When most people think of retirement, images of long easy days may come to mind. Days full of golf or perhaps board games, and probably in someplace that is warm year round. While that may have been the retirement Ken Lamm imagined for himself, it is not the one he has.
Now Lamm stands outside his home with his red bike and bike trailer. Despite the snow on the ground, the sky is a bright blue, something that would never be seen in his native Wisconsin.
His bike is what carries him everywhere. It takes him shopping, running errands and most importantly, to the ever increasing number of nonprofit organizations that Lamm is a part of.
The number of nonprofits Lamm has worked on and projects he has started in almost countless. Lamm spends his time involved in organizations ranging from the Flagstaff Family Food Center and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona to the Grand Canyon Conservancy and the Flagstaff Community Foundation, now called the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff.
“My community engagement is much more than I ever dreamed was possible,” Lamm said. “And that’s because this is such a collaborative town.”
In fact, Lamm is involved in so many causes and organizations that it is difficult to point to just one that he is most passionate about. And it’s no surprise Lamm is the Arizona Daily Sun’s 2018 Male Citizen of the Year.
“He is Mr. Community,” Susan Schroeder, chief executive officer at the Grand Canyon Conservancy, said. “He just jumps in whenever we need it.”
Community foundation and Paw Placement
Marj McClanahan first worked with Lamm as part of the Community Foundation and said when Lamm first moved to Flagstaff in the late 90s, he came to her for help in getting involved in the community.
“He said, ‘We’re new and I’m retired from my job, but I am not retired from life,’” McClanahan said, describing when they first met.
McClanahan suggested he join the board of the Community Foundation. Lamm followed her advice but within three weeks, he was grants chair.
In that position, Lamm said he was exposed to all the nonprofit organizations Flagstaff, and northern Arizona, had to offer.
And Lamm said he was impressed.
“It became really clear to us that Flagstaff was really special,” Lamm said. “Everybody here is engaged [in the community].”
However, Lamm soon noticed one need that was not seeing the same attention as others, that of animal welfare which did not have any kind of endowed fund dedicated to it.
In 2010, he decided this had to change and began to work towards raising the $25,000 needed to start an endowed fund. This was harder than he expected however.
As it seemed, although people in Flagstaff loved their own companion animals and pets, not everyone was as willing to donate money for animals they might not have any connection or interaction with.
Nonetheless, Lamm persisted. Just because raising money on the issue had proven to be difficult didn’t mean there was nothing to do. Lamm helped organize a meeting of stakeholders with the goal of lowering the rate at which animals were being euthanized in Coconino County.
The initiative was a success and with multiple groups including Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, the Coconino Humane Association and the Ark Cat Sanctuary working together, the number of animals euthanized dropped drastically.
Lamm was also eventually able to get the endowed animal welfare fund up and running.
In 2017, they got $17,000 from a grant after foundation staff discovered the Arizona Community Foundation in Phoenix were asking for proposals.
And this jump started the funding process, with the fund now holding as much as $43,000, enough that it can now start giving out money for animal welfare projects while still supporting itself.
Lamm is no longer involved in that project, but McClanahan said he “has a skill [to get] people in on a project and keep them working on it even after he moves on.”
“He has energy and passion beyond belief,” McClanahan said. “He sees a need and [addresses it] and he doesn’t have to continue ownership of it.”
Most recently, Lamm has been working with Paw Placement.
Lamm has made a “dramatic difference” on the direction that organization has moved in said Molly Munger, who has worked with Lamm on Paw Placement.
He helped push the organization to apply for the request for proposal released by Coconino County and the city to provide animal shelter services at the old Second Chance building.
Paw Placement, acting as High Country Humane, is beginning operations out of that building at the beginning of the New Year.
The Grand Canyon Conservancy
The Grand Canyon is also one of Lamm’s many passions and one that he and his wife Dorothy feed through their involvement with the conservancy, which raises money for projects within Grand Canyon National Park.
“Lamm and his wife Dorothy are both always willing to do anything we need,” Schroeder said, whether that is working with kids or working with them to launch the organizations first ever fundraising campaign.
One of the recent projects Lamm was involved in was the restoration of the Kolb brothers’ studio. And this is fitting.
