Windermere Professional Partners Windermere Real Estate
Gig Harbor North

Dona & Joe

Best of both worlds

#meetthe
neighbors253

Meet the Neighbors Episode 11: Dona & Joe - The Best of Both Worlds

Four years ago Dona, Joe, and their dog Henry moved to Gig Harbor from Michigan. Dona moved here to become to President of the Pierce County United Way and Joe to continue his career as a writer of books and short stories.

Joe’s secret to meeting the neighbors? Get a dog. “My real way of meeting people is this guy down here, who's taking a nap, because I walk him once or twice a day,” says Joe. “Over time I have met just about everybody in the neighborhood because they all love Henry.”

Dona drives over the bridge in Tacoma to work at Pierce County United Way. Their work is focussed on lifting households in Pierce County out of poverty. “I always think of us as the great inviter,” says Dona. “We invite people around the table to say how do we tackle poverty... in this county, even here in Gig Harbor, there are people struggling every single day… My wish list is to see how I can and how United Way can be more connected to Gig Harbor.”

At the end of the day she comes back to Joe, Henry, and their home in Gig Harbor. “I spend most of my time over on the other side of the bridge,” says Dona. “When it's time to come home, I feel like I can separate. I feel like I can leave everything over on the other side of the bridge, and I'm home. And days like this, coming back over the bridge, it's like you're going on vacation. It's just so beautiful. When I'm home, I don't feel like I'm always on. That's one reason for me being over here in Gig Harbor is nice.”

Now that a few years have passed, Joe and Dona are feeling connected to their neighborhood, “We've got a couple of people who started a social committee we have a book club, and all of this has happened in the last year. That's made it really fun, because I always wanted to feel a part of a community.”

What happens when you meet your neighbors? How can we increase the feeling of connection between members of our community and their neighbors? Over the past few months we here at Windermere Professional Partners have set out to answer those questions. Based on recommendations from our REALTORS® we set out with a camera crew to speak to our neighbors from the heart about what it means to be a neighbor, to live life fully, and to connect with our community.

Dona and Joe were our very first filming day! Check out the Behind the Scenes here!

Produced by Gabriel Ng

-I'm Donna Ponepinto, and I live in Gig Harbor, Washington.

-I'm Joe Ponepinto, and I live in Gig Harbor, Washington.

-And this is Henry Ponepinto, and he lives

-And he sleeps

- In Gig Harbor, Washington

- Born in California, father in the military, he was in the Marine Corps and so I moved around a lot. I consider myself from wherever I lay my head at night, that's kind of where I'm from.

-I'm a New Yorka. I was born in the Bronx, and when I ran away from home when I was 19 to join the military I wound up in Long Beach California, where I stayed for 28 years, and that's were Donna and I met. She was working at United Way in Orange County, and she got an offer to be Vice President in Detroit, and that meant moving across the county, and selling my business and we decided to do it. That's when I decided to pursue what I had always wanted to do, was creative writing, so I've been writing ever since and have a couple of books out a bunch of short stories. The one that just came out in March, which was about a month ago is a science fiction satire it's kind of a hybrid mashup thingy. Being in politics you meet a lot of interesting people, so I basically just exaggerated their characteristics and wrote a story around it, and that's where the satire comes in because you're talking politics you almost have to satirize.

-I've read a lot of his short stories. Sometimes when I'm reading him I'll look at him and I'll go what were you thinking, who are you? You've got quite an active imagination. Writers. There's wonderful people

- Then why are you laughing? We're just a little outside the mainstream, let's put it that way. We think about things in a different way, which answers the question that you had back at the beginning of the interview, who are you? How can you write these things? Because we look at things in a different way.

-That's true.

-We ask, what if. We look at things that people accept and we say okay, but what if it was like that, or what if it was a little different. Four and a half years ago, Donna decided she was ready to look for a presidency and I had done my Master's work out here, and always wanted to come back, so I told her, let's look at the Northwest and see what happens, and sure enough, she managed to pull it off and here we are, for the last four years.

