If a woman motivated is an asset to her community, then these four women are the pearls of Whatcom County.
Tonight, the YWCA will induct Rosalinda Guillen, Chris Paul, Phyllis Self and Peggy Zoro into its Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame. The four are being honored for their service to the community and their positive example for women and girls throughout the county.
In addition, Mabel Zoe Wilson will receive the posthumous Legacy Award for her work as Western Washington University’s first full-time librarian.
At 65, Bellingham resident and former bank executive Peggy Zoro could consider herself retired. Instead, she is pondering her next step and dedicating more time to the boards on which she serves to help students, the uninsured and small-town businesses.
As a former teacher, her strongest commitment is to Western Washington University’s Board of Directors and Foundation Board, where she raises funds for scholarships and faculty training.
Zoro is also on the board of directors for the Whatcom Alliance for Healthcare Access, is a past chairwoman of the Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Council, and is on the St. Luke’s Foundation board.
What inspires you? Hoping that we can make a difference in the community, seeing if we can help make some of these things better for citizens in Whatcom County. It’s not something you do so you feel good personally; that has nothing to do with why you do these things. And it’s not like I’m a goody two shoes either. It’s just that I live here, and I love Whatcom County. I relish the quality of life here and I want people to have the basic comforts, like health care and to be able to stay in their jobs.
Why do you care? Through the years I have been asked to participate in a variety of organizations, and it looks like a lot. They all sort of fit together in ways that make the tapestry a little easier than you might imagine. I have always been interested in education. It’s been easy for me to commit my time to that endeavor. I think most people care about all of those things.
There ought to be a law against narrowly focused thinking and prejudicial thoughts that make people act in ways that are not all-inclusive.
How do you want to be remembered? If I had an etching on my business tombstone, I’ve always said it would say this: “I made life easier for the people who followed behind me.” I mean it to be all-encompassing, but with a special focus on women and minorities.
Rosalinda Guillen’s work revolves around three words: respect, sustainability and community. As executive director of the nonprofit Community to Community Development, Guillen, 55, has been working to give a voice to farm workers, immigrants and low-income families since 2003.
What inspires you? I think it was the fact that I’ve been in Whatcom County for so long, and I know there’s farm workers here and there was no Latino-led organization to deal with Latino issues. This is a good time to bring the voices of Latino farm workers and Latinos in general into the discussion of sustainability. Every issue that we deal with we address through the lense of sustainability in the community.
Why do you care? Because I love this place and I love the people in it. I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t feel I can be the person I know I can be when there are members of the community who are suffering an injustice that appears to be correctible. For me right now what’s foremost is the whole issue of immigration reform. Everyone says that’s a federal issue, and there’s nothing we can do locally. But everyone’s rights are being impacted by addressing that issue in such a harsh manner. Is it really sustainable to deal with immigration reform in the way we’re doing it?
There ought to be a lawI believe there are already enough laws. I believe that sometimes it’s not necessarily a law that needs to be implemented. Any law you pass requires thoughtful enforcement. That’s one of the biggest issues that needs to be discussed in our country when you’re speaking of justice — how everybody is going to be impacted. We need to think about the whole community.
How do you want to be remembered? I would like changes to be remembered. I would like injustice to be remembered as something that used to exist and no longer does. I personally would, hopefully, be remembered as someone who tried to do the right thing every chance she got, someone who treated people respectfully.
Every spring, Chris Paul works with a class of 650 students. No, she’s not a professor but the founder and director of the Whatcom County Youth Fair.
Paul, 66, a dairy farmer for 34 years, started the youth fair in 1987 in which participants, ages 6-18, learn such skills as livestock care and showing, arts and crafts, clowning, rodeo and amateur radio among other activities. This year’s youth fair is set for April 13-14 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden.
“People have said it’s the most organized camp they’ve seen because it’s 650 kids, all busy, all excited about being there and excited about learning new skills,” she says of the two-day event.
Paul tells the story of a 10-year-old boy who was absolutely amazed that there were people in the world willing to help him learn new things.
“He’s pursuing his doctorate now,” she says.
Why do you care? I care about the youth of our community and these programs because when I was young, someone cared enough to teach me.
What inspires you? The youth of our community inspires me. They are the leaders of the next generation. It is so heart-warming to see youth working and engaged. It keeps them busy and off the streets.
There ought to be a law that every person should have to work with youth.
How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who gave back to their community because it’s one of the greatest things that a person can do.
Phyllis Self says that when she looks back on civilization — it’s the arts that last.
That’s why when Self, 69, came to Bellingham in 1987, she dedicated herself to the cultural growth of the community.
Self worked for six years with Mount Baker Theatre as board member, vice-president and president. She co-chaired the fundraising for the Mount Baker Theatre restoration in the early ’90s. She became president in 1995 and worked toward cooperation between the city and the theater.
Self’s board activities also have included the Whatcom Community College Board of Trustees and the foundation board, the Whatcom Literacy Council and Planned Parenthood.
“When you can see a way to make something happen and when there are good, capable and dedicated people around you to do it with, there’s a synergism that happens and I love that feeling,” she said.
Why do you care? Bellingham is a wonderfully egalitarian community unlike other places I’ve lived where you have to pass some sort of muster to make it into the inner circles. But Bellingham was just really open and welcoming and it seemed interesting and fun to do these things. It’s really satisfying.
What inspires you? I am inspired to make things better and to make changes for the better. I think it’s important to take hold of that opportunity and rise to the challenge.
There ought to be a law that people wake up every day full of gratitude.
How do you want to be remembered? If at the end of my life there are a few people who truly love me, then I’ve had a successful life. I want to be remembered as someone who tried to be a good friend and make things better.