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Year in Review 2015

By December 29, 2015January 5th, 2016Connections, Front Page, Uncategorized

Working for and with you Throughout the YearVolunteer of the Yr Verticle
By: Christy Garrard, Executive Director, Highlands Council and Dahlia Park Resident

Here at Highlands Council we are guided throughout the year by our Vision Statement, to “create a community that embodies the values of its residents and serves current and future generations” and by our Mission Statement, “to foster the development of a vibrant and caring community committed to service, diversity, stewardship and well-being”.  These two statements, along with the Values and Assurances in the Covenant for Community, provide focus and definition to the work we do.

The staff at Blakely Hall works hard all year to bring valuable services and programming to our community. I couldn’t fit everything we have done here, but as we say good-bye to 2015, here are a few examples of how Highlands Council worked with the community, and on your behalf, organized by our Values and Assurances.

Provide meaningful opportunities to connect with the greater community

Highlands Council has a very productive relationship with our homeowner’s association, the Issaquah Highlands Community Association (IHCA). We were honored with a role in the recruitment and selection process for the new IHCA Executive Director, Sarah Hoey.

Highlands Council meets regularly with our business leaders. This year we welcomed Toll Brothers, Prime Numbers and HomeStreet Bank to the community and helped them get engaged in community building efforts. We attend quarterly merchant meetings hosted by Grand Ridge Plaza to support our stakeholders’ roles in the community. We collaborate also with Gilman Village and the Downtown Issaquah Association to bring events, and programming and information to our stakeholders.

We exchange ideas and collaborate with other master planned communities, such as Snoqualmie Ridge. We reach out to new leaders in Issaquah, such as the new General Manager for the Issaquah Press and the new Executive Director for the Chamber of Commerce, providing an orientation to the complexity of our urban village and our philosophy of community building and collaboration.

Highlands Council represents Issaquah Highlands as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as a variety of greater community committees including: The Issaquah Nonprofit Network, Issaquah Drug Free Community Coalition, Issaquah Emergency Management Disaster Simulation Committee, and the newly-formed Leadership in the Arts Strategic Planning Committee.

Highlands Council supports local nonprofits such as YWCA Inspire, Issaquah Schools Foundation, Life Enrichment Options, Eastside Baby Corner, and the artEast– just to name a few. For example, Blakely Hall continues to be the location for the Issaquah School Foundation V.O.I.C.E. mentor appreciation luncheons twice annually. And we partnered with the City of Issaquah to host a fundraising Jazz concert for the Sister City Commission.

Establish community traditions that will engender pride in Issaquah Highlands and a sense of belonging

Every year we produce Highlands Day, the summer festival gathering the community together at Village Green and Blakely Hall. This year’s Luau-themed festival hosted 75 vendor booths and welcomed an estimated 3,000 attendees. Community pride shone as you all still came out, even though it was the stormiest day of the whole summer!

The HY (Highlands Youth Advisory Board) serves as a liaison between Issaquah Highlands’ youth and Highlands Council, empowering Issaquah Highlands’ youth with a voice, a sense of “belonging” and a mechanism for positively influencing their peers and others in Issaquah Highlands. They added five resident teens to the roster in 2015 and has been very active this year.

In its third year we supported Shop Local Saturday with a resident-planned Shop Local Holiday Bazaar inside Blakely Hall.  Highlands Council helped fund the Shop Local Trolley again this year with Blakely Hall have the greatest number of riders throughout the city!

For a second year we honored Issaquah Highlands Veterans and their families at a service inside Blakely Hall on November 11th, partnering with a local scout troop for the flag ceremony.

Blakely Hall is a wonderful community resource.  In February, residents Adam and Nicole Pond hosted a Super Bowl Party for the community to support the Seahawks bid for the championship.

Each year Highlands Council and the IHCA partner to celebrate volunteerism with our annual Volunteer Appreciation event, this year held in March to coincide with Blakely Hall’s 10th anniversary.

Provide an orderly, regular, and informative communication system within Issaquah Highlands as well as maintaining an online network for communication within and about Issaquah Highlands

Communications in Issaquah Highlands come over many channels. Highlands Council publishes Connections, our monthly newspaper written mostly by resident volunteers. We also manage all the official social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Look for the cover of the current issue of Connections as the profile picture.

Volunteer of the Yr Verticle v3Highlands Council also manages the community’s website, In 2015 we merged the IHCA’s onto to create a one-stop-no-password-required location for all things Issaquah Highlands. Now everyone has equal access to meeting minutes, budgets, and governing documents relating to Highlands Council and the IHCA by simply clicking on a drop down menu or button.

The Highlands Fiber Network (HFN) is owned by Highlands Council and supports its mission. Owning our own fiber-to-the-home network ensures that the system is managed on our behalf. In 2015 HFN began the process of becoming a 501c3 non-profit corporation.

Communication also comes in the in-person style. Twice each year we co-host Resident Orientations with the IHCA and HFN. These orientations welcome all new residents and provide a well-balanced introduction to urban village living.


