Three women finalists for young leader award from Port Angeles Chamber

Lindsay Fox

Lindsay Fox

PORT ANGELES — Three women, three beacons.

Lindsay Fox, Brianna Kelly and Bonnie Schmidt are finalists for the inaugural Young Leader of the Year award issued by the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce for exceptional achievers between 18-39 years old.

Fox, Kelly or Schmidt will join 2017 award winners in five other categories in having their names announced at a Community Awards Gala on Jan. 20 at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St.

Brianna Kelly

Brianna Kelly

Bonnie Schmidt

Bonnie Schmidt

Winners for 2017 also will be named hailing the Educator, Organization, Business, Emerging Business and Citizen of the Year from three finalists in each category.

The 10 judges who selected the winners were Ed Bedford, Suzie Bennett, Pastor Paul King, Dr. Roger Oaks, Tina Smith O’Hara, Todd Ortloff, Jane Pryne, Christy Smith, Nathan West and Melissa Williams.

There were more than 100 nominations for all six classifications.

The Peninsula Daily News is an award sponsor.

First Federal is a platinum sponsor of the gala.

Tickets are $70 and can be purchased at or by calling 360-452-2364.

Here are profiles of the candidates for Young Leader of the Year:

Lindsay Fox, 39, the chamber’s 20-hour-a-week events manager and former sales and catering manager at the Red Lion Hotel, also is a 30-hour-a-week executive assistant at J Oppelt Development and General Contracting, owned by Next Door Gastropub co-owner Jake Oppelt.

The Class of 1997 Port Angeles High School graduate’s volunteer activities include board membership on the Olympic Medical Center Foundation and the Festival of Trees.

She and her husband, John, a deck hand and purser for Black Ball Ferry Line, are Hurricane Ridge Ski Team coaches.

She’s involved with the Sequim guild of Seattle Children’s Hospital and is an organizer of the Friday friendship dinner for the homeless at First United Methodist Church in Port Angeles.

She’s also the Peninsula College Athletics Association fundraising board.

“As far as my activities, those are my jobs,” Fox said.

She feels obligated “to keep things moving, keep things going,” Fox said. “Just maybe it will be a better place.”

Volunteering is a family affair as she and John pass on the tradition to their daughters, Ava, 10, and Addison, 8.

“We can do a lot of things as a family that can make it fun and productive at the same time,” Fox said.

Fox often sweeps her friends in to help her.

“You can never say to her, ‘I don’t have the time to do that or to help with that’ because she relentlessly does those things,” said Chig Martin, the Red Lion Hotel sales manager who nominated her for the award.

“She’s a kind soul, and you want to help her.”

Fox admits she’s always looking for helpers.

“I just try to remind people what the cause is for,” she said.

Brianna Kelly is a problem-finder looking for solutions — with a lot already on her plate.

The 37-year-old single mother of three boys and a girl — Elizabeth, 16; Daniel, 15; Bobby, 7; and George, 3 — works as the full-time office administrator of Earth Tech Construction in Port Angeles and is closing in on a Peninsula College degree in homeland security-emergency management.

The Seattle native, who grew up in Everett, organized a half-dozen women to help people who are homeless exchange their dirty blankets for clean, dry ones at the Salvation Army Center near Kelly’s home.

The group washed and dried the soiled blankets at the Peabody Street laundromat with donations generated by Kelly’s “Bridging the Gap” Facebook page. The laundromat also donated washing and drying time.

“It was kind of killing two birds with one stone, making sure people stayed warm and dry while not leaving messes,” Kelly said.

She and her partner, Jessica Guthrie, started the “Bridging the Gap” Facebook group, which had 400 members Sunday.

“If someone needs to go to detox, we sit with them and provide comfort and support while they are waiting,” Kelly said.

That includes dispensing “care packages” with essentials such as toiletries obtained through donations generated by pleas posted on Bridging the Gap.

“It’s surprising how generous people are,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s four children pitch in with her and Guthrie.

“Sometimes we run around with blankets and food if it’s cold outside to make sure everyone has what they need,” Kelly said.

Kelly has helped organize sack-lunch giveaways when The Salvation Army is closed on holidays, and will be doing exactly that Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Abigail Baublitz, who met Kelly when the two worked at Fanaticus Sports Grill in Port Angeles and nominated her for the award, said Kelly inspired Baublitz to volunteer at her daughter’s school.

Baublitz said Kelly “pounds the pavement” in search of people in need.

“She asks them what got them there and what she can to to find a resource so they can get their life back on track,” Baublitz said.

Kelly said she became up-close-familiar with homelessness in a quest to find out why a relative who had been in prison and was addicted to heroin had cut his ties to his family.

“When you start learning about this stuff, homelessness is just there, and people are there who need immediate help.

“I always had the philosophy that, if no one else is going to do it, you should do it yourself, or it’s not going to get done.”

• Daycare-preschool owner Bonnie Schmidt’s affinity for reaching out to youngsters, and the adults who care for and about them, blossomed beginning in 2008, a year after she moved to Port Angeles, when she started the Port Angeles version of the Music Together music and movement program.

Founded in 1987, it gives children from newborns to kindergarten-age an appreciation for music.

Then in 2013, Schmidt, a 37-year-old Chicago-area native, started Little Rhythms Learning Center, based in part on the bonds she forged with Music Together parents.

Since then, she’s been on the Port Angeles School District’s wellness committee, which advises the administration and helps create policies and procedures on nutrition, mental health and physical fitness.

Her effort touts “Projects to Inspire Global Movements of Love and Compassion” with the plea, “Stop Dreaming Start Doing.”

“The concept is that this love is all around you, and one day, wherever you are, you read a book about kindness or love to your child,” Schmidt said.

It had its genesis in her preschool work and targeted March 20, 2017 as the day for people to shine.

Schmidt said thousands of children were reached through Facebook and The Kindness Elves online store, which combines distributing tiny dolls that encourage acts of kindness with notes to kids.

Schmidt is planning to conduct the same effort this year.

“It just helps create global movements of love and compassion,” Schmidt said.

“I feel like a lot of the work I do in the home, in life, in business, in the preschool and the community, where I volunteer, they’re all connected.”

Schmidt grew up in a Chicago suburb and moved from Bellingham to Port Angeles in 2007 with her husband, Mark, a Stevens Middle School teacher, and their children, who are 7 and 9.

“She’s a Jill of many trades,” said Carrie Sanford, who nominated Schmidt for the award and whose daughter was in Schmid’t Music Together class.

“I would almost describe her as a sprite,” Sanford said. “She’s just really joyful and energetic and she just exudes kindness. You just want to be around her.

“She is always looking around her for where there is a need and where there are ways she can be helpful and is not afraid to get involved.”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at

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