Once again, Bill Gates of Microsoft was the top vote-getter in the favorite corporate citizen category, but this year his spouse got a few mentions of her own. Melinda Gates, known for her advocacy of good causes, came in second among readers. Another Gates associate, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, was third in the voting, perhaps a parental tip of the hat for his kid- and teen-friendly Experience Music Project museum.
Favorite kids' organization Founded more than 150 years ago in London to keep young men off the streets during the Industrial Revolution, the YMCA (www.ymca.net...) for a chapter near you) has evolved into an international organization operating in 120 countries, including 2,500 chapters in the U.S. alone. It's no wonder that its mission of building "strong kids, strong families and strong communities" has made it a favorite organization for kids, along with PEPS, the Program for Early Parent Support. The Seattle-based PEPS (206-547-8570, Ext. 10, www.pepsgroup.org) is a non-profit organization that brings parents of young children together in community-based discussion and support groups, including programs for teen parents and those who speak Spanish.
Runner up: Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center (www.seattlechildrens.org).
While no one person emerged as favorite in this category, it's clear that everyone has a hero. For those responding to our poll, that person was often an individual teacher (or collectively, anyone who is a teacher -- "they work so hard, don't get much pay and have to deal with many challenge and responsibilities every day," one reader wrote). Other readers nominated their mom, dad, spouse or neighbor. One respondent even named her local trash collector: "Without fail, every Tuesday morning, he waves at my son and puts on a show for us -- he puts the garbage in the dumpster and then has it lift up and dump into the truck (very dramatic!) then honks his horn and waves again. He is the best!"
And for those of us who at times take for granted the most essential services, what better way to acknowledge that heroes can be found everywhere -- even in the most unlikely places.
Staff Favorites: People & Organizations
Favorite children's advocate
For her current focus on early learning and education, and for past efforts (as state attorney general) to fight tobacco companies, Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire gets our vote for her staunch support of issues that matter to families. Ignoring the uncertainty about her future following a close gubernatorial election and resulting court appeals (resolved in early June in her favor), Gov. Gregoire rolled up her sleeves and got to work during her first six months in office. She expanded health care to children in low-income families and decreased class sizes in public schools. In early June, she sponsored an Education Summit that drew 500 participants and announced creation of the Washington Learns steering committee. The committee is charged with taking a complete look at Washington state's education system -- from early learning through college -- and recommending improvements, including legislative proposals that Gregoire says she will "pursue aggressively."
Favorite non-profit for Eastside families in crisis
For 34 years, Eastside and northend families in crisis have relied on Hopelink (www.hope-link.org). The Redmond-based non-profit is a ParentMap favorite for the diverse array of services it provides in East and North King County, including child care and housing help for homeless and low-income families. Hopelink's six emergency service centers, in Bellevue, Kirkland, Northshore, Redmond, Shoreline and Carnation, offer several food banks a week to families in need. The agency also provides eviction prevention support, an emergency family shelter and a First Month's Rent program to help families get started in more permanent homes.
In addition, Hopelink's Adelle Maxwell Child Development Center in Redmond and Overlake Child Development Center in Bellevue provide a range of educational, developmental and health services for the children and their parents. Check out the organization's "Hoops for Hope" fundraising effort, a joint effort of Hopelink and the WNBA champion Seattle Storm, which aims to supplement meals this summer for kids who receive free and reduced-fee breakfasts and lunches during the school year.