John L. Scott Real Estate announced recently that Julie Varon was one of their top performers last year. The Newcastle resident, who works with her husband Ben, is in the top one percent of producers for the company, coming in at number 21 out of Scott's 4,500 real estate agents.
Varon has just celebrated her 10th anniversary in real estate. Before that she worked in advertising sales while living in Los Angeles, Calif. It was there that she met her husband, a Seattle native, through an ad in The Jewish Journal. When the couple moved to the Seattle area, Julie began looking for something new to do. Ben started working with her two years later.
When not busy helping buy and sell homes, Julie, mom of Sarah, 13, Rachel, almost 12, and Samuel, 9, plays tennis, volunteers in her kids' schools and is helping her daughters prepare for their joint Bat Mitzvah at Sephardic Bikur Holim.
She just gave up a volunteer position as vice-chair of Newcastle Days, an annual festival held in the bedroom community just outside of Bellevue. That position enabled her to indulge in another of her passions: singing.
'I actually submitted for Oprah's talent search,' Julie confesses, 'and when she didn't come for me, I decided I'd have to do it myself.'
In hiring bands for the festival, 'I hired a band that would allow me to sing.'
The Toronto native says she enjoys singing 'rock 'n' roll, pop and a little country,' but one of her favorites is 'Born to be Wild,' the 1968 Steppenwolf hit. That song holds special significance for her ' her father managed The Sparrow, a Canadian rock group that was headed by lead singer John Kay before he formed Steppenwolf.
Although they work hard, Julie assured me, she and her family 'play hard, too,' taking about five vacations a year.
'We seem to have more new people coming in than leaving,' Julie observes of the local real estate scene. 'I get people calling me from out of town asking about the area and I find myself raving,' she says. 'It's a good thing.'
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Charles Shelan wrote us recently to let us know that the social service organization he heads, Community Youth Services of Thurston County, won the 2006 Organization of the Year award from the county's Chamber of Commerce.
'Your readers may be interested in how Jewish leaders are impacting the South Sound region,' he wrote.
Reached by phone in his office, the active volunteer at Olympia's Congregation Beth Hatfiloh observed, 'We have a thriving Jewish community with a lot of people involved in state government and non-profits.'
Off the top of his head he could think of 'at least two of us who are executive directors of non-profits,' and others in high levels of government and health care policy.
A ready booster of his congregation, Shelan currently serves on the temple's capital campaign committee. The 160-member congregation bought a new building in 2004 and has been successfully working towards raising $2.8 million.
Shelan is originally from the small town of Roscoe, Tex., 'near George Bush's place.
'We were the only Jews in town,' he says of his family of five, explaining that his grandfather ended up there during the Depression when he opened a store. Growing up, Shelan's family drove 83 miles to San Angelo to attend synagogue and Sunday school.
As an undergraduate at the University of Texas, he and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Norma, joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service To America) and were assigned to Salem, Ore., which they liked very much. He had family in Seattle and, after a stint in the Peace Corps, he and Norma returned to the area to settle.
'When we came [to Olympia] there were only 50 families at temple,' says Shelan. 'It's grown an awful lot.'
For fun Shelan enjoys downhill skiing and biking, while Norma, who teaches at St. Martin's College in Lacey, 'enjoys cross-country, intellectual pursuits and gardening.'
Shelan is active outside the Jewish community as well, serving on the board of Providence-St. Peter Hospital and as a former president of Kiwanis of Olympia as well as past chair of Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
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Arts advocate Mark Levine in one of three new members recently appointed to the 5th Avenue Theatre's board of directors.
Levine is an active volunteer with ties to a number of Pacific Northwest organizations including Rotary International and ArtsFund. He is a past chair of the Seattle Arts Commission, past president of Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations and has served on the boards of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cornish College of the Arts and Temple De Hirsch Sinai. He is currently chair of the University of Washington School of Drama advisory board.
A graduate of Washington State University, Levine is chairman of the board of K&L Distributors. He is the founder of the Distillers Representatives Association of Washington and was the president and served a two-year term as chairman of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Association, where he was instrumental in creating their leadership development program. He serves on the Washington State Wine Commission, an organization that promotes our state's wines around the world.