If there is one central theme running through Lisa Moore’s life, it is this: If you see something you think is wrong, do something.
And that is a perfect fit for her new job as executive director of the Queen Anne Helpline, whose mission for the last 30 years has been to support neighbors in need.
Born in 1957 in Boulder, Colo., Moore lived there a year before her family moved to Salt Lake City, where her father took up duties as a professor in the English department at the University of Utah.
Her father had been raised on a farm and left home when he was young to join the Navy, where he saw a good deal of the world. Her mother grew up in a working-class Jewish family in Chicago, where she had experienced discrimination, as had her parents, who were activist Russian Jews.
So it was from both parents that Moore and her brother and sister learned firsthand the importance of being involved in the political process and taking a stand on issues.
“We grew up with a strong sense that we are citizens of the world and have a responsibility as citizens for voting and speaking up,” she said.
While in junior high school, Moore attended a Martin Luther King Jr. march in Salt Lake City during a school day. Although her mother had written a note, Moore still incurred the displeasure of her conservative teacher.
When she was 15, Moore volunteered for Sen. George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign.
For Moore, the desire to make a better world focused on working with students with special-education needs, which she began after high school. She entered the University of Utah, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and special education, graduating cum laude in 1980.
Because both her parents were college graduates, not common for their generation, Moore said there was an education expectation in her family.
She went on to get a master’s degree in school psychology in 1985 and a doctorate degree in special education in 1988 at the University of Oregon.
She met her future husband at the University of Utah, and they were married in 1983. After so much time spent in schooling, they decided to travel for a year, from 1988 to ‘89, in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
“Salt Lake City is a bubble, so traveling the world and living with other people was a very eye-opening experience,” she said.
As they traveled, they did not stay in hotels but lived “among the people” of the lands they visited.
Moore moved to the Seattle area in 1989, living, at first, in a cohousing community in Snohomish County and moving to Queen Anne in 1997. She began work at Microsoft in 1990, back when there were “about 5,000 people on the Redmond campus,” she said.
While there, she helped manage a team that designed and created software for children, including the award-winning “My Personal Tutor.” She also was a user-education manager of a team that created on-line help systems for Microsoft Office products.
But, by then, Moore had two young children and, wanting to spend more time with them, she left Microsoft in December 1997 and began volunteering at Coe Elementary School, where she held a number of different positions with the PTA.
“That became a community for me,” she said.
It was at Coe that, with her formidable background in education and work with designing curriculum to meet the needs of a range of children, she discovered Queen Anne and Magnolia neighborhood schools were competing rather than cooperating with one another. She decided to create an organization that would build cooperation between schools, where resources and programs would be shared and where the professionals could learn from one another.
“If we all work together,” she said, “we can do more than what we would do individually.”
With no background on how to create a nonprofit, she learned the “great thing about Seattle is that it has a lot of free and low-cost resources,” including groups of lawyers who can “walk you through” the process.
The upshot was the creation of Successful Schools in Action (SSIA), which she founded in 2001. With seven principals on the board (all from Queen Anne and Magnolia), in addition to teachers and community leaders, SSIA identified needs across all schools, created programs to fix them and provided academic support for struggling and underserved students, as well as enrichment courses for all students that included art, debate (at fourth- and fifth-grade levels) and summer school, she said.
Money for the programs came from individual donors, neighborhood businesses and grants from private foundations and public-grant makers that she wrote and administered. Moore continued as executive director for 10 years, leaving in 2011.
Lots to work on
Moore’s job as executive director of the Helpline begins this week.
“I feel very honored to do this,” she said. “Helpline has been around 30 years and has an engaged, active board that has been completely supportive, and a dedicated group of volunteers, as well as very broad support in the community.”
High on the list of first things to work on is Helpline’s annual fund-raiser gala Oct. 27 at Seattle Center. This year’s event features the music of jazz group Pearl Django and local jazz singer and teacher Greta Matassa.
“Having spent 10 years running a nonprofit on Queen Anne, I know what a caring and compassionate community Queen Anne is,” Moore said.
“I also know too well that there are many families and individuals who are struggling and for whom Helpline is providing invaluable services. I am very much looking forward to the gala as an opportunity for everyone to celebrate 30 years of Helpline success and to show how much Queen Anne cares,” she added.
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