Orting, WA

"The beautiful view from our valley" and "Small town, big views"

Pride of the Cascade Mountain Range, Mount Rainier’s peak peeks out of the tree-line overlooking Orting. (Credit: Sandi Van Kirk)

Anywhere you go in Orting, you’ll always have a killer view of the mountain and evergreens. This is a small town of 7,500 people shadowed in the valley just 35 miles from Mount Rainier. The mountain oversees our little town and provides us endless beautiful views many days of the year. Even when you’re shopping downtown, you can see that mountain on a nice sunny day during fall, when the air is nice and crisp and the leaves are turning colors. We have two rivers that surround our valley, the Puyallup and Carbon River course straight down from the mountains into our backyards.

Orting is a close-knit community. Everyday, someone will reach out to help a neighbor, or a police officer will take time to connect with a kid, or the garbage man will leave a special toy and say “hi” to the young boy who watches him come by every week. The person behind you in line will help pay for groceries if you are short on money, and the local insurance agency always recognizes athletes of the week. It is a town where more often then not, someone is always willing to help.

A little Orting magic to lead the way into town. (Credit: Garrett Skinner)

Stories About Orting

Everyone in Orting is nice! We have a town greeter that rides her bike around and waves to everyone entering Orting. We always make sure to offer whatever assistance we can to the many tourists that come to hike the over 30-mile-long Foothills Trail. We have a “give and get” Facebook page, where people give things they have to those in greater need. Exchanged items can be as simple as milk or a few diapers, to a gentlemen receiving a new (much needed) roof. Everyone knows everyone in our little town. Need help mowing your lawn? Don’t worry, ask your neighbor, he’ll most likely be happy to give you a hand. Neighbors are always happy to help neighbors — all you have to do is reach out!

We also have the Haven Teen Center, an alternate place for our kids to hang out without exposure to drugs and crime. Just this spring, they received donated materials and labor to build raised garden beds, and a local farmer donated over 1,000 veggie starts for the teens to plant. When harvested, the veggies will be donated to locals in need of a little extra food.

Orting has its very own town greeter, who bikes up and down the streets, saying “hi” to everyone she meets. (Credit: Tod Gunther)

Tod’s Story

Over the years, I have visited about thirteen countries and lived on three continents. I have seen some pretty amazing places during this time, from cobblestone villages in Europe to small and away islands in East Asia. That said, I have never experienced the closeness of one small mountain town here in Orting. It is a modern Mayberry.

Nestled at the bottom of one of America’s most gorgeous mountains, we are a simple place surrounded by trees and rivers reminiscent of Robert Redford’s, “A River Runs Through It.” Animals soar and roam everywhere — elk, bald eagles, bears, heron, and our beloved family of white pie-bald deer. Some occasionally even trot down our streets.

As the author of Nature’s Fix tells us, greenscapes increase happiness and other natural feelings of well-being. This seems to be what is occurring here. One sign-twister (you often see them advertising on street corners) reported that he has a large area he gets sent to by his company but none of them compare to his favorite place, Orting. He said when he comes here people are always honking and bringing him lunches, smiling, and at times, even joining him on corners. He said this never occurs anywhere else. Our local McDonald’s and grocery store report that folks are constantly paying it forward by buying the groceries of families standing behind them in line. With our Mayberry town, there comes an awful lot of closeness.

But they say a place’s greatness is really judged by how well it treats its weakest members. It is here that Orting may truly stand out.

Three years ago, the city took an extraordinary step of awarding one of its citizens with learning-impairment to be its Honorary Ambassador. Most cities in America don’t have ambassadors at all. A quick Google search confirms this, but they also dont have a lady who does one very special thing. Every morning, rain or shine, 365 days a year, for over a decade, she bicycles up and down our city waving to everyone coming or leaving town. In fact, she has become so well-known that newspapers have covered her, resulting in her receipt of gifts from around the world.

The kindness goes even deeper, however.

Recently, our town became aware that there was a homeless vet problem in our country. Those who have fought in our wars often return damaged and broken, alone on the streets. So hearts responded, and right now we are in the process of possibly approving the very first “Tiny Homes Village” for homeless vets in the state of Washington. It will be one of only a very rare few in the country. As they say, “All give some but some give all,” and these soldiers gave everything.

Another unique feature is the compassion of its small police department. It is not the traditional and detached kind as is often common today. It is a people’s police, where officers are outside vehicles and talking to neighbors, making them feel heard and cared about. Two years ago one such example of our beloved officers went viral across the country. A young officer got out of his patrol car to personally walk a blind citizen across a busy intersection.

A police officer made national news when he walked a blind person across a busy intersection. (Credit: Tod Gunther)

By now, you are probably seeing a pattern emerging. Families here, some going back to 1852, genuinely and deeply care about the least of these. The stories above have made national news but it’s the little things no one hears about that keep everyone here close. For example, during a long and bitter storm last year, one of our former city councilmen put chains on his truck and went around delivering medicine for the elderly who were shut in and unable to leave. He spent two days in the cold and high snow making sure our town’s seniors would not be overtaken and ill. It touched everyone.

In closing though, perhaps one example explains our town’s heart the most.

A lot of parks in our country tend to ignore children with disabilities. While their parks may be made ADA-compliant as a matter of law, few pieces of actual equipment are really installed for our disabled kids. These children often end up on the sidelines watching other children play. Except in Orting. Right now we are working to make ourselves the most disability-caring town in America. Every school and park offering rides for children with autism, physical handicaps, and other challenges. Merry-go-rounds for wheelchairs, swings with bucket seats and belts, and playground surface cover for personal mobility devices. It’s time that these very special children be first in our lives and cities.

I guess that pretty much describes our little town in the mountains where the least truly are first to us.

We may not have a lot of money but as they say, “Be someone who makes others feel like somebodies.”

Madeline’s Story

Our town has a citizens blotter. On there you will find not only the usually lost and found pets, but stories about how some strange paid for their coffee, or how they just met this really cool veteran who showed them a magic trick. We have a whole group of people who will paint rocks and leave them places for people to find. And then there’s Stephanie, our town greeter. She rides her bike almost everyday up and down the trail that goes through town, waving “hi” to everyone she sees. She has always wanted to be in the daffodil parade and this year the town came together to not only get her in the parade, but to get her a spot on Orting’s big float.

The town greeter made it into the parade! (Credit: Madeline Neigel)

Theresa’s Story

This town are there for each other. There was a man recently that needed a new roof the town pulled together and collected donations to pay a roofer to install a new roof for him. We h as be a food bank here that feeds about 400 families a month. They send backpacks of food home for the weekend and recently their fundraiser event raised money to put food lockers at each school so students could get food for personal needs or to take home.

Ellie’s Story

I needed to move from my upstairs apartment to a downstairs apartment and I needed help. I asked people in Orting for help and a dad and son said they could, but my move didn’t happen for a while and the next thing I know, two men from my offered to help me and they asked nothing of me.