At a former flower farm in the heart of the Puyallup Valley, Krista Linden grows families.
As founder and executive director of the nonprofit Step By Step, Linden helps at-risk pregnant women welcome healthy babies into loving environments. She and her team currently serve nearly 1,500 clients annually, with plans in the works to expand the organization’s reach.
Linden first imagined an organization like Step By Step when she was a student teacher in Minnesota. She met a young girl affected by early parental neglect and substance abuse, and knew she wanted to do work that helped women in need.
The biggest misconception about her job is that it’s a role she walked into, Linden says. People often don’t realize she created the whole organization while balancing the demands of raising seven daughters. Most people also don’t see the struggles behind the scenes, such as when Linden received emergency treatment for cancer during her last pregnancy. (She is approaching 10 years as a survivor.)
Linden credits her loving upbringing on a rural Colorado farm for the tenacity and grit that gets her through difficult times. She started Step By Step with the dream of giving every child that kind of foundation.
Step By Step clients come from all walks of life, but many are young, single women living in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties who’ve experienced domestic violence, abuse or addiction. Through Step By Step, they receive home visits from the team’s counselors, nurses and dietitians. The nonprofit also offers other services, ranging from rides to doctor’s appointments to help enrolling in education programs to assistance in finding housing. Her team members go to their clients, says Linden. It’s those conversations on living room couches that makes their work different.
Something else that’s different: the organization’s headquarters. Linden purchased the Van Lierop Bulb Farm in 2015 as a nod to her Colorado upbringing. She still keeps farmer’s hours; “The early-morning time is my sanctuary. Plus, I have so much to do.”
That to-do list currently includes turning the grounds of the farm into the Germaine Korum Center for Women and Children. Scheduled to be finished in 2018, the center will include an event space, restaurant and classrooms. There may also be a manufacturing site for baby boxes — sturdy cardboard boxes filled with baby-care essentials and lined with mattresses so that the box can become a baby’s first bed. All of these ventures will provide jobs for current and former clients.
Linden is quick to share the credit for her success with her team and her husband, adding, “He always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and was there for our girls. I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without him.”
She has faith in the potential of every child and family: “We do it all step by step.”
What book saved you or changed your life?
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. He says, ‘You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you were meant to be.’
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be in multiple places at once.
If you could dine with anyone, living or dead, whom would that be and why?
Mother Teresa for her compassion, NBA coach John Wooden for his attitude, Melanie Dressel of Columbia Bank for her business knowledge and, for my soul, Jesus from his time on earth.