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November 9, 2023

Meet Steve Byers: a GRuB Sustainer

Meet Steve Byers: a GRuB Sustainer

Helping GRuB Make Systemic Change

by Steve Byers, GRuB Board Member 2009-2019

I have been a neighbor of GRuB since moving to Olympia in 2001, but I didn’t really take notice until the farmhouse was built in 2008. As a consultant who offers training and development programs for teams and organizations, I was curious whether this new structure might have some meeting space available to rent. My curiosity led me to a conversation with Kim Gaffi, co-founder and co-Executive Director (at that time) in the fall of 2008. More conversations led to an invitation to join the Board of Directors, which I did in 2009. I served on the Board through December 2019.

I joined the Board because of my developing relationship with Kim. In the beginning I had only a superficial appreciation of what GRuB was all about. Over time my understanding of the mission and appreciation for the quality of thinking in this organization deepened. Kim and I both identify as “systems thinkers.” We see the world, and the people in the world, as interconnected and interdependent. We recognize that the world – and our communities and cities and families and organizations – is complex, which means that we can rarely predict outcomes when we try to change things, when we try to improve a system. The impact of actions taken “today” might not become apparent for years. The impact of actions focused in one sector or part of the community might be felt elsewhere, as well.

I mention the practice of systems thinking (or relational thinking) because I quickly came to see that GRuB understood what it meant to try and create systemic change. That is the main reason I stayed involved with GRuB and applied most of my volunteer energy and charitable contributions to supporting their work.  In my words, GRuB takes the “long view.” While GRuB programs do bring benefit in the near term, the bigger impact is over time; for example, re-engaging youth, restoring their confidence, clarifying potential, and thereby “creating” engaged community members for the future. Similarly, helping community members – including Veterans – grow their own good food affects their health and well-being well beyond the activities of planting and weeding their garden boxes.

Of course, GRuB needs ongoing financial support from the community it serves. From the beginning of my involvement I have consistently contributed money in a variety of ways. Three years ago, I pledged to contribute $1000/year for three years as a member of the new Donor Leadership Circle. I will continue this commitment and am also actively inviting others into this Circle. GRuB is renaming this group the Sustaining Circle, and expanding the invitation to include anyone who pledges to give a personally significant gift across multiple years. For many people this will be a financial gift at a level that is meaningful for them; for others it may be a commitment to a volunteer role, or some other creative contribution. It helps GRuB tremendously to know that the community is willing to commit to ongoing support.  

Look for more stories in the coming weeks of other Sustaining Circle members!  If you, too, are called to join, please contact Kerensa Mabwa at or 360 753-5522.

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