Unsung heroes emerge from Lake Oswego
For the 20th year, the city of Lake Oswego has recognized people who have humbly taken volunteer service into their own hands and given back to the community in an impactful way.
The city has recognized more than 80 outstanding volunteers in the past, and added nine more to the mix this year. During the Dec. 21 Lake Oswego City Council meeting, the city recognized Abigail Otano-Haffner, Ami Joshi, Mark Thornburg, Julia Bohannon, David Lipton, Norm Hendricks, Adrian Olmstead, Ginny Gillett and Steve Eklund as 2021's Unsung Heroes.
"These are the people who, when we needed help, put their hand up, stepped forward, and got things done without a motive other than helping their neighbors and their community," said Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck in his opening speech. "These are the people that make Lake Oswego such a wonderful place to live."
Otano-Haffner made an impact on local elementary schools like Palisades World Language School and River Grove Elementary. For more than seven years, "Miss Abbey" — as the students call her — has volunteered in different capacities including helping children use the crosswalk, advocating for the rebuilding of River Grove Elementary and becoming that school's representative on the Bond Development Committee.
"This year, as Palisades World Language School opened, she stepped up volunteering as PTO President and has helped families and students alike feel safe and welcome in this new space," said Julie Watson in the nomination form for Otano-Haffner. "The River Grove, Palisades, and greater Lake Oswego community have been made better by her daily acts of care."
Joshi has made her mark as president of the board for Hunger Fighters Oregon — Lake Oswego's food bank.
Before Joshi took on a leadership role in 2020, she volunteered for the food bank for years. She took part in helping the food pantry find a home at the Lake Oswego High School campus and implementing procedures to expand Hunger Fighters Oregon's service, especially during the pandemic.
"Ami immediately stepped up as HFO (Hunger Fighters Oregon) worked to fill the gap for food insecurity in Lake Oswego. She volunteered hundreds of hours to help expand HFO services and turn what was a small food closet into a community lifeline," said Taylor Murdoch in Joshi's nomination form. "She personally stored boxes of donated supplies in her own home until they could be given to needy families."
The pantry also recently hired its first executive director, which Joshi helped make happen by securing grants.
Thornburg has helped make Lake Oswego a safer place to live through his work with emergency communication improvements.
For the last five years, he volunteered as the leader of Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) in Lake Oswego where he worked with the city, Clackamas County and the national Amateur Radio Emergency Services organization to meet the needs of the community. He encourages members to train and learn how to be more prepared for emergencies by taking classes through FEMA. He's also worked with the Lake Oswego Fire Department on implementing an emergency communications plan.
"He has worked with the LOFD Fire Marshal in the choice and installation of Amateur Radio equipment at the new city hall," said William DeBuhr in his nomination form for Thornburg. "Mark has given many many hours of his time working with the ARES members, Fire Department people and others to ensure Lake Oswego has a functioning, high caliber, communications system of Amateur Radio (HAM) operators during an emergency."
Julia Bohannon, a Lake Oswego High School student, was sitting in her criminal justice class when she found out she was one of the recipients of the 2021 Unsung Heroes Award.
Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Jennifer Schiele nominated Bohannon for the award because of her passion for activism and the positive impact her leadership has in the Lake Oswego community.
Bohannon is the co-founder of the district's Black Student Mentorship program, which was originally started by Jayden Hill, a former Lake Oswego student. The program strives to form positive relationships between Black youth through education and community. Through the program, Bohannon holds a continual relationship with Lake Oswego's Respond to Racism group and occasionally serves as a youth facilitator for the organization.
She is also one of the student members of the Lake Oswego School District's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access Advisory — a team that makes recommendations related to diversity to the school board.
"I was just exposed to the world of diversity, equity and inclusion work through the DEI Committee that I'm on, that opened my eyes like 'wow, this is a different approach that I can take to help better my community,'" Bohannon said in an interview with The Review.
David Lipton, Norm Hendricks, Adrian Olmstead, Ginny Gillett and Steve Eklund
This group of Meals on Wheels volunteers were nominated for their efforts in helping deliver thousands of meals each year to homebound seniors. Some of these volunteers have even taken vacation time from full-time jobs to help make a difference in the Lake Oswego community.
Lake Oswego resident Norma Kramer, who was homebound for a couple years, expressed during the Dec. 21 City Council meeting that she was impressed by these drivers.
"These wonderful individuals come three times a week to bring me a varied tasty and nutritious lunch," said Kramer. "When it rains they bring me lunch, when temperatures are soaring over 100 degrees they smile and bring me lunch. I am warmed and uplifted by their energy."
The Review's education reporter Mia Ryder-Marks contributed to this story.
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