2016 ChangeMakers

2016 Individual ChangeMaker:

When women don’t have access to transportation and healthcare education, life can be difficult. Four years ago, Miriam Vargas recognized these issues were negatively influencing the lives of women living on Casino Road in Everett, and she quietly set to work doing something about it.

She began teaching women to drive. In her own car. Using her own insurance. Miriam’s initial program graduated 26 women.

In 2014, Miriam expanded her efforts, earning her Department of Health certificate as a community health worker as well as a “Promotoras de Salud” supported by Familias Unidas, a program of Lutheran Community Services Northwest. From there, she answered the call to educate women and offer resources. Specifically, she dedicated herself to teaching women in the local community about breast, cervical and colon health.

She became familiar with community-identified priorities and began advocating for those needs. She became a bridge between agencies’ services and the families who desperately needed them. And through it all, she has been deeply committed to and involved with English Language Learning and GED programs supported by the Mukilteo YMCA on Casino Road. She also sits on the board of the YMCA Engaging Hispanic and Latino Families Project.

Miriam Vargas is a champion of health, social justice and education opportunities. For women. For families. For anyone who needs a Miriam Vargas in their lives.

2016 Community Organization ChangeMaker:

Melanie Ryan sees what others miss: honoring the human-pet connection is critical to many in our community. If people need supportive housing, special healthcare, or rehabilitation – but can’t take their beloved pets – will they go? For many, the answer is no.

Knowing that consistent connections and relationships are vital to people’s health, and that there was a significant gap in services for families with pets, Melanie founded Beck’s Place – a nonprofit agency committed to the mutually beneficial relationship between people and their pets.

Beck’s Place provides for the basic needs of pets and their humans in a community-based model. Pets in need get food, while people get clothing and a meal. But that’s not all. With a focus on reaching the underserved and homeless, Beck’s Place uses a foster care system for pets while their humans are away getting the treatment and services they need to improve their lives. People are then reunited with their pets and the healing continues.

Melanie Ryan saw a need and she met it. In the process, she created a model through Beck’s Place that can be applied by others looking to fill other needs in our communities one person – or pet – at a time.