About Town: Whirlwind Volunteer Sue Contreras Doesn't Know Slow

Sue Contreras has been volunteering in Kirkland for almost 40 years and says it’s a great way to meet people and make a difference.


EVEN A broken ankle barely slowed Sue Contreras down. You might have seen her, cast and all, waving campaign signs downtown last fall.

“She’s the Energizer Bunny,” says her husband, Santos Contreras. “She has one speed – 110 mph.”

Why has Sue been volunteering for almost four decades for everything from political campaigns to cub scouts to Clean Sweep? “Because it makes a difference,” she exclaims. “There are so many neat and worthy causes out there.”

Then there’s the sense of satisfaction she gets when she sees the results, such as the by volunteers. “I love looking at those medians now,” she says.

Sue also believes volunteering is a great way to meet people. “I once heard someone say, ‘The Contreras’s know everyone in Kirkland. It’s because we volunteer. I think 90 percent of the people I know are through volunteering.”

When she was growing up, Sue’s family moved around a lot. During a stint in Seattle, they lived in Magnolia and she attended Holy Names Academy. She later got her teaching degree from Seattle University and taught third grade at for three years.

She and Santos, who served 12 years on the Kirkland City Council and is known to most as Sants, spent six years in Houston with Boeing before moving to Kirkland 37 years ago. They purchased a home abutting Taylor Sports Field Park in Houghton. “It was a perfect place to raise two little boys,” they both agreed.

Right away, Sue started pitching in with her kids' sporting, scouts, music and school activities. “I’ve volunteered since the boys started school,” she remembers. One year she won the PTSA Golden Acorn Award for her volunteer efforts.

Meanwhile, along came Moss Bay Days, a former Kirkland summer festival. “Santos and I decided that Moss Bays Days should have a run,” says Sue. The resulting 10K benefited the Boys and Girls Club, and the Contreras’s chaired it from 1978 to 1988.

Sue’s volunteer ventures cover a wide spectrum. “There are so many things that interest me,” she says.

She spent 10 years on the board of the , and is now on the Park Board. She volunteered with the Eastside Literacy Council (now ) and works with the Green Kirkland program at . She helps run at least one charitable auction a year.

She’s also passionate about keeping Kirkland beautiful. Besides turning out for the annual downtown event, she shows up nearly every week for the cleanup efforts.

On top of all that, Sue, who at 70 is still full of energy, has recently taken on two new tasks.

She and Santos are co-chairs of the kids events for Summerfest, the new music and art celebration that will be held on August 10 and 11.

SHE'S ALSO spearheading restoration of the historic downtown Ferry Clock, in tandem with the . “We’re going to put the clock back to its original configuration,” she promises.

“That’s the way Sue thinks,” says Santos. “The clock isn’t working? Fix the clock. She would tackle world hunger if she could find a way to do it.”

Speaking of finding a way, one of Sue’s favorite sayings is “Find a way to yes.” She believes that anything is possible, if you aren’t afraid to try. “If you think you can, you can do it,” she emphasizes.

Sue loves the variety that volunteering offers. “My plate is really full,” she says, “but if you ask me to do something new, that I haven’t done before, I’m there.”

Sue’s other passions include her 6- and 8-year old granddaughters, and gardening. “If I have a day that I can work in my yard for eight hours,” she says, “I’m in heaven. I grunge around. I get down and dirty.”

Sue and Santos both love to travel, and recently returned from a long-dreamed-of two weeks in the Carolinas. Ten years of trekking to a vacation home in Scottsdale resulted in a treasured collection of Southwest art.

As much as she loves to wander, Sue is always happy to come back to Kirkland. “This is home,” she says. “It’s my town. I can’t think of another place I would want to live.”

Sue is a tireless cheerleader for the joys of volunteering. “People who don’t volunteer are missing out on so much,” she believes.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, she wants to help.

“If anyone is new to Kirkland or has moved here and hasn’t met many people,” she says, “come see me!”

You can reach Sue Contreras at scon1965@hotmail.com.

G.G. Getz May 22, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Every community should be lucky enough to have a Sue Contreras. Wonder if we can clone her?
Matt McCauley May 22, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Sue is one of the most kind, helpful and community-oriented people I have known and Kirkland is amazingly lucky to have her! A big part of her gift is her amazing ability to inspire others, too, and to get people together to make good things happen for Kirkland. Sants calling her the 'Energizer Bunny' is spot on, lol!
Jeff Hoerth May 22, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Not sure cloning is possible. She'd have to sit still for 5 minutes!
Greg Johnston May 22, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Thanks G.G., Jeff and Matt. It says something about Sue that she really didn't want us to do this story. She'd rather focus attention on helping others than on herself. Kirkland is so darned lucky to have her.
Marilyn Hendrickson May 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM
What a wonderful lady Sue is! I haven't had the pleasure of meeting her, but hope to do so one day. Her generosity has probably touched more lives than she can begin to imagine. You go Sue!!


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