OPERATION: Sack Lunch (OSL) founder and Executive Director Beverly Graham described Ken Schram as “a stinkerbell.”
Schram was well known for grousing at public officials and other well-known figures on KOMO News, most famously giving out his “Schrammie” award to people who made particularly “bone-headed” decisions — a police chief who buried an internal investigation process, for example. He would present people with a small statuette caricature of himself and invite them to take a bow, “because this Schrammie is for you.”
But despite all his grousing, at his core was the heart of an advocate with a passion for social justice.
One Schrammie he awarded back in 2012 was to a former Human Services Department (HSD) head who called outdoor meal programs “inhumane.” OSL serves meals under Interstate 5 near Columbia Street, underneath the tower where HSD is headquartered. Ironically, the organization was serving meals outdoors with financial support from the city of Seattle.
It was fitting then — especially given how many times as a journalist and commentator that he went up to bat for OSL — that the organization would name an annual award after Schram: The Ken Schram Award in Recognition of Outstanding Community Leadership & Commitment to Social Justice.
It’s a far cry from the Schrammie.
One was a small, cartoonish bobblehead. OSL’s Ken Schram Award is a hulking trophy with layers of multi-colored glass in a teardrop shape.
On March 29, OSL gave the award to Real Change, the second they’ve ever given.
Schram died in 2014, at age 66 after 35 years working on KOMO Radio and TV. Graham said that Schram was a long-time supporter as a member of the media and after he retired.
He reported on Graham’s attempts to feed people outdoors at a time when she was being ticketed for the act of compassion.
She described him showing up in a news van just as she was about to receive a ticket: He jaywalked across the street, hugged her and started reporting.
His last speaking engagement before he died was at OSL’s fundraising lunch, Graham said. One year later, they presented the first Ken Schram award to the Seattle Community Court.
“He was a stinkerbell, but he was somebody who was so engaged with social equity and the award just made sense to name it after him,” Graham said.
OSL and Real Change have interweaving missions and histories. When a former HSD official received a Schrammie in 2012, Real Change reported it, and all of the community discussions that followed.
Whenever our vendor organizing committee meets — the front line of our advocacy efforts — OSL delivers a hot meal.
The similarities were on full display during OSL’s annual fundraising lunch when Schram’s wife, Sandi Schram, presented the award to Real Change Founding Director Tim Harris.
During the lunch, OSL brought up the many people involved in delivering these meals and discussed the difference they made.
Like Real Change, OSL changes the lives of everyone who touches the organization, whether clients, cooks, servers, volunteer coordinators or directors.
Later, I asked Graham why OSL decided to present this to Real Change, and she highlighted again the interweaving stories of our organizations and our similar beginnings.
OSL started with one person, Graham, making a decision to head out and start feeding people.
Harris did the same at Real Change, arriving in Seattle more than 20 years ago intent on starting a newspaper.
“You came from the same place OSL did,” Graham said. “You came from one person saying ‘I think this is needed.’”
These organizations are still needed. We’re grateful for OSL and honored by this award.