Colene’s story

The story behind SPU’s candy lady, Colene Lofton

Bria Anderson, Guest Writer

Coleen Loften (left) poses for a selfie with Bria Anderson. (Courtesy of Bria Anderson)

“You-shaped hole in the world” – Nilofer Merchant, Serial Entrepreneur and Social Media Expert.

This is a story of pure dedication to the Falcon community, the want to be welcomed back and the need for a truly inclusive campus for all. 

25 years ago, a woman named Marsha Threlkeld worked with Washington Initiative for Supported Employment and Seattle Pacific University to develop a position for Colene Lofton. Colene operated Colene’s Candy Shop in the Student Union Building and delivered The Falcon newspaper across campus, including to Presidents Phillip W. Eaton and Daniel J. Martin themselves – something she is very proud of to this day. 

Colene loves building relationships and being helpful to others. The Falcon wrote an article in the early 2000’s about Colene after she witnessed a person drop a check on the street and chased after them to make sure that they got their check back. That person then stopped and explained to Colene how important that check was to them. 

For 25 years, you could find Colene bringing light to everyone’s lives on campus through selling candy and welcoming each student with profound joy. She found her “you shaped hole in the world” at Seattle Pacific University, and then lost it during the pandemic – a feeling that many of us know and understand all too well. Most of us have since been able to return to our professional place in the world – except for Colene. The pandemic derailed Colene’s employment with Seattle Pacific University, and she wants nothing more than to return. 

Before the pandemic, Colene knew each student by name, remembered which ones had pets and consistently asked about their days and how their pets were doing. Students knew her as the candy lady, and her presence on campus helped to broaden the minds of everyone – especially around what individuals with disabilities can achieve. 

Colene never lets anyone go without saying hello. She becomes an integral part of each community she enters. Fast forward to September 2021, Colene was transferred to my caseload. I asked her, “Where do you want to work?” and without missing a beat she said, “Seattle Pacific University.”

In April 2022, I brought her back to campus for the first time since the pandemic. Students and faculty who had not seen or heard from her in years, walked up to say hello and let her know how special she made them feel.  

Colene’s story reminds me of her loss of community and her desire now to return to the place that she was so well engaged in, in the giving of who she is, to so many. This story shows how Seattle Pacific University misses her too.

Seattle Pacific University needs people like Colene, whose purpose in life is to bring light and joy into the communities that she lives and works in. As you read this article, consider in what ways Colene might be invited back to give her many gifts – of light and love, and joy in relationships with others. Gifts cannot be given without a place to give them, and Colene is looking to return to her place.

Thank you and go Falcons!