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BBH Volunteer
Joan Allen

Read about the writer, Ellie David.

A Mother and Daughter Act

Mal Joseph was in her seventies when she began volunteering at Bailey-Boushay House — and she did it on a dare.

A friend told Mal, “If you’ll do it, I’ll do it.”

What’s funny, her daughter Joan Allen recalls, is that “Mom’s friend stopped soon after, but my mother kept coming. I don’t think she ever missed a volunteer shift in the kitchen in all her years here.”

  Mal Joseph
Mal Joseph, kitchen volunteer 1997-2009

Mal knew her way around commercial kitchens, around complex organizations, and around the world. Earlier in her life, she managed several restaurants. She retired in 1990 after a 24-year career as a manager with the Washington State Liquor Control Board. To celebrate her 50th birthday, Mal began traveling extensively in Europe and later the South Pacific — with Fiji a favorite destination.

She had a passel of grandchildren, great grandchildren and even a great-great grandchild to whose education she was passionately committed.

And yet one full day a week, for more than a decade, Mal made time to help out in the Bailey-Boushay kitchen.

  Great-grandmother Mal and grandmother Joan celebrate baby Jasmine’s baptism
Great-grandmother Mal and grandmother Joan celebrate baby Jasmine’s baptism.

“She really liked the kitchen staff,” Joan says. “Soon after I started, she had to stop coming” because of failing health and memory. “But she’d still ask how Chef Victor was doing.”

A nudge from Mal got Joan to volunteer in 2008. “When I retired,” Joan says, “my mother thought this would be a good place for me.”

Despite reluctance to be tied down by a schedule, Joan decided to give it a try and became a meal server at Wednesday lunch for outpatients.

“I have to tell you, I was scared at first,” Joan admits. “But gradually I got more and more comfortable. I like the people here. The clients are very gracious and appreciative, always telling me thank you.”

She’s been deeply impressed with clients’ honesty in sharing their life experiences.

“All they want is to live independently,” Joan says. “They want respect. They want to live as good as the next person — and they deserve that. They’re survivors, that’s what they are.”

  Mal's volunteer badge
Mal's volunteer badge

Joan does not draw attention to herself. So she was at first flustered when a client “put 2 and 2 together and figured out I was Mal’s daughter. And I think she told everyone living in the town at that time! She didn’t keep it a secret, because she really liked my mom. It was really sweet.”

After Mal passed away in 2011, Joan remembers one client “who would come in and make a point of asking how I was. She hugged me and I hugged her. It meant a lot.”

Like her mother before her, Joan became part of the Bailey-Boushay community. “At first I came out of obligation,” she says, “but now I look forward to next Wednesday.”

Her goal is “to work as hard as I can to honor my mom’s memory. She was so liked here.”

Like mother, like daughter.

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