As the year comes to a close, and I reflect on the past 12 months, what often doesn't get told are the incredible stories of our state employees who perform exceptionally well under increasing scrutiny. I'm reminded of this every time I visit an agency or hear about someone performing his or her job above and beyond what is expected. In many instances, it's far above and way beyond.
Instances of those small miracles are especially evident this time of year. Despite the reductions in salary and workforce that we've seen, state employees are stepping up, remembering others in need this time of year. Nearly every state agency in every region is raising money to donate to a food bank or family in need. Agencies are providing toys for kids who otherwise might not have a holiday. They are buying coats, gloves and hats for shelters across the state. I'm astounded at what our state employees are doing. I can't name every example, but I want to share a few:
* The Ferries Division at our Department of Transportation holds an annual cruise for special-needs children. The department gets donations -- it doesn't cost the state a thing -- and last Saturday, ferry employees took nearly 800 children on a 90-minute cruise around Puget Sound. Imagine their excitement!
* The Department of Veterans Affairs adopted four families to make their holiday complete. In one family, both parents are returning veterans and in school using their GI Bill benefits. Without the help of VA employees, their newborn and toddler would not have a holiday.
* For the past three years, Liquor Control Board employees have volunteered one day a month, every month of the year, to serve food to the hungry at the Salvation Army. And they will be there on Christmas Eve.
* At the new Consolidated Technology Services, one employee and his siblings opted to forgo giving each other gifts this year and instead the employee donated part of what he would otherwise spend to the agency's drive to give three families gifts, stocking stuffers, grocery cards and food baskets.
* OFM adopted seven families (with a total of 14 children) and got each child something he or she needed (a coat, shoes, clothing), something wanted (a favorite toy) and a new book. OFM staff also provided nearly $3,000 for food and other household essentials, including for a single father raising five children.
* The Health Care Authority provided 300 teens who are spending the holidays in foster programs, or other residential programs, with stockings filled to the brim with gifts, treats and personal care items. Volunteers sew the stockings and then spend time on breaks and lunch hours filling and delivering them.
That's just a sampling, and I know there are countless other examples out there. These stories say it all about our state family and the generous and caring nature that truly is part of our DNA. Most importantly, that generosity does not just come out at the holidays -- it's evident year round.
As you celebrate this holiday season, remember the great gift you give the people of Washington each day as well. My family joins me in wishing you a very happy and safe holiday and heartfelt thanks for the work you do.