-When I first got here, I actually was living over on the Tacoma side, but didn't have a real good chance to look at a lot of the homes, and Joe was able to come out here a couple of times. I really wanted to be a part of a community, and I feel like it's getting that way, we've got a couple of people who started a social committee we have a book club, and all of this has happened in the last year. That's made it really fun, because I always wanted to feel a part of a community. You don't know someone's story, and it's really important for us at United Way is to be able to tell those stories, because we have these misperceptions of what it means to be poor. What does that look like and it looks like the folks making our coffee at the coffee shop the teachers that are taking care of our kids, in daycare it takes on college students just getting out of college and also too I think what I've enjoyed the most is that, it's really about making sure that we're in touch with the community. So this isn't about fixing a problem, this is really about how do you have people that are in poverty be a part of their own success. I'm excited about the work that we're doing, it's energizing work it keeps me up at night, it is definitely, the community has embraced what we are doing and that actually is going to make the job of trying to turn things around, maybe not easy, but at least we know that people are walking with us. Most people think of us as that organization that you're giving money to, you're giving to your favorite charity and we're gonna get it back out to your favorite charity we're gonna get that money back out into the community. We are really so much more, our whole mission is about how do you bring people together to tackle the issues that communities care about, those critical issues. And so we're a convener, we're a catalyst, we're a funder, I always think of us as the great inviter. We invite people around the table to say how do we tackle poverty? Our focus here in Pierce County is around lifting lifting households out of poverty, lifting 15,000 households out of poverty by 2028. We know we can't do that alone so we know we need to have public, private, non-profit sectors come together to say what is our role in trying to address these issues, because in this county, even here in Gig Harbor, there are people struggling every single day. They're working two and three jobs and still can't make ends meet. It's not just in downtown Tacoma on the hilltop, it is spread throughout this county. We need to be able to do something that's going to make it a little bit easier for those families that are struggling to become more self-sufficient. And I believe, and United Way believes that we can do that. So that's kind of what we're about, and we've got, we're on this ten-year trajectory, we may not solve it, but I am definitely determined to move the needle. I spend most of my time over on the other side of the bridge. When it's time to come home, I feel like I can separate. I feel like I can leave everything over on the other side of the bridge, and I'm home. And days like this, coming back over the bridge, it's like you're going on vacation. It's just so beautiful. When I'm home, I don't feel like I'm always on. That's one reason for me being over here in Gig Harbor is nice.

- I really like the downtown area, it's very water-themed,

-Yeah, I like that too.

-and I don't want to say old, but it has that character to it. It's a great place to go to just walk around, get a bite to eat, get a cup of coffee,

- Glass of wine

- Yeah, glass of wine, yes of course and so we're pretty happy here. One thing I noticed, as soon as we moved out here, people do seem to be nicer, or more laid back, or however you want to put it.

-You know the summers here have been spectacular, haven't really cared much for the rain, but you get used to it. People really do come together if there's an issue, and that I really enjoyed. When you're in a larger community, that's a hard thing to do. Now I was able to do it in Detroit around certain issues, and I'm happy about the things a lot of the work that I did is still going on in Detroit, but here I really think that if we can continue to get people around the table, to talk and to get to action some things can happen.

- My real way of meeting people is this guy down here, who's taking a nap, because I walk him once or twice a day, and over time I have met just about everybody in the neighborhood because they all love Henry.

writer

-It's true.

-It's funny

-You know all the dogs' names

- I know all the dogs' names, I know most of the peoples' names and I can't walk down the street with him without somebody driving by and waving. And I'm looking in these cars, do I even know you? But they all wave, and I wave back. I could take him for a walk in Michigan, and never have to worry about waving to anybody.

-Thirty years with United Way is a great, it's been a great career. I think we're here.

-And this part of the country people who live here may not realize it but it's still kind of a really well-kept secret of just how nice it is to live here.

-Just continuing to be a part of the community to be a part of the bigger community but also too to continue to be engaged in this community. Our neighborhood as well I think is really important. My wish list is to see how I can and how United Way can be more connected to Gig Harbor.