Chris Eck remembers.
She remembers that old farmhouse they lived in in the DC area, when her Dad was in the Army, and their Dalmatian, Patches.
She remembers moving to York, Pennsylvania, near Amish Country, when she was four, where her Dad helped start the state lottery. In the summertime she’d leave home at 8:30am to climb trees, play dolls, ride bikes, and go swimming. She and her friends lived for recess – the monkey bars, chasing boys, running from boys -- at Stony Brook Elementary, where she took up the French horn.
She remembers the juke box in the commons at North Hills Junior High, playing Tom Petty, Journey, and Blondie. She was the kid with braces and contacts – Vice President of her class -- and had traded in the French horn (too big) for the piano, started singing more, and loved time with the Girl Scouts and anytime outside camping and playing.
She remembers the move to Olympia, Washington, when she was 15, the culture shock at Capitol High School. So many fir trees. Everyone in flannel. She had to push past her tendency towards shyness, branch out to make new friends. She found them in music and drama, in productions like Romeo & Juliet.
Those are some of the many good memories. Before her Mom began drinking more. Before her parents split up. “My Mom’s ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score would’ve been really high. There’s so much that she went through at such an early age. Never really got past her trauma. She never really had the infrastructure and resiliency. She was damaged at an early age, and never got past that.”
After high school, Chris moved up to Seattle, to the University of Washington. She had an interest in Poly Sci and History, and was always working jobs to make it: the Catalogue Counter at JC Penney’s, the movie theater, Toys Galore at the Northgate Mall. After graduation, she rose through the ranks at Virginia Mason, then later had a successful run in operations management for Premera Blue Cross. Baby Madeleine made Chris a Mom in 1997, followed by Zola in 2008. Along the way, she made a decision: “I leaped into a new career in the nonprofit sector after deciding that was the direction my life needed to head so that I’d have the honor and joy of serving others. I really want to use all of my skills and experience doing work that is meaningful.”
From DC to York, Olympia to Seattle, and now in Lynnwood, Chris’ Dad Peter was a huge a source of encouragement: “I always knew he was proud of me. He was always there to support me. And that’s what I’ve seen, at Cocoon House and now at VOA: sometimes it just takes one person who believes in you.”
“We’re all drawn to this work for a reason. It’s so fundamental: we have to support people with their basic needs and to feed our community. And, I love it here at VOA. I love the mentoring and coaching pieces, and I also get to be a part of creating new programs to meet the community need.”
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Chris Eck serves as Deputy Chief Operating Officer for VOA. After a successful career at Premera, Chris transitioned to the nonprofit world a few years ago. Chris’ story is featured in our #IamVOA campaign.