Four to receive Jefferson County Heart of Service awards (**Gallery**)

PORT TOWNSEND — Four community heroes will be honored May 11 with the Jefferson County Heart of Service award for 2010.

The recipients are:

• Shirley Moss, the hands-on assistant manager of the Port Townsend Food Bank.

• Gay Eisenberger of Port Townsend, the driving force behind an innovative kindergarten phonics program at Chimacum Creek Primary School since 2006 and one of the founders of an educational consortium for the county.

• Mike Blair, Chimacum School District superintendent and the leader of a coalition that won a ruling that the state of Washington is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully pay for basic public education.

• Margaret Matheson of Port Hadlock, whose vast and tireless contributions — from her wheelchair — to the Chimacum-Irondale-Port Hadlock community stretch over 60 years.

The Heart of Service honors the “dedication, sacrifice and accomplishments” of community leaders and volunteers “who have made a difference in Jefferson County, who have made our communities a better place by doing extraordinary things for their neighbors, their community or the environment.”

This is the fifth year for this annual award, sponsored by the Peninsula Daily News, Rotary Club of Port Townsend (noon club), Port Townsend Sunrise Rotary Club and the East Jefferson Rotary Club.

A judging committee selected the four Heart of Service recipients from nominations made by individuals, clubs, churches, businesses and other organizations.

“These four are truly local heroes, working to make community life stronger, tighter, happier, richer,” said John Brewer, PDN editor and publisher.

“They represent the backbone of the community — busy people who always seem to be able to make time to offer a hand or a shoulder.

“And they may be people whose names many residents don’t know.

“They don’t give to our communities because they expect either reward or recognition.”

The four will receive framed award certificates and heart-shaped medals designed by Steve Rafoth, president and CEO of Enclume Design Products in Port Hadlock and past president of the Rotary noon club.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon that begins in the Port Townsend Elks Club, 555 Otto St., at noon on Tuesday, May 11.

The luncheon is open to the public.

Friends and admirers of the recipients are invited to attend.

Lunch costs $12 for a full meal, $9 for soup or salad with dessert and beverage or $5 for dessert-only with beverage.

Mike Blair

“Mike serves his community in many ways outside of his superintendent position,” wrote Larry Howland of Nordland in a letter nominating Blair for the 2010 award.

Howland cited Blair’s service to “numerous community boards and committees” ranging from the United Good Neighbors (UGA) of Jefferson County to the Community United Methodist Church’s Homeless Shelter Committee to youth activities, including helping the Chimacum Teen Center “expand and flourish.”

In another nomination letter, Kevin G. Ryan of Port Ludlow noted that Blair, who is retiring as superintendent on June 30, has guided the Chimacum schools “through the traumatic experience of complying with the experimental WASL exam. He has been most popular with students and parents and the public during his tenure.

“Most recently, Mike led a coalition of groups, including several school districts, in a suit against the state of Washington in a claim that the state was not in compliance with its constitutional imperative to adequately fund the public schools.

“That coalition received a favorable ruling in court in large part because of Mike’s testimony and leadership. . . . The decision, if upheld, will have a major impact on public schools statewide and, possibly, nationwide.”

Margaret Matheson

“Her contributions to the entire Tri-Area community over the last 60-plus years have been monumental,” Nancy McDaniel of Chimacum and Lindsy Ireland, pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, wrote in a three-page nomination letter.

“However, if you asked her about these acts of service and kindness, she’d laugh and say ‘no big deal’. . . She epitomizes what the Heart of Service idea is all about.”

McDaniel and Ireland praised Matheson’s “knowledge of the community and unwavering dedication to getting the job done” that led her to service in Jefferson County Fire Protection District No. 1, numerous committees at the Methodist church, UGA, the construction of the South Seven Senior Village in Port Hadlock, plus countless hours of volunteer work in Chimacum schools, Habitat for Humanity, Tri-Area Community Center and the food bank.

“There are very few people in the Hadlock-Irondale-Chimacum communities who have not had their lives touched in some way by Margaret Matheson.”

McDaniel and Ireland added:

“The remarkable thing is that Margaret has made all of these contributions to her community from a wheelchair.

“Stricken by polio which left her unable to walk over 60 years ago, she chose to not use that as a reason to not help.

“She chose instead to help, contribute and care for her community. . . . She stands tall in our community even without physically standing herself.”

Gay Eisenberger

“What stands out about Gay is her ability to recognize a need, to find a solution and to be able to lead others in the application of that solution. . . . She is a true change agent. . . . She is making a difference today and for generations to come,” Mary Ann Verneuil of Port Townsend wrote in her nomination of Eisenberger.

In another letter, one of several nominations for Eisenberger, Mary Weeding of Port Townsend noted that Eisenberger, along with Macy Galbreath of Port Ludlow and other members of the Port Townsend chapter of the American Association of University Women, have made the phonetics program “integral to the reading readiness of the children of Chimacum Creek and is deeply appreciated by the staff and the parents of the children.”

Added Mark Barga, Chimacum Creek’s principal:

“The program’s success has lead to replication at Quilcene Elementary School and a stated desire for service by Grant Street Elementary in Port Townsend . . . I can think of no one more deserving of recognition for their role in community service than Gay Eisenberger.”

As one of the founders of the educational consortium, Eisenberger “recognized a need for post-secondary education in East Jefferson County and lobbied the state Legislature for a grant to serve as seed money to establish distance learning in the county,” Verneuil wrote, noting that the effort has grown and flourished into vocational and bachelor’s degree programs today.

Shirley Moss

Eleven Jefferson County residents nominated Moss.

They included Helen Kullman, manager of the Port Townsend Food Bank and a Heart of Service award recipient in 2008.

David Nephew of Port Townsend wrote:

“Shirley has spent countless (over 40 per week) hours coordinating, planning and scheduling picks from the various businesses . . . Her enthusiasm and dedication for helping the community are unparalleled.”

Kullman endorsed a nomination signed by food bank volunteers Clifton and Jacklyn Rick of Port Ludlow.

They wrote:

“She not only gives time to those in need of the food bank but also to her fellow volunteers.

“Whether it be picking up food from local stores or unloading, reloading, storing food from the trucks, she is everywhere, giving a helping hand.

“She helps unload over 9,000 pounds of food weekly from the food bank truck.

“She gives special service to those who have special needs such as giving them rides, calling on local food stores . . .

“All this is done with a beautiful smile and a ‘how can I help you?’ mentality.

“She is a special, special human being. God has truly blessed us with Shirley.”

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