American Legion honors community leaders
Members of the American Legion Carl Douglas Post continued their tradition of honoring those who serve the Estacada community with their annual teacher, law officer and firefighter of the year awards.
Cindy Babikoff of the Estacada School District, Damon Faust of the Estacada Rural Fire District and Mark Nikolai of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office were honored at the post's meeting on Thursday, April 27.
Babikoff, an English teacher at Estacada High School, was nominated by principal Ryan Carpenter because "she has helped hundreds of students graduate on time by guiding students to gain confidence and reach their full potential in reading and writing."
In addition to teaching everything from AP English to strategic reading, Babikoff is also a member of the high school's instructional leadership team.
"(She) has been invigorated by the positive changes and energy demonstrated by staff, students, and other partners," Carpenter said.
Faust, an Estacada firefighter, was nominated by division chief Richard Anderson. Faust joined the Estacada Rural Fire District in 2016 and was a responder to the 36 Pit Fire, though Anderson praised Faust because "even before his service as a firefighter, he was beginning the process of protecting his fellow man from fire."
In 2005, Faust was serving in the U.S. Army and responded to a house fire in Southern Baghdad, his area of operations. Acting with "complete disregard for his own safety," he entered the burning building multiple times to rescue an Iraqi child and elderly Iraqi woman.
Since then, Faust has deployed to natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy with Team Rubicon, founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing international medical training and partnered with the Estacada Rural Fire District to create a program to help veterans transition back to civilian life through volunteering with the fire district.
"Damon is a rising star in the fire service and we are proud to call him an Estacada Firefighter," Anderson said. "He embodies the passion and dedication that keeps this profession honorable."
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts was inspired to nominate Deputy Nikolai because of his dedication to community.
"Deputy Nikolai has been with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office since July 1995," Roberts said. "Throughout his career he has consistently demonstrated that he is plugged into the community."
In December 2012, Nikolai was a responder to the shooting at Clackamas Town Center and "had contact with frightened citizens and was able to help provide a sense of calm."
During the Christmas season two years later, Nikolai gained the nickname "Santa Laws"; he wore a Santa hat and issued warnings rather than traffic citations in an effort to change spirits and keep people safe.
The following March, he co-created a "Neighborhood Livability Project" to more effectively work on properties that had become home to squatters, drug activity and vermin.
"He had an eye on several places in East County, and once the program was solidly in place, he requested to be assigned there so that he could work to resolve some problems," Roberts said. "To this day, he welcomes referrals. It's important to him that a neighborhood be livable."
During last week's meeting, Doug Jamieson of the American Legion praised Babikoff, Faust and Nikolai for their service to Estacada.
"It's a great feeling to honor these people who make our community a better place," Jamieson said.