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  • Foundation grants helping our future environmental

Inspiring the Next Generation

Gig Harbor resident Karen Larson smiled last year as she watched dozens of families take advantage of an evening filled with games and fun activities. Why? Because she knew that proceeds from the evening would help fund the preservation of nature trails and create guardians to protect sensitive areas of the peninsula.

Larson is the director of development for EnviroCorp, the outdoor advocate division of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. She made her observation last summer during the Cider Swig, the signature event of the foundation’s Parks & Environmental Core Area Board that works to engage the community to improve trails and open spaces.

Proceeds from last year’s Swig helped fund the creation of the Junior Explorer’s Club at the Curious by Nature School as well as an all-volunteer effort by youngsters at the school to clean the Adam Tallman Nature Preserve. The preserve has been described as a natural oasis in the middle of town that features scenic trails through wetlands with native flora and fauna.

The 2016 edition of the Cider Swig is scheduled to return to the Kids Apple Zone this fall on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 24, from noon until 5pm. This marks the third year in a row the event will be hosted by the Kids Apple Zone. Larson said the Cider Swig is the primary source of funding for the small grant awarded to local groups involved in restoration and preservation activities within the Key Peninsula-Gig Harbor-Islands (KGI) Watershed.

Plans for apple themed-based entertainment for children and families include entertainment, races and interactive activities. Stations will include arts and crafts, Apple Science, an Apple Obstacle Course and, of course, an apple toss. There will also be a bounce house for the younger members of the crowd.

“We are very excited that performances from the ‘Godfather of Fun’ himself, Charlie Williams, the Pop Stars Kids and more artists than ever have been added to lineup of entertainers scheduled to appear on the Apple Stage this year,” said Larson. The Gypsy-groove music from Budapest West; sizzling twin fiddles by Spare Thyme; Creole la-la and Zydeco are also scheduled to appear on The Cider Swig Center Stage.

In addition to entertainment for kids, this year’s Swig will feature food on the grill from Taylor’s Shellfish Farm, ribs from Smokin Zee’s, Asian-fusion from Spicy Papaya and other “curbside cuisine” including gourmet sausages and sandwiches to savor with generous pours of cider.

The centerpiece to the Swig will be liquid refreshment from almost two dozen regional cider makers featuring a range of 80-plus hard ciders.

“We invite the growing community of cider lovers and the cider-curious alike traveling from near and far to join in a day of sampling the best ciders west of the Mississippi,” said Larson with a wide smile.

Young activists

The clean-up was conducted last May at the Tallman Preserve by students ages 2 to 6 as part of the outdoor classroom component from the nonprofit nature school, funded in part by a Lou Winsor grant from the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The environmental program also receives funds from the Peninsula Light Company and Pierce County.

Odette Alina, director of the five-year-old school, said the clean-up included picking up litter, weeding the parking lot planting beds, clearing the trails and ridding the park of invasive weeds such as English Ivy. The project was supervised by volunteers from the GGHF EnviroCorps.

The Envirocorps was founded in 20004 as the vision of the late Vernon J. Young, who saw the volunteer force as the best means to ensure that local trails, roadways and other public lands are safe and pleasant places for local residents and visitors to the area.

Regular volunteer efforts conducted by the corps, said Larson, encompass the Adopt-A-Road and the Sponsor-A-Trail programs designed to help maintain the natural beauty of local parks and public areas by keeping them safe and litter-free.

“The small grants program administered by the KGI Watershed Council have helped many organizations across our Key and Gig Harbor peninsulas implement enhancement initiatives over the years,” Larson explained. “Our service learning program makes it (the efforts of the foundation) all the more important.”

“Through our service learning project, we are also able to provide a service to our community that makes it all more important,” said Larson. “The grant that funded creation of the Junior Explorers Club at the environmental pre-school will ensure that love for nature will be carried on by the younger members of the community.”

The Curious by Nature School on Wagner Way provides nurturing, stimulating daily environmental-based education during for toddlers, preschool and pre-K students as well as Friday enrichment programs and camps during the summer months.

Alina said students in the club at the school are eligible to earn a nature badge for each service project they participate in, beginning with the clean-up at the Tallman Nature Park.

The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, serving the greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities. For more information about the foundation, volunteer opportunities with the EnviroCorps or tickets to the 2016 Cider Swig, log onto the organization’s website at

Dan Aznoff was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the toxic waste crisis. He is now a freelance writer who lives in Mukilteo dedicated to capturing the cherished stories of our lifetime so they can be preserved for future generations. He can be contacted directly at

Lynette Hoy is the founder and CEO of Firetalker PR.

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