City recognizes Salem volunteers for work

The City of Salem rolled out the red carpet for an award ceremony recognizing the work of 34 local volunteers on Monday, Oct. 17.

The ceremony, held at the Salem Public Library, is an annual event that honors volunteers who help their neighbors, clean up parks and beautify the city with art.

Recipients were selected through a community nomination process to the City Council’s boards and commissions, in addition to several awards selected by the mayor.

“Thank you again for being here tonight, and for making a difference in our community. We’re here to celebrate all of you,” Mayor Chuck Bennett said during the ceremony.

Governor Kate Brown made a video statement at the event. Senate President Peter Courtney, retired Salem City Councilor Brad Nanke and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson spoke in person.

More than 6,090 people contributed 111,941 total hours of community service to the city in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according the city.

Here’s a list of the winners:

The Al Louks Business-Government Partnership Award honors businesses for contributing to city programs or projects.

DJ Vincent, founding pastor and chief executive officer of Church at the Park was awarded for his work to house people who are homeless by managing micro shelters and other services.

Richard Berger and Ian Johnson were awarded for their work on the Jory Apartments Project, a complex in central Salem near the Oregon State Hospital with 246 units, including 36 designated for affordable housing.

Winners of the At Your Service Award were nominated by city departments for donating their time and services. 

Felipe Gonzalez, chair of the Cultural Tourism & Promotion Advisory Board was recognized during the ceremony for the notable energy, leadership and knowledge he brings to his position.

Mary Quinn won for over 10,000 hours of service at Friends of Center 50+. In addition to being on the board of directors, Quinn’s many roles include treasurer, receptionist, tax aide scheduler, cafe worker and event staff.

David Sasser and Pastor Kevin Reich of Relevant Life Church were awarded for the church’s program that painted a record number of storm drains last year – 148 – with ‘dump no waste’ markers.

Paul Tigan of the Citizen Budget Committee was awarded for his engagement, organization and navigating to virtual systems during pandemic.

Lisa Holliday, Willamette University’s associate dean of students and director of student engagement & leadership, was honored on behalf of Willamette students for their Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, Global Day of Service and Bearcats Give Back.

Eugene Edwards, Dean of Student Engagement at Corban University was awarded for his work with the One Thousand Soles shoe drive program, a friendly donation competition with Willamette.

The Distinguished Project Award is given to groups of volunteers who collaborated on a significant project.

This year, Susan Napack, Laura Hermann, Alice Hermann, Greta Bergquist and Erika Baker were awarded for Belmont Cottage Street Painting in the Grant neighborhood. Taking place over the 4th of July weekend, it was the first street painting project in Salem. Thirty volunteers added a cherry blossom design to the intersection Northeast Belmont and Cottage streets, forging the way for future city street painting programs.

Oni Marchbanks was awarded for creating the Equity Splash/Zenzele Learning Center, an education program where Black students can learn from people of color working in STEM fields. The program launched in July.

Kaileigh Westermann-Lewis was awarded for the Salem Cloth Project, which operates the only cloth diaper bank in Marion and Polk counties. It distributed over 200 kits in 2021.

The Dorothy Patch Community and Educational Achievement Award honors students, teachers or schools whose projects benefited the city.

Christina Tracy, principal at Howard St. Charter School was awarded for students’ micro shelter village artwork. Working with community partners and artists, the program provided art for residents at Village of Hope to hang inside their shelters.

Maureen Foelkl, science instructor at Queen of Peace and her students were awarded for creating Fungi Plastivore Purifier, which changes polyurethane into organic matter. The project received first place in the national ExploraVision science competition.

The Mayor’s Merit Award is given to people whose special projects or activities benefited the community. 

Brian McKinley was awarded for initiating the new city flag contest. Jordan Keagle was awarded for submitting the winning design, which was unveiled in August.

Kerry Wymetalek, Monty Montes, and all Veterans of Foreign Wars 661 volunteers were awarded for their work providing free lunches, service referrals and other services to local veterans and their families.

Anya Holcomb co-founder, co-founder of Salem for Refugees and Sifa Kipanga, a case manager, were awarded for their ongoing work in refugee and asylum services and resettlement. In 2021, the program became an official international refugee resettlement agency through World Relief.

