People making a difference: Anne Stadler

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Anne Stadler writes a memo at Third Place Commons in
Lake Forest Park on January 22. Along with her husband
and several local business owners, Stadler founded
 the Commons in 1998. (Photo by Jordan Duncan)

Lake Forest Park’s Anne Stadler volunteers and reaps benefits, such as Third Place Commons 

By Jordan Duncan

When one walks into Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park, an array of pleasant smells from Honey Bear Bakery, the eye-catching collection at Third Place Books, and the sounds of dozens of people enjoying the amenities are the greeters.

The large community meeting space is the fruit of Anne Stadler’s labor. She helped found the Commons in 1998 alongside her husband, Dave Stadler, and several local business owners.

A Lake Forest Park resident since 1959, Stadler has been involved in some of the biggest and most important volunteer works in the area and helped make the community what it is today.

“In the first place, I feel it’s the foundation of a democratic society to volunteer,” Stadler said.
“So I get out of it both the pleasure and the capacity to help my community or any community – learn who it is, what it is and to grow to benefit the welfare of everybody.”

Along with her husband Dave, Third Place Books owner Ron Sher, and several other community group leaders, Stadler took a large section of a dilapidated strip mall that had been around since the 1960s and turned it into Friends of Third Place Commons (which eventually became Third Place Commons).

This fall will mark 20 years since the opening of the Commons.

Stadler said that more than 900 volunteer and community group events take place at the Commons every year, such as the popular annual community breakfast.

“Every city, every town, every neighborhood ought to have a place like this, and we didn’t have such a place at all,” Stadler said.

Stadler also serves as a board member with Sourcing the Way, an organization that utilizes a unique practice of meditation and listening. They emphasize the idea of a “field of consciousness,” which is essentially the collective minds of a group of people.

“What we learn to do is access that field and listen for guidance, if you will, about anything that we’re engaged in,” Stadler said. “We’re not just offering the ego-level of our consciousness, but we’re listening for what the greater field wants – the consensus level.”

With Sourcing the Way, Stadler works with leaders to try and come up with outside-the-box methods of communication and listening in order to present refreshing ideas and perspectives.

In the end, it comes down to people letting go of what they think the truth is and opening themselves up to new possibilities -- not only listening to, but accepting the viewpoints of their peers.

But it isn’t always easy.

“You live in this little bubble of what you think is reality,” Stadler said. “In order for the bigger field to break through the bubble, there is a disturbance. It creates havoc, and it has to in order to get your attention.”

Stadler is also involved with the Compassion Games, a project that rewards acts of kindness and compassion in the community in an effort to engage and bring citizens together. The game format was designed to help people engage in compassionate activities with more ease and comfort.

The idea really took off with one 6-year-old boy who was deemed a “Secret Agent of Compassion,” complete with a badge and outfit. Stadler learned from the school’s principal that the boy got his entire first grade class to also participate as Secret Agents.

Each morning the students were given special messages that taught them ways to be compassionate. They made sure to employ those techniques and were able to share their stories in class, which Stadler says they enjoyed.

For Stadler, a key aspect of volunteer work is the ability to amplify your impact on the community.

“It’s a completely gift-giving and receiving activity,” she said. “The reward you get is being able to give your gifts and have them be received into something bigger than you personally could ever do by yourself.”

For as dedicated as she is, her start in volunteering happened by accident. The first time she volunteered, she had four kids, and a group she was working with was starting a peace organization. When everyone else was busy and couldn’t take the helm, she stepped up to organize the group.

“I learned I had a really terrific talent for helping people organize themselves,” Stadler said. “I would never have learned that if it hadn’t been for the accident that if we were going to get this organization going, we needed someone to organize it.”

Stadler would take her kids with her to the office where she and other women worked while their kids played.

“You find out things that you absolutely did not know about yourself through the accidents of volunteering,” Stadler said.

Stadler worked as a television producer at KING 5-TV in Seattle for some time. She was hired to work with a community coalition called People Power where she would produce programs that they felt would be important for the community to address, such as water quality, fishing rights, redlining (pricing people out of neighborhoods, often on the basis of race or ethnicity), mental health issues and more. Her aim was to find people with successful solutions to problems that plagued small communities, telling stories that showed not only the problem but also how citizens mobilized to help solve it.

Working at KING 5 prevented Stadler from doing her typical volunteer work, but she still views it as a very beneficial experience.

“It gave me a really strong awareness of all kinds of communities that I would have never encountered if I hadn’t been working at KING,” Stadler said. “It was a great learning experience.”

Before Third Place Commons existed, Stadler and her husband were on the brink of leaving Lake Forest Park. One day she overheard Sher talking to the city manager about the failing state of the mall, where he was leasing three separate spaces.

Stadler introduced herself and asked Sher if he had any interest in a partnership with the community.

After some convincing and talk about what the partnership would look like, they came up with the idea to have a separate non-profit that helped to manage the place, which became Friends of Third Place Commons.

Stadler still teaches classes that revolve around concepts of open communication, but she doesn’t charge a fee for her services.

“I retired quite a while ago – except that I keep working,” Stadler said. “I work not because I need to have the money, but I work for the same reasons I volunteer. It’s really important to be involved in the evolution of the place you live in.

Third Place Commons was bustling with activity while Stadler looked around.

“It shows you what this community is,” Stadler said. All the different people, and then there are people that come from outside the community to have their meetings here. And they’re just as much a part of the community.”

Anne Stadler has been volunteering for her entire life. She considers it an obligation.


Karen W March 8, 2018 at 3:57 PM  

What a wonderful article! Many thanks to Anne, and all those who were involved in bringing the Third Place Commons to life. It is a huge blessing to the Lake Forrest community and beyond!

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