“When we were first married, we came out to the Grand Canyon in 1976, and it was awesome,” Lamm said. “There's nothing I can say about the Grand Canyon that you don’t either know or have heard before from a thousand people.”
One thing they did during their visit was visit the Kolb brother’s studio. At that time, although one of the brothers, Ellsworth Kolb, had died, Emery Kolb was still alive and still screening the famous film of their trips down the Colorado River.
It was an amazing experience, Lamm said, describing how Kolb would set up the film behind the audience and then quickly come forward to narrate the film as it was both in black and white and silent.
And so it was a great experience, Lamm said, to be so involved in the restoration of the studio.
Because he had the opportunity to visit the studio before Emery’s death, only later that year, Lamm said he was especially interested in recreating the interior of the studio to be as close to how it looked when the Kolbs’ still inhabited it.
To do so, he said they were able to get the help of a man who had worked with the Kolbs in the studio when he was just in high school and thus knew how the interior looked.
Lina Wallen did not believe it when she received a call nominating her to be the Arizona Daily Sun’s Female Citizen of the Year for 2018.
Wallen said people had joked with her before about the prospect, but when a former winner actually called her formally announcing her selection, she was in disbelief. A group of former winners populates the committee that selected Wallen for her strong and committed community activism.
“I couldn’t donate a million or a billion dollars, but I have time and I have expertise. That’s the way I give back,” Wallen said.
Wallen’s goal is to help children realize their potential through the opportunities around them, whatever it takes. If she has to take kids to the museum to learn about their local history, teach a family how to file their income taxes or even to simply sit and listen, she will make the effort.
“Children are the focus in my heart. That’s why when I get into education I went to psychology, specifically for child development. It wasn’t for myself. I wanted to help more effectively,” Wallen said. “I don’t have a license. I don’t need a license. But I have to understand what a child is before I could help further.”
She explained that her life of giving back began when she was a young girl living in Indonesia. She grew up in a city where people forsake certain privacies in favor of a supportive and involved community. She said as a child, her family was well off and she would sometimes take food from the kitchen to give to children.
An Indonesian saying she learned growing up that she returns to often is, “dimana bumi dipijak, disitu langit dijunjung.”
“It means wherever you live, you have to respect whatever is surrounding you. Literally, where you step on earth, there is always sky above you,” Wallen said. “That’s really stuck in my mind. Different cultures make me learn how to respect others and you have to do whatever you can surrounding you.”
Wallen met her husband at a seminar in New York and moved to California with him. They raised two children until she finally forced her husband to check out Flagstaff; he had avoided the city after a bad family road trip when their car broke down in the city when he was a child.
When she finally convinced him to visit on vacation, they looked at some homes and decided to buy a house on the spot.
When she and her husband moved in to the mountain town, Wallen said they had full intention of living a quiet life in retirement. That lasted all of two weeks until she heard about a child who was murdered by his father in Flagstaff.
“I was thinking, how could people not really get involved?” Wallen said.
The list of places Wallen has volunteered with is so long, even she has trouble listing them all. She works as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, where she can be appointed by a judge to represent abused and neglected children and prevent them from being lost or overburdened in the legal and social service system.
She works for children with a multitude of life experiences and cultural backgrounds, where she believes her work will help give more opportunities for children without many options.
“I believe, if children know what’s really available in the community and how to conduct their own behavior,” Wallen said, “they face this world open eyes knowing everything surrounding them and will benefit more.”
Part of her belief means helping resources in the children’s lives, like their parents, their schools and groups that would otherwise protect children.
“We are a rich country here,” Wallen said. “Not everybody knows that, not everybody knows how to connect with those resources. People have to help each other, to educate each other.”
She works on the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, Flagstaff Police Department Citizens Liaison Committee, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, Community Emergency Response Team, DREAMS Board to give scholarships for minority students in Flagstaff, Flagstaff Family Food Center Board among many other agencies.
She admits that she has to turn jobs down sometimes, but she believes it doesn't take much to make an impact.
“I think we’re better off not only volunteering in terms of formal organization, but volunteering to help take the neighbors kids to the museum, to see a concert, to see a play. One of my kids before didn’t even know what a play was,” Wallen said. “Take them to the Christmas Carol play. That’s the easy one.”
