People Who Inspire
Gig Harbor’s extraordinary, everyday heroes
By Abigail Thorpe
We often look to celebrities, CEOs or Pulitzer Prize winners for inspiration and guidance on how to live life right, as though these are the people who somehow hold the answers. But the truth is, it’s the everyday, seemingly “ordinary” people in our lives, workplaces and cities who show us what it means to live a life full of positivity, thankfulness and joy. We run into them every day, those often unsung heroes who bring a ray of sunshine into our day, lend a helping hand or give us a fresh perspective on life.
In Gig Harbor, there are many of these extraordinary, everyday people who often think of others before themselves. Here are a few of the people who, despite the hardships and challenges of the times, continue to inspire, remain positive and pass that positivity onto others.
“Although the area has grown in numbers, the same charm of walking downtown and greeting people as you pass remains,” says Chuck Cuzzetto, a native of Gig Harbor who grew up on Fox Island. “This is an area that always calls you home.”
His wife and three children, as well as his passion for the area he grew up in, keep him committed to the future of the community. “Motivation comes from your surroundings, and what better community than the greater Gig Harbor area to provide that positive feeling you need to keep engaged. My passion runs deep for community connection,” he explains.
Almost six years ago, Cuzzetto achieved his lifetime dream: working for PenMet Parks. Currently serving as their marketing specialist, Cuzzetto’s motivation and positivity is fueled by the community he serves: the businesses who open their doors and arms, the school district that strives to always communicate, and the support of families who love Gig Harbor.
His work with PenMet Parks and service as PTA president and on the Chamber of Commerce Board have shown him firsthand that it takes passion and dedication to make the community the best it can be. For him, it was the realization one day that he “wanted to make sure everyone around me had a champion in one way or another,” he explains.
This is what drives his commitment to interact and connect in creative and compassionate ways. “It's a sense of uplifting one another no matter the cost and going to bed thinking, “What can I do next?’” he shares.
Karrie Polinsky’s motto is “Just one box at a time,” and for good reason. She oversees three retail stores in Gig Harbor while still finding the time to support and encourage those around her. She’s lived in Gig Harbor almost her entire life, and eight years ago she met “her amazing person,” Michele Henery, who had just moved to the harbor and was about to open a store downtown called Tickled Pink, which Polinsky now manages.
Polinksy is naturally positive—for her there is no good in focusing on the negative, as it doesn’t solve the issue. Polinsky believes in continuing to move forward, despite the challenges and tests life throws at you; there is always a positive light at the end. Just focus on one “box”—or thing—at a time, and you’ll get through. “I give that same encouragement to my neighbors that I work with, our downtown waterfront community,” she says. “I like to encourage them. The better we can do as a community all tied together, the stronger we are.”
Polinsky’s parents helped instill that strong work ethic and drive in her since birth, and she continues to learn from her mother each and every day. It’s foundational to how she treats the people in her life. “Never give up and always be humble,” shares Polinksy. “It is always a team effort, and no one can do everything alone; it does take a village. I can take out the garbage just like everyone else.”
Tim Olson and his family have been a part of the Gig Harbor community since 2016, when they first opened 9Round Fitness and made the harbor their home. Since that time, they’ve made incredible connections within the community, formed new relationships, and experienced what it means when a community comes together to support its businesses and families. “The community has displayed fantastic patience, optimism and encouragement!” shares Olson.
Olson learned his resilience and courage from his mom Karen, Gig Harbor's Cottesmore’s resident president. When facing tests or trials, it’s important to have “strength to show adversity your joyful smile,” says Olsen.
“Being an entrepreneur puts your heart and soul into your passions and positive morale becomes essential,” explains Olson. “Unexpected adversity creates an opportunity to make solutions. Your setback can be a setup for a great comeback. If you don’t ever get knocked down, you won’t know what getting up feels like. It’s the getting back up that motivates me.”
For Olson, it’s about living life—and enjoying it along the way!
Lauren Picard grew up surrounded by the beauty of Gig Harbor and the Pacific Northwest, but it took moving away after college and returning four years later for her to fully appreciate the beauty and sense of community that Gig Harbor has created.
As the public outreach and coordination marketer for Tim Lopez Agency - American Family Insurance, the Young Professionals’ co-chair president, and a Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, Picard is committed to seeing her hometown grow while preserving its charm, natural resources and history.
“Having grown up here, I have a fierce sense of responsibility and desire to see our local small businesses thriving,” she explains. “I personally witness daily acts of kindness here in Gig Harbor, and it’s part of what keeps me going.”
Picard has found exercise and getting out in nature are a huge part of keeping a positive outlook. “Working to maintain a positive headspace is a daily practice, and it’s something I have to work really hard at,” she says. She’s been living by a few pieces of advice lately, one of them to work out—she never walks away upset. “I adore this community and want to put my best foot forward, and being physically strong directly correlates to that mental toughness I need to stay optimistic.”
Growing up in Gig Harbor, she was encouraged to get out and explore nature every single day, rain or shine. “In doing so, we recognized our ability to either take away or enrich a space, figuratively and literally.”
In their individual ways, Cuzzetto, Polinsky, Olson and Picard each show what it means to show up and be a member of your community. They are all committed to Gig Harbor, to the people who live here, and to sharing a spirit of positivity and unity. Along with many others in the community, they are the reason Gig Harbor feels like home.