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Business Couple of the Year? Outlook is GrimmThe Chamber will honor the pair at a May 31 luncheon.
"For Fred and Willie Grimm, community involvement is just part of the deal.Fred, an island orthodontist, has put in stints on the park board, the school board, and the board of Bainbridge Performing Arts. Willie is the long-time manager of the Bargain Boutique.Volunteerism comes naturally. It's something we've always done, Fred Grimm said. It's part of the way our parents expected us to live.For that 30-year history of civic involvement, the Grimms have been named Business Couple of the Year by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce.They will be honored at a May 31 luncheon at Wing Point, and will be grand marshals of the Fourth of July Parade.The Chamber will also posthumously honor Don Nakata, former president of Town and Country Markets. Nakata died last October at age 66. Islanders who nominated the Grimms emphasized their activism.They have worked tirelessly to benefit the community for all of their 30 years on Bainbridge, wrote island realtor Bill Barrow in support of the Grimms' nomination.Kathy Hendrickson of Murden Cove wrote:They epitomize what this award represents - people who live here, have their business on the island, but give back to the island of themselves in many ways over a long period to time to make this a better place for all of us to live.The couple met in college in Butte, Mont., then married while Fred was in dental school at the University of Washington. After stints in the Navy and a dental residency in Oregon, the couple and their young family moved to Bainbridge Island in 1970.I was in dental school with Frank Kitamoto, Grimm said, and he encouraged me to come here. We took one look and decided this would be a great place to live.Despite the time pressures of building a dental practice and raising a family, the Grimms plunged into community activity.Willie started volunteering at the Bargain Boutique, a used-clothing store that benefits Children's Hospital in Seattle.When I started in 1973, the Bargain Boutique was in half of what is now Pegasus Coffee, she said. Back then, we were lucky to make $25 a day. Now it's $80,000 a year. We've raised over $1 million for the hospital.The hospital isn't the store's only beneficiary, Willie said. Hundreds of people consign clothes to the store - about half is consigned and half donated - and the consignors receive what is frequently much-needed money for their used clothes. Hundreds of people have a low-priced source of clothing.And being involved in the store is a wonderful way to get to know people in the community, she said. Park advocacyFred Grimm's principal interest was in providing recreational opportunities for island youngsters.Back then, the park district was basically something put together by the Rotary Club to build the pool, he said. I was looking for more YMCA-type activities, but when I approached the district, they had their slate full. So I ran for the park board.That was in 1971, at the beginning of what proved to be a critical period for the island's park system, because the Department of Defense was in the process of decommissioning several island military installations. The district has just barely acquired Strawberry Hill Park, which used to be a Nike missile site, Grimm said. Next was Eagledale Park - a former radar installation. Then finally came Battle Point Park, a surplus communications site.When Battle Point became available, it was first offered to the school district. Then the park district took it, he said. The next option was to sell it for housing.As incredible as it may seem today, Grimm said, a significant portion of the island favored the development option.The island had never faced purchasing a piece of land, he said, and a lot of folks said 'sell it for houses.' We passed a bond issue, but people don't realize what an effort that was.The initial development of Battle Point was a shoestring affair. The Army Corps of Engineers was persuaded to make park clearing and grading a training project for two summers, and the park commissioners built the track themselves.The high point of that endeavor, literally, came just before the old radio tower was removed, Grimm said.It was taller than any building in Seattle - 850 feet. I climbed to the platform on top about two days before it came down. It had a great view.After that came a ten-year stint on the school board - six years as president - and a term on the board of Bainbridge Performing Art. And in the meantime, Grimm was a member of Kiwanis and a youth sport coach in several sports.Willie was also active in the schools. She organized a parents' support group in the 1970s, and put together a resource bank of island professionals to offer career guidance to the students.The Grimms have four married children. One lives in Wenatchee, two are out of state, and son Andy is Bainbridge High School football and track coach.Although the island has grown from 7,500 people in 1970 to over 20,000 today, and has become more affluent, the Grimms believe the sense of community remains strong.There is a great deal of volunteerism, Fred said. People value community and are willing to go to meeting after meeting to fight for it. They are vocal and opinionated, but it has always been that way. "