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Club selects Aaron Woods, Elaine Swyt and Lyn Whelchel; winner will be chosen during Feb. 25 event.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Kathryn Whittaker accepts the First Citizen Award from then Rotary President John Holley in 2014.

Oftentimes, avid community volunteers perform their valuable work while receiving little fanfare. But in Wilsonville, due to the efforts of the local Rotary Club, these people are given the recognition they deserve.

On Saturday, Jan. 9, the Rotary Club of Wilsonville released the names of finalists for its 20th annual First Citizen award, given to a standout volunteer in the Wilsonville community. Finalists include volunteer Elaine Swyt, Heart of the City Director Lyn Whelchel and Aaron Woods, a representative of several local bodies.

The Rotary will award a winner at the virtual "Give Together: Heart of Gold 2021 Auction and Awards Night" Thursday, Feb. 25.

"During this year that brought our community so much adversity, we are extremely proud to present these exemplary community leaders," Rotary President Joe Schwab said in a press release. "Each of our finalists have impacted our community in unique and meaningful ways to make Wilsonville a better place. We fully understand the level of commitment each of these individuals has made amidst the global scene in which 2020 brought us, and we are incredibly thankful."

Some of Swyt's contributions include serving as secretary for the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, vice president of the Charbonneau Arts Association, board chair for the Boys and Girls Club Auction, chair of the Charbonneau Women's Association and founder of CharbonneauLive.com.

"Elaine Swyt has been a truly indispensable volunteer to many groups and organizations in Wilsonville. Not only does Elaine devote an incredible amount of time to the various organizations in which she serves, the quality of work she contributes is highly praised," the press release read.

Whelchel organizes Heart of the City events, such as the annual Gear Up 4 School drive for parents to pick up supplies for their kids and a "Share the Warmth" event that provides 700 coats to the homeless population. She also assists disadvantaged populations daily in her role.

"Lyn Whelchel epitomizes service each day in both her professional life and her volunteerism. Through her role at Heart of the City, she impacts the most marginalized of Wilsonville's population through services such as rent and utility assistance, sanitary products, charging stations, prescription and eyeglass services as well as mental health and addiction services," the press release said.

Woods is a member of the Wilsonville government's Planning Commission and previously assumed roles on the city's Parks and Recreation Board and the Development Review Board. He also holds posts on the Clackamas Community College Board of Directors and the Wilsonville Meadows Homeowners Association.

"Aaron Woods is a community volunteer [who] serves at a variety of levels from his neighborhood up to the regional and national level. Especially poignant is his work to make Wilsonville a more inclusive community and a better place to live for all of its citizens," the press release stated.

Rotary has named a First Citizen winner every year since 2001 (and honored a Citizen of the Year from 1983 to 1994). This year will be the first time the club has held the event virtually.

"Although we usually gather with a few hundred other community members for this event, this year will look different," Wilsonville Rotary Foundation president Pat Wolfram said in the release. "We still hope to gather with our community to celebrate and recognize the programs of Rotary and our First Citizen finalists."

Past winners include volunteers Jake and Dianne McMichael in 2020, arts leader Theonie Gilmore in 2007, Jr. Scoop founder Jordan Scoggins in 2017 and former Wilsonville mayors Tim Knapp, Charlotte Lehan and John Ludlow.

The annual event raises money for Rotary initiatives like the Through A Child's Eyes event for Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, where adults in custody spend a fun day with their children, as well as college scholarships, the Summer Concert Series, omelet breakfasts in support of schools and more.

To register for the event, which will include an auction, visit wilsonvilleheart.com.


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