Joining previous recipients across the nation including activists, doctors, philanthropists and many more, former Sequim resident Kimmy Siebens has been named USA Today Washington State Woman of the Year.
The national news organization made the announcement on Sunday of female honorees in each state, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., who “made significant contributions to their community and beyond.”
“This is a huge honor to me,” Siebens said via email.
Her award follows Washington’s 2022 recipient Melinda French Gates.
Siebens is unsure who nominated her. A diverse panel of professionals chose her for the award, according to the award’s website.
Siebens said she grew up in the Sequim-Dungeness area on a small family farm and added she enjoyed everything the Olympic Peninsula has to offer.
“I enjoyed the simplicity of life prior to cell phones, computers and big world problems like homelessness,” Siebens said. “The ocean, mountains, all of the wildlife. (It’s) such a special place that I always find comforting.”
She graduated from Sequim Alternative School in 1998, Peninsula College in 2006 and has been a Trauma ICU Registered Nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for 17 years.
As a lifelong supporter of animals and people alike, Siebens founded the nonprofit Their Voice in Kitsap County in 2017 to help homeless pet owners receive pet food, supplies and better access to urgent veterinary care.
She estimates they gave out about 2,000 pounds of pet food every three months and, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they gave it to anyone. They also spent about $16,000 on pets’ special needs, such as medical care and medications, Siebens said.
A few months after starting Their Voice, she started The Bremerton Homeless Community Coalition to help vulnerable community members while advocating for medical care and housing and educating people about causes of homelessness and solutions.
“I realized I was helping all the pets, but the people had needs I could and should help with too,” she said.
Last year, the coalition spent about $17,000 helping people with such things as clothing, sleeping bags, gasoline, food and housing items, and it sent out books on homelessness prevention methods to local political leaders.
While in Sequim, Siebens served as a volunteer firefighter for five years with Clallam County Fire District 3 in Blyn, Diamond Point and briefly Dungeness, and she trained to become an EMT through Peninsula College and the fire district.
“Whenever I saw a nurse at the hospital or in the helicopter on a scene, I was very inspired to become one of them,” she said. “I enjoy meeting new people all the time and helping them. Nursing was the perfect job for me.”
Looking back at her journey, Siebens said some of her best teachers and life experiences came when she was growing up in Sequim. She encourages people to “enjoy all of the natural beauty and all of the wonderful, wise and talented people around you, but to “stay in touch with changing times and needs of your community.”
Siebens said smaller communities should look and learn from bigger cities’ mistakes with prioritizing affordable housing, and investing in local efforts to help people with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.
“You can either pay now for preventative and supportive services, whose good outcomes are well documented and verifiable, or pay later via higher medical treatment needs, higher crime rate and drug use and higher rates and immense costs of incarceration — not to mention all of the moral and ethical implications,” she said.
“Protect Sequim and its amazing people. It is a beautiful place to call home.”
Along with the USA Today honor, Siebens recently received the Kitsap County Association of Realtors’ “Citizen of the Year 2022.”
Going forward, she plans to continue living in Bremerton with her significant other Michael and their four dogs while continuing to lead efforts to help the homeless.
“Advocating and real action are a never-ending need in order to make our communities a better and safer place for everyone,” she said.
For more information on her efforts, visit www.their-voice.org and https://www.facebook.com/groups/bremertonhomeless.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.