The annual meeting of Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter provides an opportunity for officers to report to members, for members to give guidance to board members, and for the election of those to direct the organization going forward. All of these purposes were admirably achieved at the most recent annual meeting, held on April 24 at the Swedish Cultural Center.
No annual meeting would be complete without the attendance of the two most faithful members of FFSC – Aini and Fred Messmer, who not only drove the thirty miles in rush hour traffic to be with us, but who also participated very meaningfully. The Messmers contributed to a feeling of camaraderie and good will that prevailed during the meeting and in the social interaction around the refreshment table both before and after the event.
My own “state of the chapter” report, which I normally present only as a President’s Message in this newsletter, I actually gave at the meeting. I beg the indulgence of readers who were in attendance, for I would like to share some of that report with a wider audience.
I am happy to report that Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter is strong in many ways. To begin with, it has had excellent board leadership. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more dedicated and diligent group of volunteers than those on the FFSC board. Sadly, some of them will be stepping down. They include John Burbank, Marja Hall, and JoAnne Rudo. Each has made a significant and unique contribution to the work of our organization. At the same time, the election of Mikko Männistö as new president, Eric Shaad as vice president, Cathy Perry as recording secretary and Airi Suomalainen as a board member promises vigorous new leadership. The transition on July 1 will bring the “new blood” I had expressed hope for in last year’s annual meeting.
Another area of FFSC strength is in the activities of the organization. Our weekly language classes, our monthly “Films from Finland” series, our bi-monthly newsletter and our annual Independence Day Dinner Dance are successful continuing offerings to the local Finnish community and beyond. So, too, is our scholarship and grant program, which again this year attracted a number of qualified applicants. At the annual meeting, we were happy to announce the winners: Christopher Morris and Alexander Ahlgren, both students in the Finnish Studies Program at the University of Washington. Both these talented scholars will use their scholarships for study in Finland.
A third area in which FFSC has excelled is in building constructive and mutually-supportive relationships with other like-minded organizations. The two most recent examples are joint sponsorships of the Robert Goldstein book reading and signing with the Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Lodge in April and the Kimmo Laine illustrated talk on Finnish film with the Finnish Studies Program in May. Referring to the former, Leif Erickson social director Andrea Torland wrote, “What fun we had tasting Gard wines and feasting on yummy appetizers provided by many members and our friends from the Finlandia Foundation. . . JoAnne Rudo, who is a member of the Finlandia Foundation, in addition to our Leif Erickson Lodge, is credited with obtaining the musicians (Folk Voice Band), as well as our excellent program.” As for the Laine appearance, there were numerous expressions of satisfaction with the evening and with the cooperation that had made it possible. Especially welcome was the number of new faces.
Upcoming events will also open opportunities for working with other organizations. For example, plans are underway with the Swedish Cultural Center to arrange a performance by the Fenno-Swedish Pedavoces Student Choir in July and with Cornish College of the Arts to bring Marja Kaisla, Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year, to the concert stage in November. No member of the FFSC board has better exemplified this spirit of working with others than JoAnne Rudo, who has written, “Since my days are numbered as vice president, I would like the new board to continue reaching out to the general community as we have done with Leif Erickson, Swedish Club, Ethnic Heritage Council, Nordic Heritage Museum, etc. Friends are good!”
Yes, friends are good, whether they be our sister Finnish organizations, with whom we are preparing for the August 24 Finland Summer Festival, or our cousin Nordic organizations, with whom we look forward to many joint activities in the future. Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter, like many other ethnic organizations, is learning that reaching outward is wiser than turning inward. It is possible, and even desirable, to uphold the best of the Finnish tradition, while, at the same time, finding points of contact with others who value their own traditions. In this way, we can grow stronger together, assuring that the future state of our chapter will be secure.