JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Volunteer follows grandmother’s advice

WHEN PEGGY SCHAFRAN was a sophomore in high school, she told her grandmother, with whom she lived in El Paso, Texas, that she wanted to join the Rainbow Girls at her school.

Her grandmother, who was active in Eastern Star, said, “Why don’t you join the downtown club where I know all the mothers?”

Peggy didn’t know anyone in the downtown Rainbow Girls, but agreed to try it for six months.

She stayed on, learning in the process not to be afraid to go up and introduce yourself, get up and speak in public, or approach people in authority and ask them to support your group and its activities.

“I learned how to walk into a department store manager’s office and tell him why he needed to buy 50 of these tickets,” Schafran said.

On April 17, Schafran was awarded the first “Big John” award, in memory of Port Ludlow resident John Van Zonneveld, for exceptional volunteerism in service to the community.

Accepting the award, Schafran thanked Elizabeth Van Zonneveld, John’s widow; her friends and neighbors who helped put on her popular health forums; and her grandmother for the advice she gave all those years ago.

“She told me that when you join something, be the leader,” Schafran said. “Get something accomplished. Don’t sit on the sidelines and gripe.”

That advice stood her in good stead throughout her life, during which Schafran worked in civil service for all four branches of the military, earning her college degree in night school.

She was living in Port Ludlow and commuting to Bangor when she noticed that motorcycles were making a lot of noise speeding through Port Ludlow.

Bringing her concern to a community meeting, she was told to take it to the sheriff. So she did.

“He told me it’s because there were no speed limit signs,” Schafran said, a situation that she promptly rectified.

Schafran also was responsible for bringing the North Bay and South Bay communities together by mediating an agreement with the Bay Club and Beach Club to allow the First Wednesday ladies’ luncheon group to hold meetings at both locations.

She also served as the first president of the club, which alternates meetings between the two sites.

“Before that, the two communities operated like two separate cities,” Schafran said.

Schafran also started a singles club that is still going strong, and made welcome baskets and delivered them to new North Bay residents.

She met Big John, who served on the Port Ludlow maintenance commission board, when she wanted to make discount ferry commuter cards available to North Bay as well as South Bay residents.

Van Zonneveld was such an imposing man, more than 61âÑ2 feet tall, that Schafran said didn’t feel comfortable around him at first.

“I found out he was a teddy bear,” she said.

“I always hugged him, and he hugged me.”

Schafran’s main focus, however, has been health care access and education for Port Ludlow residents.

Her community forums, which drew people from across the North Olympic Peninsula, have featured the CEO of Harrison Hospital, one of region’s leading cardiologists, the head of Harborview Medical Center’s stroke unit and a geriatric pharmacist.

Schafran also drives her neighbors to medical appointments, alerts the staff at Harrison Hospital when a Port Ludlow resident is being admitted and initiated emergency contact cards for North Bay residents.

After Van Zonneveld passed away last year, his family established the award, with recipients receiving a certificate and having their name engraved on a plaque that will hang in the Beach Club.

Harrison Hospital CEO Scott Bosch and Port Ludlow Fire Chief Ed Wilkerson both nominated Schafran for the award.

She also received a 2006 Jefferson County Heart of Service Award for her volunteer service.

Schafran said she pays for fliers, long-distance telephone calls and other costs of organizing events, but depends on friends and neighbors to help put them on.

“You can’t do it alone,” she said.

In December, realizing the need for cards with her name and contact information, she had some made up, adding her “business” credo: “Helping people is my goal.”

And she can still hear her grandmother’s voice, giving her the advice that shaped her life:

Be the leader.

Get something accomplished.

Don’t sit on the sidelines and gripe.


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.

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