more independent and I can do stuff on my own and earn money and spend it the way I want to.”
Barbie’s dream of knitting and working with fibers every day became a reality right away when she visited Paradise Fibers. Her employment coach scheduled a day for her to meet the entire store team and she was hired on the spot. “We all loved her immediately,” said Karlene Oliver, shipping and purchasing lead at Paradise Fibers. “We decided on that day Barbie was going to be part of the team because of her terrific personality and great smile.”
Not only does Barbie organize yarn in the store among many other duties she has at Paradise Fibers, but soon her own knitting work will be offered as part of the store’s Fiber of the Month Club, a subscription service that sends special yarns and other goodies each month to more than 500 members. Barbie will design the March 2019 box in honor of Down Syndrome Day, and she has requested that all proceeds from the blanket she knits will go to Northwest Center and the Down Syndrome Foundation of Spokane.
It’s not the first time Barbie has used her knitting skill to help others. She was so moved by the movie “The Fisher King,” she decided she wanted to help the homeless.
“It gets so cold at night during the winter,” Barbie says. “My favorite things to knit are hats and scarves so I can hand them out to homeless people and the elderly, too. I wanted to make sure to keep them warm.”
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