Last week’s North Bend City Council meeting was packed as Mayor Ken Hearing proclaimed Thursday, June 19 as “Nancy Whitaker Day,” recognizing the community leader’s decades of service.
Whitaker’s colleagues from Encompass, a local organization that serves families with younger children through a variety of programs and activities, enthusiastically cheered on their friend and mentor, who retired as director last week.
“It was a little embarrassing but really, really nice,” Whitaker said of the proclamation. “I was really pleased and humbled by it.”
Whitaker stumbled upon her 22-year career with Encompass when she took her son Charlie, who has Down syndrome, to the center. She had previously worked in customer service and as a classroom assistant, and had no plans to go into family services.
“I really have Charlie to thank for my career,” she said.
She got involved by running a support group for parents, and later became a family resource coordinator in Encompass’ early intervention program.
“I really enjoyed teaching parenting classes, and helping parents get those ‘a-ha!’ moments,” she said.
Whitaker served as a program manager and interim director before taking over the top spot six years ago.
One of her happiest memories was moving from shared spaces into the organization’s current location on Boalch Avenue. Encompass raised funds for its new home through a capital campaign.
“It was really exciting when the community built this building for us,” she said.
After years of hard and satisfying work, Whitaker is ready for a break.
“I’m looking forward to relaxing and getting myself into shape for some skiing this winter,” she said.
She’ll join her sister on some road trips this summer, and travel to Mexico in the fall.
As a board member for the Issaquah-based all-volunteer organization Life Enrichment Options, Whitaker plans to ramp up efforts to establish a home in the Valley to give adults with developmental disabilities some independent housing options. She’d like to help her son Charlie, 27, transition out of her home.
Whitaker’s good work in the community will continue, and Encompass staff probably won’t let her stay too far away.
“I can go, but I cannot hide,” she joked.
It’s clear, though, that her daily presence at Encompass will be missed.
“Nancy’s service to our organization – and to the entire Valley – for the past 22 years has been unparalleled,” said Gregory Malcolm, who is stepping into Whitaker’s position.
“At Encompass, we have often heard her explain that ‘at the heart of everything we do is a child,’ which is absolutely true. But equally true, is that for the past two decades Nancy has been at the heart of everything we have done for the community. The positive impact that her work has had on the children and families we serve makes her deserving of Citizen of the Week every week.”
• Do you know Valley residents who deserve recognition for their good work? Nominate them for Citizen of the Week, an award co-sponsored by the Valley Record and Replicator Graphics. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (425) 888-2311.