Interview with Theresa Klaassen

Theresa is a well-traveled restauranteur with a love for food and adventure - and her newest adventure is that of a nonprofit ED.


Q: Who are you? Introduce yourself as you would at a dinner party.

A: Hi, I’m Theresa. I am native to the Seattle area but have spent time living in New York, Washington DC, France, and the Philippines. I currently work as the executive director of Camp Leo for Children with Diabetes. We are a nonprofit that provides summer camp programs and year-round outreach for children with type one diabetes in Washington State. My other passions include traveling, scuba diving, hiking, cooking for friends and family, and exploring my new neighborhood—Pioneer Square! If I’m not at Impact Hub I’m usually enjoying some food or drink somewhere in Seattle, which is probably how I came to be at this dinner party. 


Q: What is your background? How does it differ from what you are doing now?

A: My background is in restaurants and culinary arts. I graduated from the Culinary Institute in America in New York, then impulsively moved to southern France and worked as a butcher in a tiny town called Vers Pont du Gard. I decided I was interested in pursuing an academic degree, so I moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where I studied International Studies and Global Health. During that time I worked in several local restaurants. After graduating, I started a coffee roasting company, Middle Fork Roasters, with some friends, where I worked as the operations manager for three years.

I’ve been involved with Camp Leo in various volunteer roles for many years and with diabetes advocacy since childhood, but I always considered my participation in the type 1 diabetes community a personal vocation, not a potential profession. The opportunity to take on the role of executive director was a welcome surprise. Although working at a nonprofit as a career is a new pursuit, it uses many of the organizational and planning skills that I developed working in operations for a small start-up business.     


Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I think about camp almost 24 hours a day with equal parts excitement, anticipation, and anxiety, including while I am asleep. This is our busiest time of year—I am wrapping up camper registrations, finalizing our activities schedule, wrangling volunteers, talking down nervous parents, and getting all 400 people involved with camp the information they need to fully participate. We are undergoing American Camping Association Accreditation this year, a grueling mountain of planning and paperwork that will hopefully create a much safer, better organized camp environment. The work that goes into planning a summer camp is hugely variable—one minute I might be debating the merits of doing a paint-powder flinging battle before or after swim time, the next I am writing a detailed procedure for how to respond to a child having a seizure. One thing is sure—my job is never boring.     


Q: Why did you join Impact Hub?

A: I believe that a convivial environment is essential to a healthy and happy life.  All the fun events, interesting people, and amazing meaningful businesses fill the space with palpable energy; it made me want to get to work the day I walked in the door. Also, it is conveniently located two blocks from my apartment and I was tired of bouncing ideas off my dog.      


Q: How do you make money?

A: I am fortunate enough to be the first paid employee at Camp Leo. I also occasionally do pop-up dinners and catering, but I do that mostly for fun rather than funding.


Q: What is something that really excites you right now?

A: The volunteers I get to work with through Camp Leo are a truly amazing group of people, I am so excited to get to spend the whole month of July up in the mountains with them doing fun activities, getting creative, singing silly songs, and being inspired. If you are looking for a great volunteer opportunity this summer contact me—I know just the one!  


Q: You have $10M to spend in the next year, and you can’t spend it on you, your friends or your family. How do you spend it?

A: I would love to put the money towards research in finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, but I think that might inadvertently be spending it on myself and many of my friends. I would otherwise put the money towards expanding the Seattle P-Patch program. This program nurtures community, improves access to nutritious local food, develops self-reliance, adds green space to neighborhoods, and gives those of us who chose to live in dense urban settings a place to get our hands dirty. In particular I would love to see a great P-Patch or two spring up in Pioneer Square in collaboration with neighborhood service-providers. The demand for these plots in Seattle far surpasses the supply; some P-Patches have 5-year waiting lists, and the ones closest to Pioneer Square have restricted membership. 


Q: What’s on the horizon for you?

A: Working in the nonprofit sector is a new career path, and it currently feels very rewarding. I am excited to explore the opportunities in this field. In the future I would be interested in working in diabetes advocacy and outreach programs in the developing world through and organization like the International Diabetes Federation, or perhaps returning to my food-focused roots and doing work in food justice and sustainability.


Q: Where do you usually hang out when you are at Impact Hub? How often are you here?

A: You can usually find me up on the second floor near one of the windows, or wandering around in the triangle on the phone. I am usually here at least 3 days a week, I’d love it if you came by and said hi!



Two questions that we ask every member:

Q: What is something we don’t know?

A: There is a lot of information about diabetes in the news, and almost everyone knows something about diabetes. What most people don’t know is that there are big difference between type 1 diabetes, which is a fairly rare disease affecting around one percent of the population, and type 2 diabetes, the type of diabetes considered to be a “rising epidemic” in the United States. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease brought on by an autoimmune event- when the immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, the cells responsible for producing insulin. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. Unlike type 2 diabetes, there is nothing one can do to prevent type 1 diabetes, and nothing one can do to get rid of it.       


Q: Give us your top three Seattle gems! 

A: It is so difficult to choose just three! I’m going to cheat a little and give you my favorite Seattle itineraries.

Capitol Hill—I have a special place in my heart for north Capitol Hill. Start your day doing the Howe Street stairs (between Lakeview and Broadway) for the best hidden workout in Seattle, brunch at the lovely Volunteer Park Café, a visit to the orchid house in Volunteer Park, an hour or two perusing the very peaceful, under-visited SAM Asian Art Museum, an early dinner at Monsoon (do not miss the catfish), then playing scrabble until twilight at the Summit Public House, followed by a fancy cocktail next door at the OG Sun Liquor.   

White Center—Go to Proletariat Pizza for dinner, the original Full Tilt ice cream for dessert, then the Southgate Roller Rink! I recommend Tuesday nights for adult skate because the DJ plays a great mix of old school hip hop, funk, and 80's classics, and you don’t have to worry about having too many beers and accidentally rolling over children. Afterward swing by Company Bar for some whiskey and heavy metal chess. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Contact Theresa at [email protected]