March 15, 2021. The Queen Anne Magnolia News ran a front-page feature on Cheryl McQuiston, who has been the driving force behind the Reimagine Magnolia Village beautification project. The article shares that her skills in fundraising and coordinating events have served her well as she organized a team of hardworking volunteers that has helped the Village’s streetscape improvements take shape.
To read the article online at QA/Magnolia News click here or read below
Magnolia’s Cheryl McQuiston has always been a social person, but it has taken her entire life to realize the full potential of this gift.
Since 2018, McQuiston has been the driving force of the Magnolia Village Beautification Project and was recognized in 2020 as the Person of the Year by the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce.
“I hadn’t known how much I affected other people until this,” she said.
McQuiston was born and raised in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood and attended Franklin High School. She remembers enjoying her Spanish classes and home economics, but what she really excelled at was socializing. Her ability to talk to anyone and make friends with everyone she met would become a very important skill for the career she had yet to discover.
It wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Magnolia and later enrolled their daughter at Our Lady of Fatima that she first heard of event planning and raising money as a career. McQuiston remembers that the school was looking for someone to help with the annual auction and a neighbor recommended her because she was organized, detail-oriented and known among her friends for having the “cleanest counters in town.”
Since she was only working part time at the time, McQuiston decided to help out. Her attention to detail and highly organized events changed the way the school ran their fundraiser.
Soon enough, her daughter advanced to Holy Names High School, and McQuiston got to work upgrading its annual fundraiser as well. It was around this time that she launched her own business to plan events and improve fundraising efforts for her clients. McQuiston said it was always a very rewarding experience and that she really enjoyed the work.
When her husband grew ill, she retired from her fundraising work to care for him full time. That retirement was never meant to last, however. Not long after he passed in 2013, Franklin High School started planning its 50-year reunion. Friends reached out to ask for help, and McQuiston was grateful for the opportunity to stay busy and reawaken her passion for building community.
Since then, most of McQuiston’s projects have been closer to home and with the people and organizations that she loves most. About five years ago, she began working on the Reimagine Magnolia Village beautification project to raise money to add tables, chairs and other visual improvements to Magnolia’s village streetscape. She is so invested in it that she has even referred to it as the culmination of her life’s work.
‘Reimagine’ beautification project
Jason Thibeaux, the executive director for the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, said he had been daydreaming about doing something to spruce up the village area and committed to it during a community meeting.
“I thought we could do better for Magnolia, and I just needed the people that would be willing to do the work with me,” Thibeaux said.
McQuiston was one of the first people to whom he reached out, and he said she was the absolute perfect person for this project. She started work by talking with friends, neighbors and community members and eventually formed a team.
She often used the Starbucks on McGraw as an unofficial office. One morning, she found herself talking to resident Don Gillmore as he tried to enjoy a cup of coffee. Gillmore, an architect, also happens to be the project manager for the Building Excellence Capitol Levy for Seattle Public Schools. McQuiston put his talent and expertise as a member of the beautification committee to help design the project, create construction drawings and coordinating the permits and work with city department.
“Cheryl has a way with people and her dedication and fundraising blow me away,” Gillmore said. “We had tried to do something about a decade ago but could not find a way to make it work.”
Gillmore said the most amazing part has been seeing the teamwork to get fund raise and complete the different phases of the village project: “neighbors, city, grants, permitting, everybody working together.”
Ann Goos, chamber member and communications consultant, has acted as McQuiston’s right hand throughout this process and has found a lot of joy in it. She described the team as dedicated and talented.
“I’ve never been engaged in something more fulfilling because of the camaraderie that Cheryl created,” Goos said.
She said McQuiston’s leadership and ability to find talent is rare and delightful. She also called out McQuiston’s efforts to expand the team with an eye for the future.
As this project heads into its final installments, McQuiston has put a lot of thought into who will manage the necessary repairs and upgrades in the future. She is thankful for the involvement of the younger members of the team, Julie Bennett and Vixen owner Corean Napolitano, and is currently looking for ways to include more community members so that the project will remain successful for future generations.
McQuiston said leading the Reimagine Magnolia Village streetscape beautification project has been a rewarding experience and exciting to see what’s happened to the community. She has noticed more people in the Village and a real sense of neighborhood pride.
For more information about the Reimagine Magnolia Village beautification project, visit www.discovermagnolia.org or magnoliabeautification.com/.