PORT TOWNSEND — Having just accepted a new job, Michael D’Alessandro prepared for a photo shoot Friday evening — but it wouldn’t be a formal session at an office desk.
Instead, D’Alessandro’s face lit up as his family joined him on their front porch. Then, as the sun set and a photographer clicked away, he answered questions about this new position.
D’Alessandro, 51, has been selected to be the first executive director of Olympic Angels, the organization providing support of many kinds to foster families on the North Olympic Peninsula. A long search led to his hiring.
Olympic Angels was established as a nonprofit entity in 2020, with founder-case manager Morgan Hanna of Port Townsend and her husband Ian Hanna forming a board of directors. Together they worked with National Angels, which has 22 chapters in cities such as Seattle, Spokane and Salem, Ore.
In pursuing the mission of wraparound support of youngsters in foster care, Olympic Angels hired a small staff, gathered 130 volunteers and has served more than 60 children across Jefferson and Clallam counties, marketing manager April Thompson noted last week.
The search for a permanent executive director began at the start of this year, even as Olympic Angels grew its fundraising efforts. The organization has two main programs: the Love Box, not actually a box, but a cadre of friends who surround the foster family with caring, and Dare to Dream, which pairs adult mentors with older foster kids.
D’Alessandro, whose family includes his partner George Marie, two teenagers and a 6-year-old, calls his new post “a perfect match.”
It’s also his second time as the first executive director of a nonprofit.
In 2014, D’Alessandro was hired to lead the Northwind Arts Center, which has since moved from its snug Jefferson Street location to the relatively giant Waterman-Katz building in downtown Port Townsend. In January, the center merged with the Port Townsend School of the Arts to form Northwind Art, a new nonprofit; D’Alessandro became its exhibits director.
He has an arts-and-literature background, including a degree in architecture, which was his occupation for a dozen years; a master of fine arts in creative writing from Naropa University; and a stint at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Ore., before moving to the Peninsula.
“It’s time for me to go on to the next challenge,” D’Alessandro said.
“I’m excited to be working in an area of need. It’s good to see a new nonprofit coming up in Port Townsend,” and expanding its reach across the Peninsula.
Clallam and Jefferson counties suffer from “an immense shortage of available foster beds,” he added. And while not everyone can become a foster parent, volunteering to walk beside foster families is a deeply rewarding role.
Thompson added that, when foster parents have support — be it a home-cooked meal on a weeknight, a birthday cake baked and delivered, or a listening ear — it can help them keep their foster child longer. That means a stable home, which makes a huge difference to a youngster who has been moved from house to house, perhaps all over the state, she said.
Arianna and BG Patterson of Port Hadlock are among the foster parents who’ve connected with Olympic Angels. Overwhelmed at times with work and child care, what they needed most was moral support, Arianna said; that is what her family received from Morgan Hanna and the Love Box volunteers.
Information about volunteering and otherwise supporting the organization, which aims to hire additional case managers in Clallam and Jefferson in 2022, can be found at OlympicAngels.org or by emailing [email protected].
Hiring D’Alessandro is a major step forward, said Ian Hanna, president of the board.
“We believe that Michael brings a tremendous heart for this mission,” he said, “to serve this incredibly vulnerable population.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.