Sally Pritchard has devoted her life to helping children and people on the margins of society as she tries to create a better community, which has earned her a YWCA Women of Achievement Award for community enhancement.
She will receive the award at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Davenport Grand Hotel, 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. Tickets are $125 and can be purchased by calling (509) 789-9312.
Pritchard’s first job out of college was at a privately owned nursing home. “I saw how the resources were used to support the owner and not being used to support the patients,” she said.
After that she devoted herself to working for nonprofit organizations because she wanted to work as a team with other people toward a shared goal, Pritchard said.
She soon got her first job as an advocate working to better the system as a paralegal working on nursing home issues. In a way her advocacy work was simply an extension of her childhood and the era in which she grew up.
“I grew up in the ’60s,” she said. “I’m a child of the ’60s. My parents were semi-active in civil rights issues.”
She did paralegal work for two years and met her future husband and fellow paralegal, Tom Tremaine, at a training session.
Her husband decided on a law career but Pritchard decided not to go that route. Tremaine has since worked as a tribal court judge, adjunct faculty at Gonzaga Law School and in legal services.
“I just thought we don’t need two lawyers in the family,” she said. “We’ve always worked for nonprofits. We’ve always been involved in careers focused on social justice, which is a great thing to share.”
Pritchard grew up in Liberty, Missouri, and was living in Massachusetts when she met and married Tremaine. The two decided they wanted to live in a smaller West Coast city that had a law school and moved to Spokane sight unseen in the early 1980s. “We just fell in love with Spokane,” she said. “We both found opportunities that were great for us.”
She worked as a paralegal at Spokane Legal Services, where she eventually advanced to deputy director. The organization became Columbia Legal Services before she left after working there for nearly 14 years. She then took a job with the Children’s Alliance, where she worked on equity issues.
She began working at the Spokane County United Way in 2003. She was the director of the Success by Six program, which focused on the importance of early learning and creating access to good child care.
“That’s where I got really into systems,” she said. “We were very involved in statewide advocacy.”
Along the way she and her husband had four children. Pritchard, 65, said she likes to travel, hike and visit National Monuments. She’s developed the habit of picking up rocks at places she visits. She displays them on her desk, each neatly labeled.
“I don’t know anything about rocks,” she said. “I like them because they’re beautiful. When I’m sitting here it reminds me of the places I’ve been and the people I was with. They’re almost like photographs to me.”
She said her work as a non-lawyer in the legal field gave her a good foundation that helped her later work. “You get this front-row view of what systems work and don’t work,” she said. “It was a great education in poverty and our societal response to poverty.
“I think we have many, many holes in our safety net system. We have an attitude on who deserves help and who doesn’t deserve help and we use that to create barriers.”
Pritchard is now the United Way’s vice president of community services, where she directs how the organization invests resources in the community and works with nonprofits to increase their capacity and program development. “It’s really fun and interesting work,” she said.
Since her arrival, United Way has reshaped the way it works in the community, she said. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done here at United Way,” she said. “We have a much greater focus now. When we all come together we can stare down some of the problems the community has and work together to solve them. If we can turn the tide on those, we can make Spokane a better community for everybody.”
Her work has taught her that equity is important and that every person is important, she said.
“We cannot leave anybody behind,” she said.