During the holiday season, a drive along S. 336th Street near Weyerhaeuser Way South takes you past Federal Way’s community tree decked in tinsel and ornaments.
Community members began to wonder: Who are the decorators of Federal Way’s community tree?
Lori and Jeff Allen and their daughter, Savannah, have lived in Federal Way since 2003. They were named the Mirror’s Hometown Heroes for December 2020 and have been chosen as the Mirror’s Citizens of the Year.
Each year, the Allens would pass by the tree and see it decorated. About two weeks until Christmas in 2014, Lori Allen was driving by and noticed the tree sat bare of any Christmas cheer. Realizing the tradition must go on, Lori said the Allen family decided, “if not you, then who?” and adopted the seasonal responsibility.
In January each year, the family always returns to take down and save the decorations to be used the next year. It’s both financially responsible and good for the environment. While the first year felt as if they were getting away with something, now they understand how much the community relies on the annual tradition. While some years the gifts you received fall into lost memory, the tradition and memory of the tree decorating will never be forgotten for the Allen family, Lori said.
“I love it. It’s a sense of community that I didn’t realize we had,” Lori said. “When I told people at work about our little Christmas tree, they’re actually a bit jealous that they don’t have something like that in their community. That’s when I realized how special what we have really is.”
Mirror’s Hometown Heroes in 2020
• Jan. 2020: South King Fire and Rescue Capt. Jeff Bellinghausen, who retired Jan. 31, 2020, dedicated more than three decades of service to the Federal Way community since 1986. While he ran hundreds of calls and directed many emergency scenes over the years, some firefighters excel at the technical portion of the job, but Bellinghausen found his niche in connecting with people. Retirement will be spent with friends and family, on the golf course, traveling and maintaining his service to the community throughout volunteering with his wife, Deborah, a school nurse in the Federal Way school district. The two plan to get involved with Convoy of Hope, a disaster relief agency.
• Feb. 2020: For 24 years, Michelle Roy has been working for the Federal Way Police Department, and her interest and passion for law enforcement has only grown over that time. The best part about her job as a city crime analyst is how much data there is to analyze. Roy enjoys the opportunity to take a closer look at crime statistics and help address major crime areas. Roy does a lot of work in the community for businesses, setting up presentations about safety. Some presentations revolve around gun safety and what to do in instances of active shooters. Roy thinks back on all the different times her position was able to help people, like the time a developmentally disabled man was kidnapped when a carjacker stole the car he was waiting in. She put the information out on social media and celebrated when he was found safe in Seattle.
• March 2020: In certain areas of the city, including some roads leading up toward Decatur High School, more trash than normal can be seen lining the streets. But “Cody the Trash Destroyer” is making sure you don’t see it for long, and that’s why he was selected as the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for March 2020. Cody Lyon, then a fourth-grader at Twin Lakes Elementary, had enough one day while he was walking with his mother, Lisa Lumpkin, to Decatur to pick up one of the free meals Federal Way Public Schools is giving out during the crisis. They decided to spend some of their extra time gathering the trash they could see along their walking route. Cody wants more people to think about their actions before they litter.
• April 2020: Due to temporarily suspending the printed edition of the Mirror at the pandemic’s onset, there was no Hometown Hero for April 2020.
• May 2020: Bruce Honda is no stranger to one-eyed selfies. From an airplane’s aisle seat upon boarding or the window seat at take-off, Honda’s self-portraits allow him to share quips about his travel adventures with friends and family. Since the COVID-19 pandemic halted his business travel, Honda’s selfie skills are now used to support and promote local Federal Way businesses. The longtime Federal Way resident is well known in the local community as the unofficial photographer of city happenings. Behind his Nikon lens, Honda captures memories while also documenting the presence of his wife, Federal Way City Council President Susan Honda, at various events, holiday celebrations, meetings and more. Honda estimates he’s supported about 40 local restaurants so far.
