You might see Karen Story around Kirkland wearing one of many hats. Chances are you won’t find her standing still, though.
The longtime Kirkland resident is preparing to take a break soon and an extended road trip with her partner, Grant Erwin. She left her full-time job as a technical writer recently, but still fills a number of other roles in Kirkland, including chair of the Highlands Neighborhood Association, chair of the Kirkland Summer Concert Series Committee, and steward for through the Green Kirkland Partnership. Oh, and she also sings in a six-piece bluegrass and swing band called Back Burner.
Though Story has been “taking the summer off” from working, she acknowledges that she likes to keep busy.
“If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” she says. “I don’t watch T.V. and I’m just going all the time.”
One of Story’s most prominent roles throughout the summer is that of chair of the summer Kirkland Concert Series committee, which will hold its final concert this week.
Essentially, Story says, “I handle the logistics.” The series was formerly put on by the city, but with budget cuts a couple years ago, city staff no longer had the time to do the fundraising and organizing it requires.
Story didn’t want to see the series go away, so she stepped up with other volunteers to keep it alive. It is now supported by the non-profit Kirkland Downtown Association and has hit its stride again after the transition year last year, Story says.
“This is the 34th year of the series and the second year of volunteers doing it,” she says. Story helped engage other volunteers and the group has included local students in a digital design class to create the posters, flyers, and banners for the series, which has included a weekly children’s concert and an evening all-ages performance.
Story says she loves the concert series in part because she loves downtown Kirkland, where the avid walker likes to walk from her Highlands neighborhood home.
“I love being near the lake, and with the downtown on the lake. I’ve always loved Kirkland, even as a teenager,” living in Newport Hills, she says. Story did leave the area for a while, doing “this and that,” including a stint in the Peace Corps in West Africa, but says that after seeing a lot of the world—including Timbuktu—she discovered that she really enjoys living in Washington State. She’s lived in Kirkland now for 24 years, the last 12 of it in the Highlands neighborhood.
In that neighborhood, Story serves as chair of the Highlands Neighborhood Association, writing the association’s annual grant for city neighborhood funds, hosting meetings four times a year and maintaining the web site and email list with about 500 people along with the neighborhood association board.
“We keep people up to date on crime, and what’s happening,” she says, adding that she likes how the association brings the community together. If there’s a lost pet in the area, for example, within a short time the owner can generally be found.
Part of wrapping things up this year before embarking on her road-trip adventure is the upcoming neighborhood picnic at Crestwood Park on Saturday, Aug. 27, which Highlands does in conjunction with the Norkirk Neighborhood Association, with which it shares and elementary school.
For about three years, Story has also served as a steward for Cotton Hill Park, serving as a liaison between the city and volunteers who help keep urban forests from being destroyed by invasive species such as English Ivy and Himalayan blackberry. As a steward, she also can lead volunteer events, she says.
Story says she finds this work rewarding because she’s passionate about helping to create contiguous trails for people to enjoy.
Once Story returns from her trip, she says she’s hoping to try something new after working more than nine years for Micro Encoder Inc. in Totem Lake.
“I loved the company, but I needed a change,” she says. She’s considering freelance writing that will allow her to flex some creative muscle, perhaps travel writing.
It could work out well for the adventurous Story, who has hiked solo across the Cascades and traveled to faraway places such as Turkey, which she says is her favorite foreign destination.
So even if you don’t actually see Story around Kirkland for a few weeks after the summer concert series ends, rest assured that wherever she is, she still isn’t standing still, and she definitely will be back for more adventures at home.