Sound Steps Spotlights
Dr. LaShawnDa Pittman is an Assistant Professor in the American Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Washington (UW). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology at Northwestern University. Before coming to the UW, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Poverty Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University. In 2011, she completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Research and Training Program on Poverty and Public Policy at the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Connecticut. She earned a B.S. in Urban Government Administration from Georgia State University. She was recently awarded a Simpson Center Society of Scholars Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship for junior faculty to complete her book manuscript—the first book ever written about Black grandmothers caregiving from slavery to the present using oral narratives, census, and ethnographic data. She is also working on a project with community partners here in Washington that examines and intervenes on the health disparities experienced by grandparents raising their grandchildren. She enjoys walking, yoga, live jazz, travel, and time with loved ones and her Chihuahua Espresso in her free time. She started the Greenwood Sound Steps group to build more walking accountability into her demanding schedule.
Walking with the Sound Steps group is such a treat! They ensure that the group meets whether I am present or not and I learn so much from each and every one of them. I walk with them–they don’t walk with me! And doing so is such a gift.”
The Greenwood Walking group meets Mondays at 9:30 am at Diva Espresso (145th and Greenwood). Thank you LaShawnDa, for your enthusiasm and leadership! We are so happy to have you as a part of the Sound Steps family!
Walking has long been a part of my days. It began more than 60 years ago in my home-state of sunny-green Mississippi with my momma and baby-sisters in a line, momma always in the lead. (I’m the oldest of six children, five girls and at last Daddy got his boy.) Then much later as a mommy myself carrying my tiny-daughter, Layna Mariah, in a front pouch, I walked everywhere since I had no car. My daddy also walked his first grandchild, Layna Mariah, all around our town showing off his 3-month-old whistling grandbaby and later, a not quite one-year-old quoting nursery-rhymes.
My own walks with my daughter in a pouch continued in the Rockies in Colorado her first winter, up and down slippery-snow mountain-paths. Then later, strolling her all over Austin and most often to the co-op where I was a volunteer working in the organic-gardens. When my daughter became a walker herself, we walked and hiked the desert of the Rio Grande in Texas and swam the River to do some hiking in Mexico. She and I later found ourselves on many walks through the forests of the Blue Ridge. Years later back in Mississippi with my Layna Mariah a teen, I was walking the country lanes on prayer-walks and had many long conversations with Holy Spirit/Great Spirit (Spirit of God). I have led and walked many many miles of prayer-walks over the years around the nation.
Later on in life, I sometimes walked the streets of my hometown, Clinton, with my Daddy and Momma on their regular daily walks of 3-5 miles, which they walked for over 30 years. I was blessed to have parents who were hardworking, stable, honest, and caring people all of their days!
My life took many turns on its walk to where I am today. I attended college for commercial-art/fashion-art, and later pursued modeling, which led to better health, organic-eating, and exercise. I taught alternative healing while running a natural-food store-restaurant. Then, on to creating my own recipes of organic raw-fudge (I made several kinds of fudge; Layna Mariah’s favorites were the St John’s Fudge and Tahini-Fudge) and selling to the stores in Austin that eventually became Whole Foods; this was a business my baby-daughter and I ran for a few years from the time she was 6-months. (I even wrote a recipe book that was never published; actually I wrote several books, mostly spiritual, over the years that I never attempted to publish, and reams of poetry.) Running a business and caring for my baby-girl left little time for other pursuits; however, I did manage to give friends massages (back, shoulder, head and foot rubs) as gifts. The fudge business was taking off with more demand than I could keep up with all alone and no extra funds to hire help. I eventually walked into a massage therapy school and got my license to practice and started a new business. In west Texas I was known as the “rub’n doctor”.
Now for the last four years, I’ve been walking the streets of downtown Seattle in prayer as my talented daughter, Layna Vaughn Montoya, prepares organic sustainable meals for those Seattleites so blessed to taste the cuisine of her masterful gift and as she teaches cooking classes to those so inclined to learn. She also has become her own food photographer in the meals she prepares. She built her own website from scratch, like she cooks her meals, which includes her photography.
I still have many daily walks alone in prayerful thanksgiving in conversation with Great Spirit while listening for what I might hear. (There are many psychics in Seattle, but I’m not one. I hear/see through prayer/praise to The Uncreated Creator of All Universes/Dimensions/Time… I’m simply blessed to be gifted with hints of things to come on occasion.) But also, there are walking-discussions of family-histories or conversations of art, music or books and movies, which my favorites are history, anthropology, new inventions and discovers along with sci-fi. As well, there’s always the discussion of children; for me that is, of course, my daughter, her accomplishments and the blessing she is to me and others. Or there are walks listening to others speak of their grandchildren.
However, I will no longer only be a listener when it comes to grandchildren as my Layna Mariah and her husband, Lawrence Montoya, will be having the twin-sons that she dreamed this past Christmas Eve that she would have. (She herself, too, was a dream given to me before her birth.) My precious Layna Mariah will be the mother of these “twin-boys” likely in August, possibly September. So, with the blessings of our Parks & Recreation Sound Steps leader, Jill Ellison, I will begin a Grans ‘n Grands Walkabout/Strollabout for grandparents to walk together pushing carriages or walking with our grandchildren around and about our Seattle Parks.
