Active member of Arts Committee spearheads Porchfest, mural celebrating history

City councilors recently selected Hamid Shibata Bennett as Milwaukie's Volunteer of the Year, in recognition of how a difficult year filled with uncertainty didn't diminish Bennett's passion to help the community.

Hamid Shibata BennettBennetCOURTESY PHOTO: HAMID SHIBATA BENNETT - Mural artist Jeremy Okai Davis stands in front of his public art near Water Tower Park in Milwaukie.t has long donated his time and talents to multiple organizations in the area, and recent struggles during the pandemic motivated him to do even more.

Bennett has been an active member of the Milwaukie Arts Committee since 2016 and served as its chair for more than a year. He stepped up to lead the group during a critical transition phase in membership in 2020, and helped keep its momentum going while assisting new members get up to speed.

During this time, Bennett was instrumental in bringing the Arts Committee's Porchfest events to life. Working closely with the city's Neighborhood District Association leaders and committee volunteers, he assisted in finding performers, secured donations and sponsorships, and carried out many event logistics.

In fall 2020, Bennett helped orchestrate the {obj:54351:unveiling of a mural} on the water reservoir tank at Southeast 40th Avenue and Harvey Street that brought the community together (with social distancing in place) to celebrate both the new artwork and the mural's theme honoring Milwaukie's historic people of color.

In winter 2020, Hamid and the Arts Committee created Light Up Milwaukie, a holiday decorating contest that became quite popular in December 2020.

COURTESY PHOTO: HAMID SHIBATA BENNETT - Ah Bing, along with Hurtis and Dorothy Hadley, are honored in Milwaukie's mural at Water Tower Park."No one deserves the title of Volunteer of the Year more than Hamid," said Samantha Swindler, Arts Committee member. "Through his leadership, the Milwaukie Arts Committee has seen projects that started as just hopeful 'what if' conversations become reality. The city now has a beautiful 'Welcome to Milwaukie' mural adjacent to Water Tower Park, and we've held two Porchfest series, bringing music and performance to our neighbors when they need it most."

While volunteering for the Arts Committee's events, Bennett began assisting the city manager, police chief and equity program manager with their efforts to create better relationships and engage with Milwaukie's minority community members. This work included taking part in the Police Contract and Policy Review Group, as well as a series of listening sessions between the city, police and minority community members.

Born in Tachikawa, Japan in 1973, Bennett has lived in Oregon since 1976. His mother was Japanese, with Samurai in her lineage. His father was a small-prop fighter pilot in World War II.

"He's been a passionate advocate for equity and inclusion in our arts programs," Swindler said of Bennett. "His laid-back personality and positive attitude make him a joy to work with. We're always talking about ways we can do something, not reasons we can't, and those are the kinds of volunteers Milwaukie needs."

In addition to volunteering for the city of Milwaukie, Bennett frequently donates his time to other community organizations and events, often taking photos to help with their outreach efforts or finding partnerships to share resources.

"It's been amazing to see people come together in this community," Bennett said. "We have this great collection of skills and talents here, and I've found when people begin volunteering, others join in to share those abilities with each other."

Bennett hopes other community members are aware how easy it is to get started volunteering, saying: "If you've ever felt like getting involved, just go to the city website and find something you're passionate about or interested in. There's lots of opportunities and you might be surprised to find your skill sets apply to many things."

COURTESY PHOTO: HAMID SHIBATA BENNETT - Kate Morrison and Gavin Bondy perform during the 2020 Porchfest series in Milwaukie.Bennett will be honored at a special event later this year and have his name engraved on a permanent plaque at City Hall. The City Council created the Volunteer of the Year program in 2012 to recognize community members for their outstanding service. Nominees can include anyone who resides in Milwaukie or is a member of a nonprofit organization or business that serves the Milwaukie community.

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