Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Karen Morrison: Honored with the Brewster Denny Rising Advocate Award

Adam 06/19/20

Karen Morrison

Karen is a longtime advocate with Children’s Alliance for the wellbeing of every Washington family. She is the founder and director of the Vancouver-based nonprofit organization Odyssey World International Education Services. Karen leads Odyssey World to help families of diverse backgrounds to achieve justice and gain opportunities.

Karen’s work with Children’s Alliance began in Spokane in the wake of the Great Recession, when state legislators proposed the elimination of SNAP (food stamps) for immigrant families. She helped win the restoration of these benefits in 2015. Relocating to Vancouver in 2017, Karen proudly helped to organize the city’s largest rally earlier this month—a car rally with 1,700 vehicles and 3,500 participants.

One of the joys of her work, says Karen, is watching younger Black women learn and grow into their own power. She said she leads by example because of prior leaders who set forth their examples: “Somebody did it for me, who looked like me. They taught me that we are wired to love, we are wired to serve. My grandmother taught this to me, and my granddaughter will need that passed down to her.”

One of those younger leaders, Danielle, says these are the words that come to mind when she thinks of Karen’s contributions: 

“Compassion, love, kindness, and an unexpected sense of humor.” 

As a mentor, “Karen challenges me to push myself in the ways I serve our community.”

“Karen will do anything, give anything, if she believes it will make a difference to one single person. She is resourceful and trustworthy. She treats every person with dignity and respect, even those who actively disagree with her right to the same. 

Karen dedicates this award to her mother, Phyllis Porter (1942-2020), and to all the strong African American women in her life. “They have taught me by example how to advocate with CARE”—CARE stands for Community, Awareness, Resources and Education, the hallmarks of her organization’s approach—“to offer sustainable solutions that with hard work, diligence and collaboration, could lead to permanent changes.”

The Brewster Denny Rising Advocate Award is named for a former Children’s Alliance board member and dedicated public servant. In his distinguished career of service to the people of our state, Brewster C. Denny nurtured and mentored many a rising star along the path of advocacy for the public good. Beginning in 2011, this annual award has been presented to a rising star in child advocacy at the Voices for Children luncheon. Karen will be honored with the award in a live online event Tuesday, June 23, at 2:45 p.m.; find details at