I’m Most ELATED to be memaw/granny and cannot wait to be walking my twin grandsons. It is my heart to walk these soon to-be-baby growing boys in the walk-of-life that they grow in brilliant goodness, grace, love, wisdom and all Godly BLESSINGS as GREEN Peace-Makers of Earth and beyond!!!
Join WandaKay and the Yesler Walk ‘N Talkers for “a cup and conversation” on Mondays from noon to 1:30pm. The group meets outside of Yesler Community Center. Thank you, WandaKay, for your commitment to Sound Steps and for sharing a bit about yourself!
MEET MARK BLITZER
Although not a native Seattleite, Mark has spent more than half of his life in the city and couldn’t be more satisfied. Mark can’t think of a large city with more varied and close by recreational activities—be they urban, suburban, rural, or wilderness—to his liking and sensibilities—than Seattle. In his “younger” days, Mark spent many a Saturday or Sunday hiking in the Cascades. His near-term goal is to attempt to re-summit Granite Mountain this coming summer, just to see if he can still do such a strenuous ascent.
Mark also enjoys taking road trips around our fascinating state. He has been to most of the 39 counties at least once, to many of them more often, but there are a few he has yet to visit and will be looking forward to accomplishing a clean sweep in the near future.
Mark tries to get in a good walk every day and is grateful for the Sound Steps program which offers structured in-city walks and out-of-city hikes. He fills the voids with his own walking routes. Mark says that unfortunately, he discovered Sound Steps only after retiring, that being five years ago now. He is trying to make up for lost time. Mark also keeps active by attending work parties in our parks and, of course, spending plenty of time in his own garden. He even enjoys weeding!
For indoor activities, Mark likes to attend classical music concerts and patronizes some of our local museums.
Mark leads the Ballard training walks during Spring Training. The group meets at Larsen’s Bakery (8000 24th Ave NW) at 8:45 am on Saturdays (through April 16th).
Mark also leads a fun and flat 6-mile loop along the Ship Canal, a great training walk for folks participating in the half marathon! Save the date– Monday, June 6th from 9am-12pm. Meet at the Fred Meyer in Ballard (east entrance at 915 NW 45th St.) Use barcode #148648 and RSVP here.
Thank you Mark, for your fearless leadership and dedication to Sound Steps!
MEET FADUMO AND ANDREA
My name is Fadumo Nurdin and I am a senior at the University of Washington majoring in public health. My interests in this field are mostly about health disparities, income and racial inequalities, and social justices. I hope to one day work with an agency that helps reduce these health disparities, especially in Seattle. I’m excited to be working with Sound Steps because its a fun way to meet new people in my community and stay healthy; its the best of both worlds!
Hello! My name is Andrea Fernandez. I am a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Public Health. My educational goals follow the pre-med route as I would like to pursue a career in the medical field. I am passionate about improving the quality of health services and reducing health care disparities among minority communities. A few fun facts about me, I am from San Francisco, CA, I practiced martial arts since I was 4 years old, and I am half Peruvian/half Salvadorian. I am very excited to start participating in the Sound Steps Program and believe that its mission in providing the support to gain health benefits through consistent exercise is vital in a community. I am very excited to meet everyone and I look forward to this amazing journey of achieving the goal of a half marathon!
Fadumo and Andrea will be volunteering with the Sound Steps Spring Training program on Saturdays from February through June. Please join me in welcoming them to the team!
MEET DAVE AND LORRAINE SWIERKOS
Lorraine was born and raised on the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island and Dave was born and raised in Michigan.
After serving in the Army, Dave went to Hawaii to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii where he and Lorraine met. They obtained their bachelor degrees at the same time, and after Lorraine obtained an advanced degree, they were married in Honolulu in 1967. In 1971, Dave’s job transferred them (along with their one year old daughter) to Seattle.
Dave worked for the US Department of Transportation in various positions, ending up in charge of disaster response in the Pacific Northwest. Lorraine taught 4th grade in Hawaii, English as a Second Language in Bellevue, and subsequently worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Dave retired in 1999 and Lorraine took early retirement at the same time and they immediately moved to southern Nevada to be close to Lorraine’s mother and sister.
It was in Nevada that they both began hiking and thoroughly enjoyed the wide open vistas that the desert southwest provides. Also, the close proximity of several national parks made for fantastic hiking vacations.
Dave and Lorraine moved back to Seattle when their grandson was born in 2005. Upon return to Seattle, they ooked for ways to continue hiking and discovered Lifelong Recreation and subsequently Sound Steps.
Their first encounter with Sound Steps was to enjoy the monthly hikes outside of Seattle. Then, they discovered some of the weekly walks. For Dave and Lorraine, the best part of both programs (besides the physical and mental activity) was meeting many fantastic people from all over the Seattle area.