• June 2020: Federal Way raised the Juneteenth flag for the first time ever June 19. The flag is a symbol to honor the Juneteenth holiday, which acknowledges the freedom of Black Americans and their liberation from slavery. Trenise Rogers, the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for June, is a dedicated advocate in Federal Way, fighting for the city to recognize Juneteenth and its historical meaning to people of color in the local community. Rogers reached out to FASTSIGNS of Federal Way, which created a Juneteenth flag in less than 24 hours for the event. “For us to have a Juneteenth flag raising in the Northwest, it’s very rare, so we’re bringing a tradition that is commonly celebrated in the South to here,” she said of the ceremony. “It’s well overdue, and what better time than now, right?”
• July 2020: Thomas Jefferson High School students Natalie Johnson and Annabeth Meisel started their own photography business called Punctilious Portraiture. As the pandemic set the end of last school year and the start of this year on a surprising new course, the two decided to help their fellow classmates. Johnson said she often hears about students who are unable to afford high-quality senior portraits. The two started taking socially distanced senior portraits free of charge for any local high school senior. Johnson said her goal was to make sure each student had at least one additional photo of themselves in the yearbook, besides their standard school photo. “It just seemed like a good time to use my photography skills and help out with their senior photos,” Johnson said.
• Aug. 2020: It was a difficult decision for Linsay Irene Hill, 37, to participate in the Federal Way Black Collective’s Nothing To Lose But Our Chains weekend of healing event for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities from Aug. 21-23. However, she said she hopes her vulnerability encourages others to also engage in uncomfortable, yet necessary, conversations. Hill, the Positive Outcomes Program coordinator for the Federal Way Multi-Service Center, has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother and mother when it comes to helping others. “I always wanted to grow up to be that person, to be able to take care of the community around me,” said Linsay Hill, the Federal Way Mirror’s Hometown Hero for the month of August. After dabbling in a few career fields such as a certified nursing assistant and in the foster care system, Hill has dedicated her life’s work to local services and supporting young people of color.
• Sept. 2020: In early September, more than 147 Bonney Lake residents were evacuated due to wildfires that burned hundreds of acres in that area. Many of these displaced residents sought shelter in nearby South King County cities. The Lions Club International Foundation awarded $10,000 as an emergency grant to the Bonney Lake Lions Club. These funds assisted with food, water and other necessities. Federal Way Lions Club member Jan Barber researched and wrote this emergency funds grant shortly after news of the devastation was reported, with the help of Tom Watson, president of the Bonney Lake Lions Club. Watson coordinated with four local organizations and the American Red Cross to provide additional resources for those displaced. “I wish I could’ve helped all the people suffering from fires, but this is something that we could do,” said Barber, the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for September.
• Oct. 2020: Pastor Joe Bowman, 45, was the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for October and the newest member of the Highline College Board of Trustees, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee. His work is deeply woven into the community. Bowman served five years as president of City Vision (now named Federal Way Community Connections). He also has served on the Integrity Life Church board and the boards of Federal Way Community Gardens, Pastors for a Better Federal Way, and the “Chief’s Call” citizens police advisory board. He also has assisted the Federal Way Day Center for homeless individuals, has been a support writer for the equity policy of Federal Way Public Schools, and holds onto the title as the unofficial pastor of the Federal Way Farmers Market. In early spring, Integrity Life Church adopted three local apartment complexes to support and feed. His church has fed more than 4,500 people by providing meals throughout the pandemic.
• Nov. 2020: Tom Sites, 74, says half of his closet is now dedicated to costumes and includes crazy hats, capes, patterned socks, and a dozen more costumes to fit any upcoming holiday: Santa or an elf in December, Uncle Sam in July, the Easter Bunny in the spring and a few turkey costumes for November. Sites, a Federal Way resident and the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for November, walks Southwest 320th Street five days a week in these festive getups as he picks up litter along his route. When King County entered Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start plan in June, traffic began to increase. And so did the amount of litter. Sites carries a garbage bag and a trash picker, and often fills the bag half-to-three quarters full. On some days, he has filled two trash bags completely. Sites says people also enjoy seeing proof that someone out in the world is crazier than they are.
• Dec. 2020: The Allen family, who were named Citizens of the Year.