PORT ANGELES — They are all givers.
Each in their own way, the three finalists for Citizen of the Year for the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Port Angeles Annual Community Awards stand out as ultimate contributors of time and effort, seeking nothing in return but the joy of giving.
An award recipient from among Reath Ellefson, Amber Keebler and Timothy Mason, and Marsha Robin has been chosen.
The winner will be announced along with recipients in five additional categories at a Community Awards Gala on Jan. 20 at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St.
The other classifications are Young Leader, Educator, Organization, Emerging Business and Business of the Year.
Peninsula Daily News is an award sponsor, while First Federal is a Platinum Sponsor of the gala.
The $70 tickets to the Gala can be purchased online at www.chambersignups.com, with table purchases available that will save $60 for groups of eight and can be obtained by calling chamber Executive Director Marc Abshire at 360-452-2364.
The dinner will include soup from Toga’s Soup House, appetizers from Next Door Gastropub and entrees from Kokopelli Grill.
Outgoing chamber board President Jessica Hernandez said the Citizen of the Year Award will recognize outstanding contributions to promoting a healthy, happy and prosperous community.
She said last week the winners in the six categories have been selected from among 100 overall entries by a panel of 10 judges.
Here are profiles of the candidates for Citizen of the Year:
Reath Ellefson: Ellefson, 60, did not want to be alone for Thanksgiving dinner in 2008.
Her children were at their in-laws, so she invited the community to the holiday tables at Queen of Angels Catholic Church so no one else would be alone — or go hungry — on the day set aside for giving thanks. The day, organized by Ellefson with some help from others, drew 252 participants.
A decade later, the 10th annual Community Thanksgiving dinner drew 1,982 people to the church gym on Nov. 23.
Another 41 families who had their holiday feasts delivered to their doors.
Ellefson’s continuing battle with cancer hasn’t slowed her down.
She also does the cooking and helps organize the annual Project Homeless Connect and cooks for veterans’ Stand Down events, which draw hundreds to Port Angeles and hearkens to generations of men in her own family who were in the military.
“I try to spoil them rotten,” she said of the veterans.
Her efforts to help others come from a place deep in her own history.
“I grew up poor,” Ellefson. “We had someone help us when we were growing up.”
Ellefson, recipient of a 2015 Clallam County Community Service Award for organizing the annual community thanksgiving dinner, was nominated for the Citizen of the Year award by her daughter, Whitney Prchal, with whom her mother lives.
Reath helped as a volunteer at Whitney’s school when she was growing up and now participates in multi-age cluster programs at Franklin Elementary School, attended by her children, Reath’s grandkids.
“What doesn’t make her Citizen of the Year, because of all the stuff she does?” Prchal said last week.
Timothy Mason and Amber Keebler: It’s taken Timothy Mason, 36, and Amber Keebler, 30, just four years to make their grateful mark on the city they moved to from Huntsville, Al., after the couple wanted out of Huntsville’s mean streets.
The couple moved from a housing project where crack pipes and beer bottles confronted their son and daughter when the children went outside to play outside.
They moved to the Pacific Northwest after Amber’s interest was sparked by the movie Twilight, set in Forks, and she researched the area.
Now, her 6-year-old twins live in a place where they open the door to grass and green.
“We decided we wanted to give back to the community that’s given us so much,” Keebler said.
A former drug addict and former gang member, Mason said he’s tried to commit suicide numerous times.
“What changed me was the opportunity of moving here,” he said.
Mason has donated 500 hours to the community through the Clallam County Community Outreach Facebook group, which the couple started and which as of Saturday had 729 members, and other community service, distributing clothing and food, and cooking meals for people in need on a moment’s notice.
“If someone is out there holding a sign and they’re hungry, we take them in and feed them,” Keebler said.
The couple also helps out at Serenity House, where they were clients for three months when the housing they had hoped for when they moved to Port Angeles fell through.
They distribute winter blankets and clothing to people who are homeless and help out in the Toys for Tots program.
The outreach group partners with Lutheran Community Services in Port Angeles to distribute items that originate on the Facebook page.
The couple also donates a portion of their profits from their business, Angeles Mobile Detailing, to a fund recently set up to construct suicide barriers on the city’s Eighth Street bridges.
“Any chance we could give for enough time to think twice and get someone help, that matters more than anything,” Keebler said.
Keebler said it doesn’t matter if the couple wins the award or not.
“It’s not about recognition for us. It’s about giving back,” she said.
Said Mason: “Everything we do comes from the heart.”
Brenda Mason, who nominated the couple and is Amber’s sister, recalled seeing Timothy take off his jacket three months ago and give it to a homeless man while she, her sister and Timothy were at a laundromat.
“He gave it to him straight off his back,” Brenda said.
Marsha Robin: Robin, who “just hit the big 70,” is the Energizer Bunny of good works.
Devoting countless hours to Soroptimist International Port Angeles Jet Set, the Port Angeles Food Bank, Olympic Peninsula Humane Society and the Port Angeles Dog Park, she’s a “jack-of-all-trades when it comes to volunteerism,” chamber Executive Director Marc Abshire has said.
Robin helped organize the dog park and still goes on poop patrol.
No job is too big or too small for the multi-talented former Oregon resident, a Master Gardener and scuba diver and the mother of 47- and 44-year old sons with her husband of 48 years, Neil.
The couple moved to Port Angeles in 2001.
Robin has been on the boards of the Food Bank and Port Angeles Friends of the Library, blending one role into the other by channeling library books to children at the food distribution center.
Then there’s the Girl Scouts, of which she, of course, was a member while growing up, at 10 years old to be exact.
“One of my passions is to see them educated as women and for them to go for the gold,” said.
“My volunteerism is my balance,” she added.
Hernandez, the chamber board president, nominated Robin for the Citizen of the Year award.
“I have found that every single day of the week, she’s involved in this community, whether it’s being a leader for one of the Girl Scout troops or something as humble as picking up dog poop at the dog park,” Hernandez said last week.
“She’s not too good to do anything to help the community be happier and healthier and thrive.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].