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Ron Gintz named Citizen of Year

"Ron Gintz never gets tired of looking at the smiling faces of the boys he's taken in over the years as a foster dad.The photos were tucked by his wife, Ingrid, into a room divider. It sits in front of his desk at Salomon Smith Barney, where he works as a financial consultant.Oh, man, Gintz says. You can't imagine the relationship I will enjoy with these kids the rest of my life.Gintz is the Federal Way Mirror's Citizen of the Year, in part because of his commitment to volunteerism and to opening his home to troubled teens. Over a 10-year period, the Gintzes took in about 30 boys.His involvement in the community goes beyond his fostering activities. Gintz's eight-year stint on the Federal Way City Council ended at the end of 1999. During his last two-year term in office, he served as mayor. He is active in the Federal Way Big Brothers Big Sisters program, is a member of the Franciscan Fellowship, which supports St. Francis Hospital, and has been a long-time Rotary member. His work with kids, however, has touched his heart most deeply. Referred by school counselors and probation officers, the foster boys the Gintzes took in typically came from broken homes, had gotten into legal trouble, used alcohol or drugs, and/or skipped school.The couple decided to not take in more foster sons after their last one, Aaron, graduated from Decatur High School last year. But Gintz said he's told probation officers his home remains available to take in boys for overnighters or stays of a week or two if no one else can be found.He also continues to offer a study table at his home for troubled boys from 3 to 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. He usually asks boys who come for the sessions to write down what they want to be doing in five years. The idea, Gintz said, is to make the boys realize the long-term consequences of their behavior. The Gintzes worked with the boys who stayed with them long-term to help them improve their grades. They wrote letters of recommendation to help them get jobs. Above all, the Gintzes provided a structured home where the boys were held accountable for their actions.Kids need conditional love, Gintz said. ...It's patently unfair to the kids to rescue them and not hold them accountable.The Gintzes, who have two sons of their own, 25-year-old Michael and 23-year-old David, started taking in boys in 1989. The first was an exchange student from Ecuador. They later took in his brother and two cousins.In 1991, Gintz met a homeless man who couldn't care for his son, who had gotten involved in a gang but wanted out. The Gintzes housed the boy, beginning their years of caring for teen boys. Boys have stayed with them anywhere from a couple weeks to three years.Gintz possesses a service heart, said Monda Holsinger, former dean of students at Thomas Jefferson High School and new area director for Young Life.Skip Priest, who served with Gintz on the City Council, says helping others is really central to his personal philosophy. He doesn't just talk about service, he lives it.His helping youth in the community is the best example of that, Priest said.Gintz says he gives all the kudos to the boys, who decided to make a life change. He remains in touch with his foster sons, regularly chatting with them on the phone and welcoming them home from college during school breaks. They now help their foster sons with downpayments on houses. It's exhilarating, he said. You see someone turn things around. "

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