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Celebrating Community and Connection

Kirkland Chamber of Commerce CEO, Samantha St. John, Shares Her “Best of 2022”

The best thing in Kirkland for 2022 is being together again. Fully present with each other and celebrating that sense of community connection. Events and festivals came back, bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of people. Workplaces came back together, allowing for in-person collaboration. Schools reopened for in-person instruction, bringing the beautiful sounds of children playing at recess and expressing their joy for life and living in the present moment.

2022 is the comeback year for Kirkland. As the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, our community has had to overcome a lot. I’m so proud of how our business community has shown incredible resilience and tenacity over the past couple of years, particularly in the rebirth of togetherness that we have seen this year. Not all businesses were able to survive, but those who did, are coming out the other side and breathing a sigh of relief. The Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and Kirkland Chamber Foundation also celebrated coming back together in some big ways: hosting a large annual gala, expanding our diversity, equity, and inclusion programming, and starting our much-anticipated scholarship fund.

Our theme for the diversity, equity, and inclusion program for 2022 is “workforce re-entry.” Many individuals who have been incarcerated at some point in their lives find difficulty in coming out of prison into a world of hope for a steady career due to their record of imprisonment. Giving people second chances, with hope for a stable future, helps prevent recidivism, brings more talent into the workforce, and provides a chance at a better life for those who have already paid for mistakes in their past. We were proud to host a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium featuring a panel of subject matter experts to shine a light on the complexities of issues involved in the criminal justice system, and the barriers faced by those who wish to come away from the experience with the ability to find a legal stream of income and employers who will give them a chance.

As a follow-up to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium, a scholarship fund was put into place in partnership with Lake Washington Institute of Technology to allow two formerly justice-involved individuals to enter into a program at the school to lead to a viable career. We are so proud of this work, putting our programs into action, and seeing the reward of changing lives. For us, this is the best thing in 2022, living our mission and seeing the results.

Moving into 2023, my hope is that we will see new businesses come to Kirkland, bringing their hopes, dreams, and ideas into our city. Our growing community needs more opportunities to shop locally, keeping our dollars here. Residents of Kirkland are loyal to our local businesses, which has been vital to their success throughout the pandemic. Local, family-owned businesses employ the families and friends of those in need which in turn helps give them the resources to take on their personal challenges. They create a local tax base that makes it possible for the arts and schools to thrive. They are also often called upon to lend support local causes in the form of monetary gifts, in-kind donations, and volunteer time. Having so many of these locally owned businesses in Kirkland makes us special and helps to create that sense of pride in the community.

My challenge to the community for 2023 is to commit to more local shopping. We vote with our dollars for the community that we want around us. Let’s vote to keep Kirkland charming, vibrant, supportive, and prosperous.

  • Kirkland Chamber of Commerce CEO, Samantha St. John