Milwaukie is currently seeking nominations for its Volunteer of the Year who can be anyone who resides in Milwaukie or is a member of a nonprofit organization/business that serves the Milwaukie community.
City councilors last year 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.
Bennett 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, helping 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 of the event's logistics.
In fall 2020, Bennett helped orchestrate the unveiling event for a public mural on the water reservoir tank at Southeast 40th Avenue and Harvey Street that brought the community together 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.
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.
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."
Volunteers of the Year have their names 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.
Those nominating someone as Volunteer of the Year are asked to discuss the nominee's volunteer work and discuss how it has improved Milwaukie. Nominees should have longevity of volunteer service to the community, and some contribution to a city-related activity within the nominee's total volunteer effort is preferred.
City Council will select the recipient of the award in March. If an in-person event is possible in 2022, the award will also be presented at the 2022 City of Milwaukie Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. The dinner was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nominations are accepted through an online form at milwaukieoregon.gov through Monday, Feb. 14.
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