Olympia Memes founder reveals identity

Katie Knecht is Olympia Memes.

Knecht runs the popular Facebook page that pokes fun at life in Thurston County and has mobilized hundreds of volunteers for community-wide events such as Oly Clean.

Remaining anonymous until now, Knecht has revealed her identity to The Olympian because she wants to turn Olympia Memes into a nonprofit organization.

The page was created in December 2012 as an ode to Knecht’s former hometown. The stay-at-home mother of four moved to Belfair about five years ago after marrying her Navy husband, Eric.

“I was homesick,” said Knecht, 32, a Tenino native who has lived all over Thurston County and also studied sociology at South Puget Sound Community College. “In the beginning, (the page) was meant as an escape for me.”

Listed under the pseudonym “Dan O’Brian,” Olympia Memes originally started as an outlet for jokes that tapped stereotypes and more. A recent example of a typical post is a postcard-perfect picture of the State Capitol Dome surrounded by autumn-hued trees with Heritage Fountain in the foreground. The caption reads “Olympia, Washington: Come for our meth. Stay because you’re homeless now.” Another version of the same scene comes with the caption “Hey, at least you’re not in Aberdeen.”

Other times, the freewheeling page channels the local zeitgeist with snarky memes about weather and news headlines. For a while, the page has posted anonymous confessions that range from drug hijinks to juicy personal drama.

Knecht was nervous about going public with her real name in light of past shots taken at the county’s redneck and homeless populations, for example. Not surprisingly, Facebook fans have long been trying to figure out who she is.

“They ask, ‘are you a guy or are you a girl?’ ” she said. “I respond, ‘I’m whatever you need me to be.’ ”

Knecht had recently taken a two-month hiatus before returning in late June. Several fans posted their disappointment after an announcement that Olympia Memes was “signing off,” and when the memes started flowing again, they welcomed the page back.

“I just needed a break,” said Knecht, noting the page is like “Olympia’s own Dear Abby.”

Kidding aside, Knecht has been serious about community service since Olympia Memes began to take on a life of its own in 2013. That’s when the page helped raise $4,000 to cover funeral expenses for Derrick “Dudeman” McDougal, who was a fixture in the local homeless community.

For two springs, the page has sponsored Oly Clean, a one-day event in which volunteers from all walks of life picked up thousands of pounds of garbage across the city. Oly Clean was initially prompted by concerns about dirty syringes that were being discarded in public spaces such as parks. At the inaugural Oly Clean in 2014, Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum praised the event as an example of the city’s networking power.

Last fall, Olympia Memes hosted a “Zombie Family Fun Run” to benefit City Gates Ministries. The page also launched a petition to install a crisis phone on the Capitol Boulevard Bridge in response to recent suicides.

The success of the Oly Clean events — and the costs behind them — has prompted Knecht to seek nonprofit status. The 501c3 status would help remove some of the financial red tape and allow businesses to claim donations on their tax returns, for example, while also establishing Oly Clean as a legitimate organization with a paid chief.

Knecht has launched an online account at gofundme.com/olycleanreality with a goal of raising $5,000.

Even if the goal falls short, she plans to keep Olympia Memes going. Knecht relishes her role as a conversation starter who gives people a safe online place to feel connected to their community — all with a liberal dose of humor.

“I just try to stay relevant to what people are feeling at any point,” she said. “I’m like a talking wall.”