At the Ballard Baptist Church on Monday night, a woman held a big blue sign reading, “We love Mark” as cars drove by, many honking their horns. They were showing support of a rally formed to protest the decision to transfer Boys & Girls Club director Mark Hendricks to the Federal Way club.
As people began to fill the church parking lot, kids handed out signs that read “Mark Deserves Respect,” and “Community is Key.” People showed up in droves with homemade signs; someone was even handing out pictures of Hendricks’ face. Petitions were being passed around, and the crowd was filled with dozens of kids.
The rally, organized by community members and former club employees, was more a tribute to Hendricks’ career with the Ballard club; organizers made it clear they wanted the rally to be filled with positive comments about his 25-year tenure at the club.
A number of former employees and community members spoke at the event, many highlighting the positive impact Hendricks has had on the club. Katrina Sigurdson (pictured above), who was a Ballard club employee for nine years, says the decision is really “touching home” for her.
Noelle Olmstead (above), also a former employee, spoke first at the rally. She said they’d welcome the proposed new director from Federal Way, Shelley Puariea, with open arms, but that isn’t the point. Olmstead said, “had this been a decision that she and Mark and their respective communities felt like they had a voice in,” the community would have felt differently about the transfer.
“Our rally is to stand together as a family in support of an incredible man who has taught us how to be great leaders,” Olmstead said. “Mark, you are loved beyond your wildest imagination, and that is because Mark has loved us so deeply. Mark, you’ve loved our children, our families our community. You’ve loved us. And so we stand by you today wherever you are. Most importantly, we stand up for you today.”
A handful of other community members chose to speak at the rally, including a teenager, J.T. (below) who has been an active member at the club since 3rd grade. He said he remembers his first day at the club, “I was really, really nervous, I didn’t know a lot of people there, but I remember Mark got down on his knees was level with me. To meet an adult that you never met before and to be able to relate to him,” he said, tearing up, “it meant a lot.”
Stephen Howey, one of the rally organizers and former employees of the club, offered the closing remarks at the rally. “It is so difficult when people make decisions that you don’t feel the respect,” Howey said. “And that’s where it hurts the most, and that’s why we’re out here today,” he said, swallowing back tears. “He deserves better than this, the kids deserve better than this, and this community deserves better than that.”
Hendricks, as of Monday night, is on administrative leave for not following a direct order to move to the Federal Way Club, but has not been terminated from the Boys & Girls Club. We’ll update with new information as this story unravels.