Dave worked with Mari Becker to establish a weekly walk in Carkeek Park. Dave chose Carkeek since it has several unique features – such as an active salmon restoration program, annual outdoor art displays, a fantastic beach for low tide explorations, an historic orchard, the mainline BNSF track for trains traveling north or east, as well as over six miles of well maintained hiking trails with lots of changes in elevation to get the heart and lungs working. Due to the hills, the Carkeek Park program is called a hike rather than a walk. To keep from hiking the same route every week, Dave chooses different trails and periodically combines an educational experience along with the hike. Examples include having volunteer naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium assist the group in locating and identifying inter-tidal life forms during low tides; having salmon stewards explain the salmon restoration program including allowing the hikers to feed the salmon fry in the imprint pond; having botanists join to assist with plant identification; having master birders from the Audubon Society help with bird identification; establishing a work party to assist with trail maintenance; and providing history related hikes to historical sections of the park.
Dave and Lorraine are also active in the annual half marathon/10k training program – leading many of the Saturday morning training walks. They both enjoy encouraging newer walkers as they set out to meet their goals. It is particularly gratifying for them to witness the pride that folks feel as they increase distance each week and complete the goal they established for themselves.
This is a couple with many interests…but the three that they seem to enjoy the most are
1) hiking and walking for the exercise, fresh air, and the people they meet along the way. Days that they are not on a Sound Steps walk/hike, you will probably find them walking around Green Lake.
2) travel, as they have been very fortunate to have had some fantastic land and cruise adventures since retirement. Currently, they enjoy trips that are educational to help them better understand the life and culture of the people living in the areas they visit. One recent example was spending several days on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in northern Arizona.
3) and most importantly is family. They are very close to their daughter, son, their spouses and their grandson. They enjoy spending time with each other and look forward to gathering in central Oregon every summer for a week to enjoy and share all of the outdoor activities that are offered.
Thank you Dave and Lorraine for sharing your passion and enthusiasm with us! Dave leads Wednesday morning hikes in Carkeek Park from 10-11:30am. The group meets at the Eddie McAbee entrance at NW 100th Pl and 6th Ave NW. Come join the fun!
MEET LEATHA BAILEY
In the month of November, 2005, Leatha volunteered to assist Annie Edwards in the kitchen to help prepare the annual Thanksgiving Dinner at Jefferson C.C. After the dinner was served, there was entertainment and that is when she met Marigrace Becker who introduced herself and asked Leatha if she enjoyed walking, to which Leatha replied,” I love to walk!” The rest is history. Leatha was assigned as a volunteer walk leader at Brighton Place Senior Apartments the following week. Mari had compiled a list of seniors that might be interested in walking. The group met at 10:00 am on Monday morning and started knocking on residents’ doors and probably woke up some of the seniors! They were encouraged to join in walking the halls on some of the floors. Some of them joined the group after grumbling about being woken up. Leatha suggested that the group sing songs as they walked. Her son, (who had been in the Marine Corp) wrote some cadences for the group that really spiced up the walks. As spring and summer progressed, some of the walkers were involved in other things and others lost interest and that is when Mari suggested that Leatha become a walk leader at the old Rainer Beach C.C. Mari sent out flyers and asked Leatha to attend Health fairs to encourage seniors to sign up to walk. For awhile, there were only two walkers meeting on Monday morning–Herman Edwards and Gladys Gonsalves. Since then, Leatha has met so many seniors that have found out about Sound Steps by word of mouth and by the Lifelong Recreation program catalog.
Leatha enjoys walking and hopes to continue as often as she can!
Thank you Leatha, for your positive energy and commitment to Sound Steps! Leatha leads the Tuesday Rainier Beach CC Walk at 10am. The groups meets in the gym at the same time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Join the fun!
For the first 30 years of her working career, Patty held jobs in the “private sector” as an Executive Secretary or Executive Assistant in banking, manufacturing, travel, city council sessions, and lastly, in law firms as Office Manager and Paralegal. In the 80’s, she had the opportunity to begin working in the “non-profit sector” where she focused on marketing, fundraising, special events, and donor data base coordination.
In 2004, Patty became aware of the informational and recreational programs offered by Seattle Parks & Recreation and became more and more involved with the various walking and hiking programs offered for seniors. She has been a member of the Senior Zoo Walkers at the Woodland Park Zoo for more than 10 years. Patty joined the Sound Steps Walking Program training sessions at Ravenna Eckstein in 2009. During the past three years, she has had the opportunity to be one of the North End Volunteer Coordinators participating in the Sound Steps Kick Off Events in January and the weekly training sessions on Saturdays from February through June.
Patty recently suggested a new walking program to Seattle Parks and Recreation for people with walking challenges (including canes/walkers/poles). This new program is being offered as a pilot program in the 2015 Fall Brochure as the “Sound Steps Strollers” with the first training session scheduled for Saturday, October 10, 2015 at the Northgate Mall. She is excited to be included as the Volunteer Coordinator for this new program and looks forward to helping create a format that is interesting, challenging and rewarding for all of the participants.
Thank you, Patty, for your wonderful leadership and dedication to Sound Steps!