Commentary | IRIS Success Summit celebrates many area community successes

By Dave Burgess
Editor, Quincy Valley Post Register

Quincy was the center of attention Nov. 15 for at least 140 energized, community-minded people from around the region as they gathered at Quincy Junior High School for the 7th annual NCW Community Success Summit.

Billed as a celebration of success in North Central Washington, the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship’s annual bash is an engine of ideas and motivation. The event is held in a different community each year. (Last year it was held in Waterville.) This time Quincy was the host and the focus of many of the stories of successful collaborative efforts that IRIS has collected and shared. This year, IRIS identified three aspects of healthy communities to focus on: maintaining diverse, healthy ecosystems; meeting basic human needs; and bridging cultural and political divides.

Numerous Quincy organizations and Quincy businesses were sponsors or partners for the event, and many local leaders attended. A few folks were slated to come from Western Washington, and a large contingent came from Wenatchee.

Rufus Woods, publisher of The Wenatchee World, was at the Summit — he has attended all of them and has heard a lot of amazing stories of people who have found ways to succeed.

“This is just a great expression of everything happening here,” he said before the Quincy event got underway. “The more we can share” these success stories, “the more we can connect people to communities.”

Nancy Warner, the IRIS Summit coordinator, opened the meeting by saying the goal of the annual event is the same each time, for attendees to connect with new people and discover success stories that can be shared and replicated in more communities.

“We want you to connect to at least three stories today,” Warner said. “There is so much going on in our region.”

Throughout the day, attendees were exposed to success stories printed out and distributed as well as displayed around the Quincy Junior High gym. Attendees discussed each story at their tables, and then lessons learned were shared with the entire group.

A widely varied and interesting mix of locals were called upon to speak to the group.

The first speaker was Harriet Weber, the first of three Quincy speakers with success stories to share. She was introduced as a farmer, educator, successful businesswoman, and the “heart and soul” of the local historical society. Her theme was Growing One Community, and she focused on the history of Quincy.

The scenery here can be an acquired taste, she said, but there is a soul, a strength of character in Quincy.

“We have a history of people who are willing to work hard for what they believe in and help create the future that they want,” Weber said. “Today, I encourage us to roll up our sleeves and all walk into a brighter future.”

Next was Mary Jo Ybarra-Vega, of Quincy Community Health Center, who had a theme of Creating Careers in Service. Her success story was based on the Promotores de Salud, or community health workers, a program she helped start up in the region to improve health care, notably for migrant workers. The Promotores model helps people integrate in countries like the U.S., she said, and it provides a motivating career path for young people interested in helping in the community.

“We brought this model here to Quincy and have been very successful,” she said.

Manuel Mendoza, an orchardist with 60 acres in the Quincy area, was the third Quincy speaker and had a theme of A Good Harvest. Mendoza immigrated to the U.S. and came to Wenatchee in 1979, eventually building a successful orchard business and family. He expressed deep thanks for this country. On top of those successes, he noted how he was able, with help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to convert from ditch irrigation in his orchard to sprinklers, saving him water.

“With sprinklers you use all the water,” he said.

He said his success with sprinklers can be replicated by other orchardists, and he can help them learn how.

The next batch of speakers were from Pateros, Ephrata and Wenatchee, and each had a fascinating and powerful success story to share: in community fire response, farming and small business respectively.

There were lots of helpers at Tuesday’s event. Junior high students were very effective greeters. Members of FFA made flower arrangements for the tables, and each table was supplied with a facilitator, many of whom were also students.

An interpreter worked throughout the event, translating speeches into Spanish, as part of an effort to make the Quincy event the first bilingual IRIS Summit, a fact that drew a major round of applause near the conclusion of the conference.


Dave Burgess may be reached at



The nonprofit Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship describes itself as “fostering sustainable rural communities in North Central Washington by gathering and sharing success stories that enhance a sense of belonging, inspire action, and build community. We believe that thriving communities in a healthy environment create success.”