By Gayle Mayor
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Live in the present and leave this life with no regrets.” That is the personal motto of Northwest Asian Weekly Top Contributor honoree Charlene Grinolds.
Grinolds’s parents were Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans). They, along with her grandparents, were sent to internment camps during World War II. “They worked hard to provide for our family,” Grinolds said.
Her father passed away when she was 5 years old, and both her grandmothers arranged for her mother to marry her father’s younger brother.
“This is reminiscent of the old Japanese culture of arranged marriages,” Grinolds explained.
Grinolds was born and raised in Seattle, and she attended Van Asselt Elementary School, Asa Mercer Junior High School, and Cleveland High School. Grinolds said,
“Because I grew up on Beacon Hill and went to schools that were well integrated, I didn’t feel unusual or different.”
Being a Buddhist all her life, Grinolds believes that Buddhism teaches gratitude, compassion, interdependence, and impermanence. She recounts one experience when one of her employees asked her about Buddhism.
“After I gave her a brief description, she said to me, ‘Oh, that’s what you do here at work,’” Grinolds said. “It really opened my eyes as I didn’t really think much about whether I was living a Buddhist life or not.” She added, “Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see who you are as a person.”
In her teenage years, Grinolds and her brother were active participants in Seattle’s Imperials Drum Corps, an off-shoot of the predominantly Japanese Seattle Buddhist Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. Along with other parents, Grinolds’ parents worked hard to raise funds for uniforms, instruments, and competition expenses. Grinolds said, “They would drive us to parades and local competitions, including chaperoning us when we had overnight trips.” She added, “I learned about selfless giving from my parents. They would do whatever was needed so we could become successful.”
She believes that her mother has shaped her into the person that she is today. She describes her mother as a very giving person who would do whatever it took to help others.
“My mother led by example. When good fortune fell upon her, she would always share with others.” Grinolds added, “I believe this is why I try to mentor others, especially the youth and folks who have fallen on hard times.”
Grinolds currently sits on the board of the Executive Development Institute (EDI), White River Buddhist Temple, and Green River College Foundation, and is the current president of the Kiwanis Club of Kent AM. She is also a mentor for Communities in Schools, a program that partners community leaders with students who live under the poverty line. On top of these, Grinolds prepares meals for Willows Place in Kent and at the VA’s Fisher House in Auburn and Seattle.
“Helping underrepresented groups and young people have always been a passion of mine,” Grinolds said.
Her involvement with community work was jump-started after a training session in 1996 with EDI, a nonprofit that provides exclusive Asian and Latino leadership development programs. EDI has taught her the philosophy of servant leadership and the importance of doing volunteer work.
“I try to find meaningful ways to help the community. It’s not just about giving money—I believe that my time in the community is as valuable, if not more valuable, than just giving money,” Grinolds said.
Grinolds mentors underprivileged students at an alternative high school in Kent, and she understands the importance of helping people move forward.
“These students need an adult other than their parent whom they can talk to without being judged.” She added, “The youth are our future and we need to help them become good leaders and stewards … by helping the underrepresented and the youth, our world will become a better place for all.”
Grinolds pairs her love of cooking with volunteer work.
“I love to cook, so anytime there is an opportunity to feed the homeless, or have friends and family over for a meal, makes me happy.”
She is not sure what her life would be like if she didn’t spend her time volunteering. Grinolds said, “I am a Type A personality and like to be busy.”
As a retired vice president at KeyBank, Grinolds enjoys going to her alma mater’s Huskies games and tailgating during football season, traveling, playing golf, and going to the casino.
Where does she see herself five years from now?
“I suspect I will still be doing community service of some sort as long as I have my health, or maybe on a white, sandy beach somewhere.”
Grinolds will be honored at the Top Contributors awards dinner on Dec. 6 at China Harbor Restaurant in Seattle, from 6–9 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to topcontributors2019.bpt.me.
Gayle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.