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They’re more movers than shakers

Debbie and Steve Hill will be feted as Bainbridge Business Couple of the Year.

Steve and Debbie Hill have hauled box springs and bookshelves and dusty recliners.

As owners of a moving company, it’s all part of the job.

But piling in a truck filled with donated supplies and rumbling across thousands of miles of pavement to aid hurricane-stricken residents along the Gulf Coast is the type of move that far exceeds your typical huff-and-puff labor.

Still, that’s just what the Hills have done, multiple times, and at their own expense.

“Steve has been down there four times,” said Debbie Hill. “People see the devastation in pictures and on television, but you can’t get an idea of what it’s really like until you see it in person. We’ve been blessed to be successful, and we want to give back.”

The Hills’ business success, Hill Moving Service – which is celebrating its 20th anniversary – along with a continued commitment to charity, volunteerism and the island community, led the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce to select them as its 2006 Business Couple of the Year. They will be honored May 17 at Wing Point Golf & Country Club.

The Hills were selected by the Chamber’s board of directors from a group of five nominees.

Executive Director Kevin Dwyer said it was an easy choice.

“We had a number of fine nominees, but the Hills have gone above and beyond to help out,” he said. “And they’ve done it without a lot of fanfare. They exemplify what it means to be a successful business.”

The Hills started their company modestly in 1986, with one truck and a tiny shop where the Village Shopping Center now stands. Steve and Mike, the Hills’ son, did much of the grunt work. Meanwhile, Debbie, who was a bus driver at the time, gave estimates and raced around in search of packing materials between bus runs.

“No job was too small,” Debbie said. “We just expected to be a little mom-and- pop operation.”

But slowly things grew.

They moved offices several times as business picked up. Finally, in 1991, they decided, regretfully, to move off the island.

“We realized there was no good place for us to go,” she said. “Everything available was too expensive and the wait for permits was one to two years.”

They found a spot in Poulsbo and set up shop. Before long they were acquiring more warehouses and more trucks and more employees. Today, they have 38,000 square feet and 35 employees, considerably more than the 600 square feet and a few fastidious family members they started out with.

But success hasn’t slowed the Hills, who believe the hours away from the boxes and moving vans weren’t made for lounging around.

They’ve long been involved with the Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction, donating their time and trucks to the efforts each year. It’s just one of the many ways they stay in touch with the island.

The Hills are also involved with Habitat for Humanity and Mercy Corps, as well as several other charities, and are founding members of Grace Episcopal Church.

Their hurricane relief efforts are just the latest in a long list of good deeds that have endeared them to the community they lived and worked in for 16 years.

Hill said she and Steve plan to eventually turn the keys to the family business over to Mike and Kay, one of their two daughters.

And like a crafty mover nestling a porcelain plate between a pair of plush pillows, the Hills are plotting a future where volunteerism and leisure can comfortably coexist.

“We talked about spending more time traveling,” she said. “But we thought about how bored we’d be if we totally stopped working. We’ll probably travel to places where we can help others.”

For now, they’re enjoying work, community and, especially, family.

“We have the best kids and grandkids in the world,” she said. “We’ve been blessed.”

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