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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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.

2018 Difference Makers

Wharton has helped thousands as a nurse, chaplain, Red Cross volunteer, counselor and more

Days after the Freeman High School shooting, Barb Wharton sat in a circle with about 15 teachers who had locked down their classrooms that day to keep the gunman out.

Megan Hulsey helps spark entrepreneurs in Spokane

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 28, 2018

As entrepreneur program manager for StartUp Spokane, Megan Hulsey helps people turn their business ideas into reality.

Difference Makers: Taking art to the streets of Spokane

Karen Mobley isn’t that well known to the general public, even though she was a longtime city department head. Her work remains on display all over town, even if it …

Julie Farley brings beauty to those who need a confidence boost

As a former model and long-time owner of downtown Spokane’s The Makeup Studio, Julie Farley knows a thing or two about putting your best face forward. But it’s not just …

Lynn Everson provides safety and support through needle exchange program

For the past three decades, Lynn Everson has greeted society’s outcasts with a cookie, a clean needle and a welcome ear.

Sather Gowdy founded a nonprofit, Heal Spokane, despite busy schedule as Gonzaga law student

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 25, 2018

Gowdy didn’t think volunteering project would catch on. But in the past year, he’s won accolades for his work and spoken at dozens of local schools. He still tries to …

Partnership between school’s Mark Anderson, city’s Rick Romero led to landmark school and library bonds

It probably won’t be a bestseller, but Mark Anderson and Rick Romero just wrote the book on local intergovernmental cooperation.

Difference Makers: Chris DeForest helps property owners protect their legacy and their land

About 17,000 acres has been preserved as open spaces through the efforts of the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy – most of it under Chris DeForest’s leadership.

Difference Makers: Mead High School’s Sydney Lyman urges peers to serve their community

Dana Rowan wasn’t sure about sophomore Sydney Lyman’s pitch a few years ago to create a community service club at Mead High School. Then the teenager sent her a fully …

2017 Difference Makers

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

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 2, 2018

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

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

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 …

A&E >  Food

Difference Maker: Chad White wants to help Save the 509

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 30, 2020

What a difference four years makes. “When I opened Zona Blanca in 2016, I was on unemployment,” chef and restaurateur Chad White said Dec. 15 at the new location of his ceviche restaurant and oyster bar, which is set to open in mid-January in the downtown Holley-Mason Building after the recent COVID-19 shutdown delayed a December debut.
News >  Washington

Difference Maker: Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan is a ‘modern-day warrior’ who has coordinated wildfire, pandemic relief on reservations

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 31, 2020

The last time Margo Hill saw Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan, she was weaving a basket with her mother. Abrahamson-Swan was doing, in other words, what she has spent her entire adult life doing: pulling different elements together to make something durable and useful; drawing from a deep well of tradition to create something able to withstand the demands of the modern moment.