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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Sunday, December 16, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Difference Makers 2018

They're all around us: difference makers who have accomplished much and are doing great things in their community.




The Spokesman-Review is publishing profiles of people who made a difference to our community during the past year. • Some of them took lofty ideas and turned them into concrete projects. Others acted out of selflessness in a desperate moment. All deserve to be recognized. • And yet there are so many more people who are changing the Inland Northwest for the better through their daily feats and long-running efforts. We hope you will share those stories with us.

2017 Difference Makers


Spokane has become a refugee resettlement destination under Mark Finney’s leadership of World Relief

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 2, 2018, 8:03 a.m.

Under Mark Finney’s leadership, World Relief has been more public, hosting celebrations and welcoming Spokane’s 10,000th refugee.


Developer Ron Wells uses passion, savvy to preserve Spokane’s heritage

In the past four decades, Ron Wells has saved dozens of buildings from the wrecking ball, and rehabilitated them for every purpose: living, dining, playing and working.


Ginger Ewing merges creativity and culture through art to better Spokane

If you’ve admired Ginelle Hustrulid’s soundwave, made from more than 1,200 paint samples located on First Avenue, thank Window Dressing.


In moments of high tension, SPD crisis negotiators offer a lifeline

Officer Chris Kirn was working patrol when the call came in: There’s a man on top of the Maple Street Bridge and he’s threatening to jump. It was about 9:15 …


Freeman High School teen Sam Strahan summoned courage when it mattered most

No one can say what motivated Sam Strahan to face the shooter, rather than flee into a classroom as bullets whizzed down the hallway. While the carnage still is hard …


At Gonzaga, Emma Moon guides student-athletes toward their highest potential

On any given day, 27-year-old Emma Moon is a counselor, confidante or cheerleader for more than 300 student-athletes. She’s paying it forward every day.


Doctor and priest Stan Malnar brought compassion to mothers and families from births to deaths

Starting in 1989, Stan Malnar ran the maternity clinic at Sacred Heart serving low-income women, worked at Hospice of Spokane helping families say goodbye to loved ones, and spent his …


‘I’m driven to make the world a better place’: Antony Chiang, president of Empire Health Foundation, uses bold thinking to drive social change

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 3, 2018, 9:28 a.m.

Under Antony Chiang’s leadership, Empire Health Foundation has developed a reputation for big-picture thinking. The foundation is tackling issues such as childhood obesity and access to health care.


Principal Lori Wyborney has reached outside the walls to change the culture within Rogers High School

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 22, 2017, 9:33 a.m.

The first semester had just ended last year and Rogers High School Principal Lori Wyborney was walking with a 20-year veteran teacher, who turned, looked back at still-new structure and …


Rob Curley: Holiday bell brings a front-line view of the caring and kindness in our community

You learn a lot about people when you stand outside on a cold day, ringing a bell in front of a red kettle.

2016 Difference Makers


Fallen Heroes honors service members killed in action since 9/11

The Fallen Heroes Project, which has about a dozen leading members, helped spearhead the installation of a 24-foot monument at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena last year. And since the …


Elson Floyd’s drive helped bring a medical school to Spokane

Spokane civic leaders had been working for years to expand medical education in the region by the time Elson Floyd was named president of Washington State University. The strategy at …


Spokane officer builds rapport with West Central residents, landlords

As she cruises through Spokane’s West Central neighborhood in her patrol car, Traci Ponto doesn’t wave at children. Instead, Ponto, the neighborhood’s police resource officer, smiles and flashes a peace …


Phil Tyler has helped build up Spokane NAACP after low point

Phil Tyler, the Spokane NAACP president, is finding ways to collaborate and find solutions to help people of color as racial tensions flare across the country.


Matt Layton brings a new focus for successful treatment of drug addicts

Dr. Matt Laytons is an early adopter of new and successful ideas to treat drug addicts.


High school student’s poignant speech on tolerance continues to resonate nearly one year later

When high school senior Ava Sharifi gave a speech about tolerance and acceptance, she struck a nerve. Thousands watched her impassioned talk to fellow Lewis and Clark students on YouTube …


John Padula summoned courage in the wake of a church shooting to foster hope and fellowship

John Padula was doing his best to hold it together and display courage in the face of an unthinkable act of violence. The man he considered a mentor, father figure …


On the field and off, Cooper Kupp brought out the best at EWU

Moments after a crushing last-second defeat that ended his storied Eastern Washington University college football career, Cooper Kupp kept his poise and perspective.


Rob McCann’s ambitious pledge to end homelessness is ringing true

Every time a bell rings – at least in the hallways at Catholic Charities – a homeless person gets a place to live. This year, that’s been 73 vigorous peals. …


Jessica Kovac changes lives through the gift of a meal

It may have been cold last Saturday, but that didn’t matter to 500 people who formed a line curling beneath the Interstate 90 bridge waiting for a prime rib dinner …