SEQUIM — A community volunteer lauded for her work with Washington state’s longest running festival and other organizations, Deon Kapetan is the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year for 2019.
Chamber members and guests honored Kapetan, along with finalists Robin Bookter and Captain-Crystal Stout, at the organizations’ annual award ceremony on Feb 25.
“I’m truly honored to share this stage with you,” Kapetan said to her fellow finalists at Tuesday’s event, held at The Cedars at Dungeness golf course north of Sequim.
“I’m just one person, and there’s many of those out there.”
The Irrigation Festival director since 2011, Kapetan also was nominated for the award in 2016.
Kapetan — who is branch manager of Gateway Mortgage Group, LLC — said that she gains inspiration to work above and beyond her paying job from her fellow volunteers.
“My team: they all work super hard that it makes it easy for me,” she said Tuesday.
The Irrigation Festival, Sequim’s largest annual civic celebration, marks its 125th this May.
Jean Wyatt, who along with Lynn Horton nominated Kapetan, said the festival group was struggling financially when she was selected festival director.
Kapetan helped the organization build up reserves and put the festival in a position to support community organizations by investing in equipment, thereby creating a positive atmosphere for Sequim businesses to partner with the festival, Wyatt said.
“Deon’s contributions to this community just seem endless,” Wyatt said Tuesday. “She has been an inspiration and role model to me. She is always the adult in the room.
Horton said she knows there are several festival board members who have either chosen to serve or stayed specifically because of Deon’s influence.
“Deon is the type of person who donates her time not for personal gain; she does it because she loves her community and she loves the Irrigation Festival,” Horton said.
Kapetan was praised for her devotion of time and energy to several other organizations, including the Sequim Food Bank, where she serves as vice president; Jeffrey Katerina Foundation, where she is treasurer; Welfare for Animals Guild; Sequim Little League; the Sequim-Shiso Sister City Association; local school booster clubs; Boy Scouts; the Wolf Pack organization and foreign exchange student programs.
“She’s never used the word ‘I’ or ‘me.’ It’s always ‘us,’ ‘we’ or them,’” Horton said.
In accepting the honor, Kapetan said there were times she felt guilty about missing time with her family, so she decided to lead by example and started taking her children C.J. and Hailey along on her volunteer efforts.
“(To) anyone who thinks they can’t volunteer, you can,” she said. “And do it with your kids.”
She thanked her family — C.J. and her husband Kevin were in attendance, while Hailey is serving overseas in the military — before once again urging those in the audience to volunteer.
“Look around, find out what your passion is,” Kapetan said. “If you’re not sure, I have some suggestions.
“Please volunteer in our community — that’s what makes this community so great.”
In a later interview, Kapetan said that she’s ready to step down from her festival director position.
“The job’s available; I said that three years ago,”Kapetan said. “Hopefully we’ll find the right person.”
Laurie Fazio spoke Tuesday on behalf of Bookter, a customer service and sales manager at First Federal, for her work to help women be successful in owning their own business while having a focus on healthy living, as well as various projects to build and support the Sequim Irrigation Festival.
“She donates her time, day and night, to bring something of value to our community,” Fazio said.
For the festival, Bookter has volunteered for the Crazy Days Breakfast, Kickoff Dinner and Auction, Scholarship Royalty Pageant, Sponsorship Committee, Grand Parade and has served as Royalty Mom and Executive Board member.
Apart from the festival, she volunteers at a number of events and with community organizations, including the Clallam County Fair, Olympic Medical Center Teddy Bear Tea, Sequim Irrigation Festival Parade, July 4th Parade, Purple Haze Days, Purple Haze Lavender Festival and for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olym;pic Peninsula and Olympic Medical Center.
Stout, a third-generation hot air balloonist who owns and manages the Morning Star Balloon Company, is executive director/CEO of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Dream Catcher Balloon.
She manages the Annual Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire held at the Sequim Airport in August. She also volunteers with both the Sequim and Port Angeles chambers of commerce ambassador groups that support and promote local businesses.
Julie Hatch nominated Stout for the honor and spoke at Tuesday’s award ceremony.
“You can call her at the last minute and she’ll be there with joy and enthusiasm,” Hatch said.
Each year, Stout and Emily Westcott coordinate volunteers to install and eventually remove downtown Sequim Christmas decorations. Stout also organizes the effort to find, transport, place and decorate the 30-foot Sequim Christmas tree at Centennial Place.
Brown Maloney, chair of the Citizen of the Year award selection committee, who emceed the event, spoke of the loss of Bill Littlejohn, a longtime businessman chamber member who died in December 2019.
“This is something Bill would do every year,” he said.
“The festival is going to miss him,” Kapetan added.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].