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OPALCO Team in the Community

As your member owned and operated non-profit cooperative, the team at OPALCO are your neighbors and community members. All of us live and work here and most of us give back to the community one way or another. Here are a few OPALCO team member stories about the ways they dive in and help our island communities to thrive.

ed lagoEd Lago

Ed is an Engineering Technician in the Orcas office. He’s been with OPALCO for 15 years. Ed is currently the Orcas Island High School’s varsity basketball coach and has been coaching basketball at the high school for the last eight years.

Why is this important to you?

You can really see the impact coaching has on these students. Their experience, whether bad or good, will be a part of their childhood for the rest of their lives. I set high expectations for the team to teach them hard work, respect, teamwork, and responsibility. These are important life lessons that will stay with them throughout their lives.

What do you enjoy most about coaching?

The relationship that’s developed through the years.  I’ve remained in contact with some of the students I’ve coached and consider them good friends. We spend a lot of time together during the season creating great memories together.  The stories they share with me about being on the team and the positive impact it had on their lives are priceless.

What is the most memorable moment from coaching?

Last year our team went to the State Championships as the 16th seed team and ending up 6th place overall. I couldn’t have been prouder of the way the team represented our school and gave their all when playing. Coaching my two sons has been a very special highlight.

MAGMadeline Danielson

Madeline works in OPALCO’s Eastsound office on the Member Services Team. She’s been with OPALCO for more than 10 years. She is currently Vice President of the Music Advocacy Group (MAG). MAG supports through funding and advocates for the Orcas Island School District’s high quality music program that serves youth kindergarten through 12th grade.

Why is this meaningful to you?

There is nothing more important than music education. So many studies show the value that music education has for student to improve expression, brain development and communication skills. It is a gift to students that they can access for the rest of their lives. This program is also incredibly inclusive: all kids at the public school participate and students who don’t attend the public school can still participate in the program.

What things are you proud of from this program?

We’re enhancing the culture of music in our public school. High schoolers get academic credit for music class, we help transport the kids off island for music opportunities, we promote the student musician of the month, and help fund the music program. Hearing from kids who have graduated and been accepted to college because of their participation in the music program is really awesome! I’m so proud of these musicians!

What is a memorable moment you’ve had while volunteering?

Doing advocacy work to continue to make music programs a priority in public schools. I had a great moment with Senator Liz Lovelett while in Olympia, where I shared the struggles to maintain the music program in our school – making our budget work with the current structure of levies is a real challenge. It was nice to be able to give our little island program a broader voice with the State.  

wildlifeSuzanne Olson

Suzanne Olson is the Communications Manager at OPALCO and has worked for the Co-op since 2008. She has been volunteering in wildlife rescue since she was eight years old. She currently volunteers with Wolf Hollow, picking up birds and animals reported as injured on Orcas and transporting them to Friday Harbor for care and rehabilitation. Suzanne is also a Rotary member and a founding board member for the Orcas Island Pickleball Club.

Why is this your volunteer work important to you?

I enjoy the connection with people and it gives me a way to contribute to the place I call home. I’m happiest when I’m learning something new, and every Wolf Hollow call presents a unique challenge – for the health of the wildlife and my own safety. I’m fascinated with wildlife and the natural world and love the chance to get up close with the birds and animals in my own backyard.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I’m inspired by the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I like the idea of everyone pitching in to make our community hum and I like to be part of a team that gets things done.

What is the most memorable event or action you’ve taken in your time volunteering?

There was an injured rabbit that I chased for weeks trying to “rescue.” It had been shot through the back with an arrow by a young couple trying to keep it out of their garden. The long arrow must have pierced just the skin: it was off balance, but it didn’t show signs of infection or internal injuries. The neighbors kept calling me with sightings as it grazed peacefully with its crew. I’d arrive with my tools of the trade: big fishing net, blankets, pet carrier and gloves – and sometimes a friend to help. We’d have it in our sights and at the last minute it would tuck under a house or, improbably, squeeze through a fence. It was like a Looney Tunes sketch with Wile E. Coyote. I was on my belly in spidery crawl spaces, diving on lawns, swishing the net at thin air. Finally, the arrow snapped as it forced its way through a wire fence. I went back a few more times to see that it was still grazing with its group and looked to be getting along fine. Mission accomplished. 

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