PORT ANGELES — Tera Dummitt wants to turn things around. Living here, she finds abundant opportunities to do so.
A 30-year resident of Port Angeles, Dummitt spent much of the holiday season promoting the Creative-a-Tree Christmas Tree Challenge. This was an invitation to build Christmas trees from repurposed items: snowflakes made from coffee-cup parts, for example. Dummitt, among other projects, shaped a tree from soup cans for the Port Angeles Food Bank.
With the dawn of 2020, this recent college graduate looks forward to all that a new year might bring. 2019 was, she said, a year of self-reflection and self-improvement. It was loaded up with challenges too, and surprise gifts that are carrying over into the present.
One of these came from the Peninsula Home Fund when Dummitt was at risk of losing her safe transportation. Her 20-year-old Subaru, the car she uses to take her two children to school and activities, needed new tires. Dummitt, who is seeking a job, couldn’t afford them.
She visited the Olympic Community Action Program, or OlyCAP, offices in Port Angeles, where she met with client services specialist Crystal Wayman. Together the women found that Dummitt qualified for a Home Fund grant to cover a set of tires.
So she is mobile — and moving forward. Dummitt, 36, now holds a degree from Western Washington University — via studies at Peninsula College — where she majored in environmental policy.
“My passions are diverse,” she said, and that’s clear in the ways she spends her time. She promotes the ethic of reduce-reuse-recycle with simple examples, such as bringing a portable cup, dish and silverware with you to the cafe instead of using up more plastic and paper.
Dummitt has also been an enthusiastic Port Angeles Food Bank volunteer, believing as she does in giving back to her town.
“I’ve used the food bank,” she said, adding that the pantry, at 402 S. Valley St. and PortAngelesFoodBank.org, is filled not only with good sustenance, but also with kindness and warmth.
This past year, Dummitt suffered from a neurological disorder that sent her to the hospital for two weeks.
Paralyzed from the neck down, she had a lot of time to look out her window, focus on her values and think about the people in her life. It was as though her immobilized body freed her mind.
Recovered, Dummitt emerged grateful for the experience. The Olympic Medical Center staff were “amazing,” she said. And as an avid Olympic hiker, she carries renewed appreciation for the act of walking.
This year, Dummitt wants to immerse herself in community events.
As she looks for well-paying work, she’s also interested in developing new projects in Port Angeles: her dreams include an interactive children’s museum, a jobs program for people who lack housing, a city beautification effort.
While there may not be a lot of funding around here, there is plenty of energy; after logging off all social media, she recently returned to Facebook, finding the Revitalize Port Angeles page to be a useful one.
Dummitt is also devoted to her 8-year-old son and teenage daughter. Their winter break gave the family time to build box forts — from repurposed materials of course — and for Mom to watch her girl skate at the Port Angeles Winter Ice Village, across from Odyssey Bookshop on West Front Street. This daughter is soon to finish high school and wants to join the Army, Dummitt said.
“Her future is beginning to unfold … I am ever so worried, and so curious” about how she’ll navigate the world.
Dummitt’s overarching philosophy is that life will keep on presenting challenges — “which I’m sure are valuable learning opportunities,” she said. Through it all, she’ll keep hiking, searching and upcycling.
OlyCAP’s Wayman, who has known Dummitt for years, remarked on her grit.
“She works diligently to give back to the community that has supported her during times of struggle,” Wayman said.
“I have always been impressed with her resiliency.”
At OlyCAP, Wayman connects local residents with help from the Peninsula Home Fund, which can come in the form of assistance paying rent and heating bills, gift cards for basic household supplies, and gas vouchers or bus passes for commuting to work. In the process, she sees people such as Dummitt calling on their inner resources.
“The vitality of the human spirit that I see on a daily basis,” Wayman said, “never ceases to inspire me.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.