My Father-In-Law, John Vanderwerf, is one of my favorite people. He is a shining example of a good person. He was honored on Wednesday for 35 years of service to the Children's Home Society of Washington.
But that is starting at the end of this (but not his) story. John grew up in the tiny village of Scapoose about 40 minutes outside of Portland. His father was an immigrant from the Netherlands and his mother from Czechleslovakia. They lived next door to the Catholic Church (and graveyard where he spent one summer digging graves). His ambition when he was young was to become a priest. Since he is my Father-In-Law, I am very grateful that he didn't follow through with that plan! He attended high school and college at Mount Angel Seminary. He met Judy Pitman, his future wife, just before graduation with a degree in Philosophy. If you'd heard John tell his carrot joke as many times as I have, you may be surprised to find he has a degree in Philosophy. John then went to Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.
After returning from Vietnam and getting married to Judy, John went back to school to get two more undergrad degrees and a masters in Social Work. That led to his job at Children's Home Society. He spent 14 years working in residential treatment. These are boys that quite often have been to several foster homes, quite often have emotional problems and receive 24 hour care as Children's Home works change their lives for the better. After that, he and Judy teamed up to create the Parent Development Program. They worked at changing, improving and motivating parents to create a better home life for their children. For the last several years, John has been managing many different programs (including five at once at one point) including the North Seattle Family Center, the Meadowbrook Family Center and many other programs.
John has also started travelling around the country to audit nonprofits for their compliance to rules and standards that allow them to be certified by the Council on Accredidation (COA). This has led to his latest job with Children's Home, which is making sure that CHS is living up to those standards.
In addition to the amazing work that he has done and changing the lives of people that he has encountered professionally, he is also a fantastic father, grandfather, and husband. He is a caring, generours, funny, dedicated man that has an inate integrity that we can all aspire to.