Always bring a box of tissues to the Relay for Life committee meeting, says Bev Jorgensen, half-jokingly.
There’s often a few tears and a lot of stories to share.
Jorgensen, a 27-year North Bend resident, a local businesswoman and chairwoman of the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life, knows the bittersweet nature of her chosen cause.
Thanks to Relay, she frequently makes an instant connection with people.
“People have a tendency to come to you because you’re wearing that Relay hat,” she said. “They know you’re going to support them, you’re not going to be afraid, push them aside.”
For her, this calling brings rewards of the heart.
“It’s such a blessing,” she said, “watching people be able to see the light, see there are people who care.”
For the last eight years, Jorgensen has been the well-known local face of the PartyLite mail order business. Before that, as a newly widowed mother of three, she worked with special education students as an employee of the Snoqualmie Valley School District. She has coached youth soccer and worked as a supervisor for a few Valley restaurants.
Working in the Valley
Jorgensen and her family moved to the Valley from Wyoming in 1987. Today, “it’s home. I would never leave,” she said.
Her family’s life soon changed. Bev’s husband, Carl, died in 1992. Raising three sons, she had been mainly a mom until that point.
She was working for a restaurant at the outlet mall, part time, as an assistant manager. Prior to that, she had helped Mar-T Cafe owner Pat Cokewell as a supervisor.
“I worked there for a year when the Twin Peaks craze hit,” Jorgensen said. “She was overwhelmed.” The line out the door, of people wanting a cup of coffee or a piece of pie from the cult show, would stretch to the railroad tracks. “It was crazy!”
After Carl died, she had to make a change. Jorgensen went to the Snoqualmie Valley School District, where she started as a substitute teacher, then worked as a support employee for the special education program. She got full-time status in 1993.
At Mount Si High School, she worked in classrooms to help students “who needed an extra push.” Later, she worked in the Mount Si Transitional Learning Center to help older students, aged 18 to 21, get ready for adult life.
Raising her son, Greg, who is now 26, and was born with Down’s Syndrome, prepared her for this work. She also took classes to grow her skills. Yet even with a full-time school job, it was tough making ends meet as a single mom.
“When my husband died, I had three boys at home. The youngest was 5,” she said. “It brought us together tight as a family. The boys had to do some growing up that most kids don’t need to do right away... I learned I had a lot of support people around me. It made me more aware of and appreciative of my community. I had a lot of people to pull me up when I needed it.”
Ending her work day at 3 o’clock, she headed out to the soccer field, where she coached. There were a lot of late nights due to games. “It was taking a toll on me, and a toll on the boys, because they needed a mom.”
Jorgensen had watched friends go into direct sales. Soon, she was exploring the idea of going into the mail-order business herself. Today, she has been a saleswoman with PartyLite home-decor business for eight years. She’s found great success in this line.
In 2006, when Greg finished school, his mother retired from the district. “We graduated together,” she said.
Since then, Jorgensen has worked for PartyLite, and the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life has been her charitable focus.
For women thinking about trying the mail-order business for yourself, Jorgensen has some tips.
“Search for the one that’s going to fit you,” she said. “Do your homework. Make sure you’re not getting into something that’s going to cost you more than what you’re making, because there are some that will do that. If you’re going to make an investment, make it wisely and don’t take it out of your family budget.”
“My biggest reward is the relationships that have been built throughout,” Jorgensen said. “I have so many friends, who have become my closest friends, that I’ve only met by doing PartyLite.”
Right now, her main impact on the Valley comes from her work as the event chairwoman for the Relay for Life. She works with “an incredible committee” that has become like family to her.
“Everybody takes their role very seriously,” Jorgensen said. “We have very compassionate people.”
The best way for newcomers to Relay for Life to get started is to hop on a team.
“If you want to feel the waters, you can find a team that’s already there,” Jorgensen said. There are 38 teams signed up for the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life on July 12. The goal for 2014 is 40.
• You can learn more about Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life at snovalleyrelay.org.