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Originally published August 13, 2012 at 9:26 PM | Page modified August 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM

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Be a litter fighter in the parks; Gates Foundation officially opens visitor center

Keeping Seattle's Green Lake Park picked up is a big, never-ending job for a band of volunteers who have stepped in to help out a cash-strapped parks department.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

Empty beer bottles. Fish hooks. Underpants, even, all left on the ground at Green Lake, where I guess people thought they would be gathered up by elves.

Instead, they were picked up by real-estate broker G. Todd Young, Lori Lizotte and their small band of volunteers, who spend every Sunday morning wearing orange vests and wielding pickers, trying to lighten the load for the cash-strapped Seattle Parks Department.

"Every week, we think we have nailed this place," Young told me. "And we come back and it's like Groundhog Day."

Last week, they filled 22 large trash bags, finding an empty, full-sized bottle of Absolut Vodka; a drained, 18-pack of Rainier; hypodermic needles and crack pipes.

Nice.

"We're loving these parks to death," Young said.

They'd like to expand their program to other Seattle parks, and get more people involved. If you want to help, go to www.greenlakelitterpatrol.com.

"I would love to be able to someday walk around here," Young said, "and just walk."

Luke, I am your sister

The new face of Girls Who Game may just be 5-year-old Makenna Cales, who won Fan Favorite at Saturday's GeekGirlCon Masquerade for dressing as Darth Makenna: pink cape, tutu and sneakers, and a black Darth Vader helmet with a plastic princess crown glued to the front.

"She loves 'Star Wars,' " her mother, Alicia, said with a shrug.

"I don't like Princess Leia!" Makenna told me.

Events included a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" singalong and workshops on "Steampunk Sewing" and "Women in Westeros: Is 'Game of Thrones' Sexist?"

"We don't just want what guys have," said attendee Roxxy Goetz. "We want to be women, too."

Over 8,682 grants

If, like me, you're still waiting for a return call from Bill or Melinda Gates, head on over to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Visitor Center, where your input is welcome.

(The center has been open since February but just had its official, kinks-ironed-out opening.)

One exhibit invites people to type in what they would do if they had a family foundation — and then displays it on a screen.

"Dedicate my life to figuring out how to inhabit another planet," wrote one person.

"I would make sure everyone had a toothbrush," wrote another. (Amen to that).

Mary Ann Ehlshlager, the new managing director of Seattle Children's Theatre, praised the foundation for funding an upcoming production of "Danny, King of the Basement," about families dealing with homelessness.

Visitors have included not only armies of schoolchildren, but friends of Bill's mom, the late Mary Gates, who, aside from being one heck of a tennis player, was the one to urge her son to give his money away.

"She was very convincing," one guide said. No kidding; since 2000, the foundation has given away about $27 billion.

Philanthropy that pops

The first Auction of Washington Wines was held in a small room at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, involved maybe 20 wineries, and cost more than it raised.

Last Friday, the auction's founders celebrated their 25th anniversary, $26 million raised and this weekend's events (www.auctionofwashingtonwines.org) with a schmancy luncheon aboard Holland America's MS Amsterdam

Among the revelers: Washington Wine Commissioner Steve Warner and early auction co-chairs Gerry Warren and Vic Allen.

The event was hosted by co-chairs Bob Betz, the founder of Betz Family Winery, and Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America.

"When I heard where the money was going," Kruse said, "it was easy to say yes."

A portion of the money goes to to Washington State University's enology program, to keep winemaking booming.

"People used to snicker at Washington wines," said Chateau Ste. Michelle CEO Ted Baseler. "Not anymore."

Names in Bold column appears Tuesdays. Reach Nicole Brodeur at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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