Insure an inclusive environment for governance

Highlands Council hosted a “Meet the Mayor” coffee break at Blakely Hall so that residents could express their concerns and get answers to their questions directly from Mayor Butler.

We also hosted a town-hall style meeting with the City of Issaquah’s Parks Department to discuss scheduled upgrades to Central Park play fields.

This year our staff also held meetings with government officials, including representatives from Congressman David Reichert’s office.

We formed a team of community representatives to meet with Lucy Sloman, Land Development Manager, City of Issaquah, to discuss the Issaquah Highlands Development Agreement expiration that is coming up soon.

We also now have a seat on the Grand Ridge Elementary Site Council. This provides another opportunity for us to engage with residents, develop relationships, and hear what matters most to you, our stakeholders as well as support our community elementary school.

Provide  all  stakeholders  a  voice  in  community  matters,  an  opportunity  to communicate with the Council

Highlands Council’s offices are located in Blakely Hall. We maintain regular office hours and welcome the community to stop by anytime Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm.

We meet regularly with residents interested in getting more involved in the community. Some wish to volunteer for the community, some to start a club or affinity group, some to plan a special occasion.

We provide Blakely Hall to support the IHCA’s outreach by hosting their neighborhood budget meetings and the IHCA annual membership meeting.

Appreciate diversity of thought and of peoples

Highlands Council supports 28 different clubs and groups in Issaquah Highlands; six of these are multicultural clubs including two new clubs in 2015: French Club and India Culture Club. Other new resident-led clubs that started in 2015 include: Bridge Club, Meaningful Movie Night, Travel Night, Flex Worker Brown Bag Meet Ups, and Minecraft Mania.

Blakely Hall was the location for a variety of cultural celebrations in 2015 such as Chinese New Year, Purim, Easter service, Mexican Independence Day, Moon Cake Festival, Day of the Dead, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas Eve Live Nativity & Candlelight Service.

PrintMotivate partner participation by offering a variety of life-enriching opportunities

We work with faith-based organizations like The Rivers Edge Church and Timberlake Church as they provide opportunities for residents to connect to one another such as Mothers of Preschoolers, Divorce Care, Financial Planning, Love and Logic Parenting, and even a place to go on Thanksgiving.

Issaquah Highlands has 28 different resident-led clubs that Highlands Council supports. Through these residents can learn about another culture (Chinese Heritage Club, Latino Club) or a new hobby (Book Club, Poker Night or Photography Club), or to learn about something new (Wine or Travel Club).

Blakely Hall serves as the venue, and Highlands Council as advisors, for a variety of cultural celebrations throughout the year. We work with leaders in our cultural communities to bring their celebrations to Blakley Hall so the greater community can participate.

The HY (Highlands Youth Advisory Board) enjoyed a variety of enriching experiences beginning with the March Flashlight Egg Hunt that raised funds to aid a fellow teen resident, Samantha Harbeck injured in a car accident on Highlands Drive. They also enjoyed an outdoor team building day, a community art experience called The Clay Quilt Project, a College & Career Planning seminar, a Teen Halloween Party, a Poetry Slam and a Parents Night Out babysitting event. The HY members were also instrumental in the planning of Highlands Day.

Make a significant contribution to the quality of life at Issaquah Highlands

We believe that all the above contributes to our quality of life. And here are a few more examples:

Blakely Hall is your local art gallery.  We partner with artEAST to bring you a variety of art exhibitions. Last year’s highlights included Vikram Madan’s whimsical Journey of a Thousand Smiles, and the Pacific Northwest African American Quilt Show.

The summer month’s fill Blakely Hall with children and learning. This year we hosted four different summer camp programs: Tech Venture Kids, Girls Rock Math, Bricks 4 Kids, and Destination Science.

Zumba Fitness is one of our longest running groups, offered twice weekly by a dedicated resident instructor. New this fall, resident-led free yoga classes began following the Saturday Zumba classes.  Both are free to attend and open to all abilities. We promote all fitness groups in Connections news.

We welcomed and helped promote the first-ever public transportation up Park Drive – Metro 628. This shuttle provides a connection to the Park and Ride and to Swedish. We expect a stop at Blakely Hall to be added in the near future.

Highlands Council also provides leadership in emergency preparedness. This year we sent two staff members though the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification and I earned Emergency Worker credentials with a desire to provide leadership support to our community in the event of a major crisis.. We have organized the many CERT-certified IH residents, referred to as CERT TEAM 9 holding regular meetings to build relationships and plan for the worst. CERT TEAM 9 publishes emergency preparedness information in every issue of Connections news.

Our staff, along with the staff from IHCA, was re-certified in first aid, CPR and AED use.  We purchased an AED for Blakely Hall this year.


While all of the above was in progress our team was also busy planning the first quarter of 2016. We look forward to exciting art exhibitions, the 3rd annual teen Flashlight Egg Hunt, Resident Orientation, Volunteer Appreciation, Purim, and the installation of 8 Little Free Libraries in IH parks constructed by the HY and funded by Highlands Council.  Building community is what we do.  If you would like to join us, please contact me to discuss opportunities at or 425-507-1110.  Happy New Year!