South End ‘helping hand’ passes away

The former executive director of Helping Hand of South Whidbey, Margaret “Peggy” Norton, passed away May 26 at her home in Clinton.

On April 4, Norton had been awarded the Island County “Lee Martens Health Hero Award” for her compassionate and selfless work on behalf of those in need.

Laura Canby, who worked with Norton as a volunteer, recalls just how selfless Norton could be.

“She would spend time, whatever was needed, with those who just knocked on the door and needed help,” Canby said. “And then she’d get busy with the normal office business. She was both very humble and hard working.”

During Norton’s tenure as director, the program grew from fewer than 300 to more than 500 people per year.

Norton increased volunteer training, initiated many interior and exterior upgrades, secured increased funding resources, and established close working relationships with supporting agencies.

She also volunteered to serve on the Board of Directors of Whidbey Island Share a Home, was on the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Committee, Family Selection Committee, and the Partnership Committee. She was also involved with Hearts and Hammers’ annual “work day” as a kitchen volunteer.

Norton, 68, was born in Queens, N.Y. and grew up on Long Island. She moved to Washington 28 years ago, and worked for the state’s Department of Social Services. Norton also helped establish 12 Planned Parenthood clinics on tribal reservations throughout Washington.

John Watson, Helping Hand’s former president, remembered the work Norton did to write much-needed grants to help secure funding.

“Because of Peggy’s efforts, we became a more efficient operation and can better serve the needs of the South Whidbey community,” he said.

Volunteer Miki O’Brien remembered Norton as a spirit-filled person.

“She was very non-judgmental while inspiring people to help themselves,” O’Brien said. “She was well-connected in the community and had a special way of getting everyone to work on the same level. And though she was ill the last few months, she didn’t let that slow her down. We all loved her dearly.”

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland followed by a reception at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Helping Hand of South Whidbey, Habitat for Humanity of Island County, or the American Cancer Society.

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