Back to News Front

Community service

Local citizen, Army officer remembered

(L-R): Sally Saunders, wife of the late Larry Saunders, Diane Formoso and Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson. Photo credit: Brynn Grimley

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Diane Formoso, founder of the Caring for Kids program that serves thousands of underprivileged school-age children and their families in Lakewood and other municipalities, was presented the first Larry Saunders Service Award.

In a ceremony in Council Chambers at Lakewood City Hall, friends, city staff and city officials honored Formoso last Tuesday evening. Bob Warfield, of the Lakewood Community Foundation Fund, presented the award.

The City of Lakewood and the fund partnered to create the award to annually recognize one person or organization, that through distinguished service to Lakewood, merits community recognition.

"Diane is all about service above self," Warfield said. "If we strive for good, it can be achieved. She has done this."

While a bus driver for the Clover Park School District 40 years ago, Formoso began collecting coats that were then given to children in need. Her desire to help developed into Caring for Kids, a nonprofit organization established in 1991 that has numerous initiatives benefiting struggling families.

The organization annually serves about 13,000 people in Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Steilacoom and University Place by providing clothing, school supplies, new books, hygiene products, emergency food kits, dental kits, holiday gifts and preschool instructional materials.

"This place is changing," Formoso said with a smile.

The change is due in large part to her work with retired Col. Larry Saunders, who passed in 2016.

After serving in the Army for 28 years, Saunders retired as a colonel in 1998. Referring to Lakewood as the only "home" he'd ever had, Saunders soon became involved in the young city's future.  

Using his military police and criminal investigation command experience, Saunders became Lakewood's first chief of police in 1998 and helped create the city's police department in 2003.

Retiring in 2008 from the department, Saunders re-entered the Army and served in Iraq for 14 months as the director of a military transition team that helped establish the curriculum for the Iraqi and multinational police force.

Following that deployment, he spent another year at I Corps working to implement Army Force Generation training.

After his second retirement in 2010, he served in a number of organizations dedicated to helping others.

"He got it," Formoso said during a 2016 interview. "He understood poverty, he understood what needed to be done. I knew I could call on him for anything."

The same applies to Formoso. 

comments powered by Disqus