Patrick Robinson
West Seattle resident and West Seattle Food Bank employee Judi Yazzolino received an Inspirational Leadership Award from the Arthritis Foundation on May 23 for her decade-long work on behalf of finding a cure for the disease.

Arthritis Foundation honors West Seattleite with Inspirational Leadership Award

May 23 was a day of recognition for the tireless decade-plus work of West Seattle resident Judi Yazzolino in supporting, raising funds and serving on the board of directors for the Great West Region Arthritis Foundation.

Her peers in battling the disease that affects all people, from juveniles to the elderly, honored Judi with their annual Inspirational Leadership Award during the Journey to a Cure Breakfast at the Washington Athletic Club. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 forms of arthritis and treating the disease costs the U.S. economy $128 billion annually, results in 44 million outpatient visits and results in 9,367 deaths a year. Over 300,000 children in the United States have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, debunking an oft held belief that it is an elderly disease.

Judi, who is just over a month into her new position as the West Seattle Food Bank’s development director, has plenty of reason to battle for arthritis awareness. 25 years ago, she herself was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She said her mother and grandmother have also battled the disease.

“I do this, not necessarily for myself, but I’ve watched my mother and she hasn’t been lucky enough to have the biological drugs that all of the researchers were able to come up with for my sake and I live, most of the time, not really knowing or feeling like I have RA,” Judi said after receiving her award from Arthritis Foundation Great West Region CEO Scott Weaver.

In addition, she said raising funds for research on juvenile arthritis has been a passion as their smaller, still developing bodies cannot handle many of the drugs used to help adults ease their pain.

“I am one of the fortunate ones diagnosed early and able to take aggressive treatment with biologic medications to control my disease,” she added. “Because I feel so fortunate, I am determined to do whatever I can to help find a cure for this awful disease.”

Upon receiving her award, Judi told the Herald “I’m very thankful and I really appreciate the fact that they honored me.”

In addition to serving on the Arthritis Foundation board since 2005, Judi is also the founder of the Bone Bash Seattle dinner/auction that takes place on Oct. 26 this year, a team captain for the Seattle Jingle Bell Run/Walk fundraiser and Arthritis Foundation golf tournament volunteer.

Landing at the West Seattle Food Bank
The West Seattle Food Bank has landed a “salesperson at heart” who has “no problem asking for money,” in Judi (her words), and she hopes to put her skills to use in bringing sustenance to those in need after joining the non-profit in late April.

Judi was born in Federal Way but has long time West Seattle roots and lives on the peninsula today (only five minutes from her new job, as she’s thrilled to share). She spent the majority of her career as an advertising rep in the corporate world, including a stint as a national sales manager for CBS. As things sometimes go in that field, she was laid off five years ago.

After a three year hiatus from work, she decided she’d had enough with the “cutthroat” corporate gigs and zeroed in on working in the non-profit sector.

“I love fundraising, I love non-profits, and I’ve always been involved in them. Why not hook the two together and actually get paid for what I love to do?” she thought.

Serendipity clocked in at the right moment as Fran Yeats, executive director at the food bank, just happened to be looking for a development director. The two hit it off, and the rest is history.

“I’m very excited to be giving back to my own community; the people who live around me who need help,” Judi said of her new job (where she is equally thrilled to be able to wear jeans to work … a telltale sign you’ve left the corporations behind).

Having lost her job at one time and finding herself in financial dire straits for a time, Judi said she hopes to also help the food bank reach out to those people whose middle class status has dropped out from below, breaking through social and information barriers to connect everyone who could use a free meal with the West Seattle Food Bank’s vital service.

The West Seattle Food Bank is found online at www.westseattlefoodbank.org. For more information on the Arthritis Foundation, visit www.arthritis.org/washington/.

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