Through her time volunteering, Wallen feels that local rates of youth suicide is a large issue that needs to be addressed more thoroughly.
“How could nobody know about these kids’ sadness, these kids’ depression? Such a young age. There’s no hope at all? It’s sad really.”
Wallen and her husband left her children in California when they moved to Flagstaff. She explained that she feels she has adopted the children of Flagstaff to become a part of her family.
She sees her work as a small part of the great work being done in the city.
“Your kids are really the ones who will help me if I fall down. I know I have my daughter, but she won’t help me. I expect your kids to help me,” Wallen said. “You are my family here.”
Flagstaff Unified School District had a year full of financial fluctuations to account for previously unmet needs, especially as the Red for Ed movement for improved teacher pay and school funding was in full swing throughout March and April. It also implemented various internal improvements for students.
When teachers throughout the state voted for a mass walkout on Thursday, April 26, the district hastily created contingency plans that provided necessary child care as well as breakfasts and lunches for students in need of them for the duration of the six-day walkout, during which FUSD schools were closed. FUSD teachers and students resumed normal schedules the following Friday, after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation granting teachers an average 19 percent pay increase within three years.
When the district started work on an updated compensation package for teachers, administrators and staff following Ducey’s legislation, the Governing Board negotiation committee first intended to give equal percentage of increases to these district employees; however, to account for administrators’ already higher salaries, the committee decided to give administrators a 7.5 percent increase in pay, which would allow teachers to receive their full 10 percent increase, $6,750 and $5,000, respectively.
For some, these changes just did not come soon enough, though. Jeff Taylor, the 2014 Coconino Teacher of the Year, announced in March that he and his family would leave the state at the end of the 2017-2018 school year because of factors including the low pay and increased class sizes that became characteristic of Arizona teachers. Taylor taught AP chemistry and environmental science at Flagstaff High School. He was also the chair of the AP Academy at FHS.
For unrelated reasons, administrators also departed, leaving the associate director for Communications and Public Relations and director of Transportation positions open for several weeks. Zachery Fountain, from Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, started as the assistant director for Communications and Public Relations in early December. The director of Transportation is still to be determined.
According to the H2 Group’s investigation of FUSD properties in the early weeks of the year, various district school buildings are in need of physical updates totaling $95 million in repairs and replacements. Kinsey and Killip Elementary Schools, two of the district’s oldest buildings, were recommended for full replacement, a more cost-effective approach than renovation.
The project list further increased as two juveniles, a 13-year-old and 15-year-old, broke in and damaged the interiors of both Killip Elementary School and Mount Elden Middle School in the first week of August. Killip was broken into twice: the second time, the suspects caused enough damage that the school was forced to close that day. The two were arrested and placed in the Coconino County Juvenile Detention Center, facing charges of burglary, aggravated criminal damage and interfering with an educational facility.
To fund these school restoration projects, a $75 million bond and 15 percent property tax renewal – named Propositions 423 and 424 – were introduced for the November election. Both propositions passed, providing funding for building upkeep as well as a one-to-one technology initiative to provide all students with technology. The district is still determining how the funds would apply to the possible replacement of a school.
Academically, FUSD had cause to celebrate: five schools improved by at least one letter grade this year. Leupp Public School moved up from a D to a C, Cromer Elementary School and Knoles Elementary School both improved from a C to a B, Sechrist Elementary from a B to an A, and Kinsey Elementary from a D to a B. Nearly all of the evaluated schools earned more points than last year, with an average growth of 5.31 percentage points across all schools.
Thanks to a combination of federal and district funding, five FUSD schools were able to offer free nutritional breakfasts and lunches for all students this year, eliminating the need for a lengthy application process and reassuring parents that they need not pack their child’s lunch if they do not have the time or money to do so. Participating schools include Killip Elementary, Kinsey Elementary, Leupp Elementary, Thomas Elementary and Summit High School.
The high school sports community was abuzz this October as the annual rivalry varsity game between the Coconino Panthers and Flagstaff Eagles was hosted at Coconino High School’s Cromer Stadium for the first time in more than 40 years. The game, won by Coconino, was also used to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the school’s first graduating class and 1968 state championship football team. The evening included a pregame festival of food and music as well as an official recognition of the championship team at halftime.