The Mayor’s Youth Achievement Award highlights a young person or youth group coordinator involved in a volunteer project. 

Evyn, An, Phu, Shelby, Kaiden, Brook, Sam and Jade of CAREcorps were awarded for planting pollinator-friendly plants at the Salem Civic Center.

The Outstanding Neighbor Award is given to a neighbor or neighborhood association that set an example, performed a project, encouraged civic participation or enhanced the city in some way.

Alan Meyer has been a member of the Morningside Neighborhood Association for three decades. He was awarded for his work in neighborhood bylaw review and planning, with a special focus on addressing traffic issues.

Corey Poole of Southeast Mill Creek Association, was recognized for his central advocacy role in cleaning up Cascade Gateway Park and recruiting new members. 

Kaethe Mentrum of Northgate Neighborhood Association was awarded for improving Northgate Park and its playground equipment, and designing a new entry sign. Mentrum was credited during the ceremony with keeping the association alive after almost all previous board members quit.

Leslie Polson of Northeast Neighbors was recognized for her various volunteer positions around the area, including on the emergency response team. She is also active in the substitute teaching community. 

Linda Miller of Sunnyslope Neighborhood Association, was awarded for her work in communicating with residents and encouraging people to get involved.

Mark Wigg of Bush Garden Tuesday Gardening Group, referred to as “Mr. Mulch” during the ceremony, was recognized for his efforts in mulching Bush’s Pasture Park and other park improvement efforts.

Mary Gilds of Angels of Tripp Street, was awarded for her work picking up litter on her own time using her own equipment. 

Burt Eikleberry was recognized for his homeless outreach and trash clean up at Mill Race Park. 

Shirlene Gonzalez was awarded for her work with the North Lancaster Neighborhood Association, advocating for residents’ safety concerns, and working to get grants for park funding. 

Steve Anderson, Jennifer Palanak and Milleyllen Strayer of Edgewater Partners were awarded for launching the Thursday market, doing outreach to increase Hispanic enrollment in the Census, and other work to beautify the area.

The Salem Spirit Award recognizes those who are often behind efforts to improve the city. 

Brad Steiner and Dan Walker, owners of Allied Video, were recognized for their involvement in the summer movies in the park program at Riverfront Park.

Gary Pullman of the Northeast Salem Community Association has been on the board for over a decade. He was awarded for his work on the North Campus Redevelopment Plan, and participates in clean ups including the quarterly litter patrol.

Jonathan Castro-Monroy of Salem Keizer Coalition was awarded for his leadership on the board of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality. 

The Richard Swyers Public Works Employee Award is given in honor of Swyers, a former public works crew leader who passed away in January of 2020.

This year, the award was given to Bill Fear, a Salem Public works employee who has worked for the city for 36 years. In his job responding to wastewater and stormwater discharge issues, the city thanked him for going above and beyond in helping the community. When called to take a look at an elderly couple’s crawl space during the heatwave, he stuck around to fix their air conditioning and sprinkler system, according to the city. 

This year’s Special Mayor’s Award was given to Linda Berman for her work with the Salem’s Sister Cities Program. Berman died in February of this year, after 32 years of service to the city. She led the creation of Salem’s sister city program with Kawagoe, Japan, and stayed involved after her retirement.

“You could always count on her to get the job done. She was a very special person, and she is dearly missed,” Bennett said during the ceremony.

The Vern Miller Key Resident Award recognizes outstanding long-term service to the City.

This year, it was given to Roz Shirack who has been involved in the South Central Area Neighbors, Our Salem, League of Women Voters, Budget Committee, Salem Harvest, Chemeketans and the Salem Planning Commission. 

Shirack was described during the ceremony as a neighborhood builder who has used her skills to improve issues relating to the environment, social justice, budget and more.

The Willard C. Marshal Award is presented to the person who has contributed the most to the City during a given year. It was awarded to Lois Stark for her work at the Salem Public Library.

Involved in the Salem Library’s foundation, renovation council and committee, Stark worked to develop the library’s strategic plan for future projects. She also worked to improve the library board’s visibility, and advocated to increase the length of free parking for library patrons, according to the city.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.