Dozens of staff members and volunteers from the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County (DRC) came out to honor Terry Teale as the Volunteer of the Year at their annual picnic on July 25, 2018.
The DRC is a non-profit organization that relies on volunteers to carry out its mission of finding ways to foster peace in the community. According to their mission, the DRC empowers people to resolve their disputes by providing conflict resolution services and trains community members in those skills. After speaking with Terry, it’s clear this award has been a long time coming.
Before getting involved with the DRC, Terry spent 22 years working for the state as the executive director of the Council of Presidents (COP), an association of Washington’s six public baccalaureate institutions. There, she worked to bring people who were natural competitors together around a table to find common ground.
But to truly understand Terry’s dedication to service, you have to go back to her childhood, where she was raised by two foster parents in California. She says she was lucky to land in such a supportive, healthy home. Her foster father was a physician, who she says understood how to care for people not just physically but emotionally. Her upbringing would instill a steadfast value system that would guide her down a path of service and community.
“I grew up in a family that believed in public service and was committed to the notion that, where there is privilege, there is responsibility,” Terry says. “That’s been my edict my entire life, and I’ve been able to surround myself with people who share that value.”
Terry moved to Olympia in 1997 and it has since become her forever home. It wasn’t until 2010, after Terry retired, that she began her service with the DRC when she signed up for their 40 Hour Professional Mediation Training. The DRC offers several training opportunities for interested volunteers and community members in the practice of mediation, both basic and advanced, as well as custom-designed training for the workplace and community. Terry says anyone who might want to become a better communicator or team member, or simply just learn how to deal with conflict in a more productive way should sign up.
“It’s something I wish I’d taken at the beginning of my career rather than after, as it would have been extremely useful in my work for the state,” Terry says. “Conflict is the growing edge, we all face it, and we can either face it in a way that transforms something, or we can just get stuck. And getting stuck isn’t somewhere most people reside very healthily.”
Terry quickly became a certified mediator, and served seven years as a member of the board. She says her time on the board was extremely rewarding as she saw the succession of the DRC founding director, Evan Ferber, while witnessing the small, grassroots organization grow and modernize into what it is today.
“The DRC is unusual in that it truly cares about the organizational infrastructure and how sustainable it is,” she says. “It teaches its volunteers how to be respectful, how to honor difference, and to stay engaged. I think that’s what’s magical about this organization – it’s engaged in a very quiet little way that is incredible effective.”
The volunteer of year award is decided over a six-week period by the DRC board members. DRC Executive Director Jody Suhrbier says they look at the breadth and depth of service, as well as length of time and how deep their commitment is to the organization. They also cannot honor a current board member, which is why they had to wait until 2017 when Terry finished her board service to give her the much overdue recognition.
Suhrbier says Terry’s commitment to service isn’t forced or contrived, but is reflective of how she conducts all facets of her life.
“What I appreciate about her is her dedication, it’s not the standard you usually see from a volunteer,” says Suhrbier. “It manifests as she is consistently supportive and wants to be of service while providing clear perspective and guidance.”
Terry is extremely gracious and repeatedly touts her admiration of her fellow volunteers. She says the DRC has a unique ability to attract extremely dedicated, strong volunteers, many who work quietly behind the scenes to make sure events like the annual fundraiser, The Toast, go off without a hitch.
“It’s such an honor for me to get this acknowledgement, because I look around at all the people that I serve with and think any one of them could be the outstanding volunteer,” she says.
Suhrbier says the organization is extremely grateful for volunteers like Terry and that she’s added an extremely valuable presence and perspective since joining in 2010.
“Because of her background and experience, she’s able to see the big picture in the long term while still remaining grounded and focused on the now,” Suhrbier says. “She has an unassuming yet steadfast presence and we’re so lucky to have her.”
For more information on upcoming training, visit the DRC website or call 360-956-1155.