PORT TOWNSEND — Friends, admirers and business associates are invited to a reception today (May 12) in which nine community heroes will be honored with the Jefferson County Heart of Service award for 2015.
The award recognizes 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 10th year for the Heart of Service award, sponsored by the Peninsula Daily News, the Rotary Club of Port Townsend (noon club), the Port Townsend Sunrise Rotary Club and the East Jefferson Rotary Club.
The awards will be presented at a luncheon at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St. in downtown Port Townsend, at noon today.
The luncheon is open to the public. Cost is $12 for soup, salad and a sandwich, and $9 for soup and a salad.
Those attending are asked to arrive by 11:45 a.m.
The 2015 Heart of Service honorees are:
■ Paul Becker, a man who has conquered many obstacles to keep the Humane Society of Jefferson County running smoothly.
■ Helen and Ken Brink, the indispensable couple known for getting projects done for the Kiwanis and Elks clubs.
■ Karen Jensen, the thoughtful force behind the “Backpack for Kids” nutrition program of Jefferson County. She is also an AARP tax aide.
■ Ruth Merryman, who gives her heart to mentor Habitat for Humanity homeowners and women of the Working Image clothing bank.
■ Bonnie Story, an inspirational volunteer who has promoted several South Jefferson County charities and organizations with her Internet know-how and get-it-done attitude.
■ Kim Wilcox, the visionary of free meals for everyone at the Irondale Church Community Soup.
In addition, two men who died will be cited during the award ceremonies for their many community contributions:
■ Christopher Martin, credited with ushering the Chimacum School District into the age of technology and providing essential tech support for the Port Townsend Film Festival.
■ Nik Worden, tireless volunteer with the Peninsula Trails Coalition in the continued development of the Larry Scott Memorial Trail and the Olympic Discovery Trail and insightful contributor to other nonprofits.
A blue-ribbon judging committee selected the nine recipients from nominations made by individuals, clubs, churches, businesses and other organizations.
“These are truly local heroes, working to make community life stronger, tighter, happier, richer — busy people who unselfishly give their time and energy to help others, who always seem to be able to make time to offer a hand or a shoulder,” said John Brewer, PDN publisher and editor.
Story knows websites.
“She brings knowledge of the dark Internet arts to our Luddite corner of the world, and we are all more connected and successful for it,” wrote Greg Brotherton of Quilcene in a nomination letter for Story.
Organizations like Count Me in For Quilcene, the Linger Longer Stage, the Quilcene Half-Marathon, Quilcene Citizens Committee and the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce have benefited from Story’s generosity with her time and skills.
“She seems to be not only a member of practically every active committee serving either Quilcene or Coyle, she is usually the most active member of each of these groups,” wrote Bob and Elizabeth Bindschadler of Quilcene.
There were 11 nomination letters for Story; several were signed by couples.
Her nominators noted her willingness to tackle any task asked of her, the inspirational effect she has on others, her fun and positive attitude, her integrity and her respectful support of others’ ideas and individuality.
Merryman chose to step in and support the part of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County that does not involve hammers and nails.
Instead, she chose to be the cheerleader for the homeowners-to-be and construction crews.
Her work as mentor and member of the Family Support Committee brought her face to face with the daily struggles in the lives of several families.
She “invested many hours coaching, listening and loving them,” Jamie Maciejewski of Port Townsend wrote in her nomination letter.
Merryman’s generous heart also led her to be one of 13 founding members of the Port Townsend’s Women Who Care giving circle, which has donated thousands of dollars to local organizations.
Working Image, a unique secondhand clothing boutique in Port Townsend, was co-founded in 1999 by Merryman. She recognized that local surplus clothing could be used to give struggling women some extra confidence or a new start.
Merryman escorts her rescue dog, Sammy, to Chimacum Creek Primary School each Friday so the second-graders there can gain confidence in reading by reading to the dog’s furry, nonjudgmental ears.
Becker has gone the distance for homeless animals in Jefferson County, even driving at least one pup to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to catch a flight to Idaho.
Looking ahead in 2007, Becker recognized that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office would soon be financially unable to maintain the Humane Society.
He began taking steps to ensure he had all of the required certification to operate the shelter and be an animal control officer.
“This meant that as a retired business professional, he had to successfully complete the regular training that a deputy sheriff must complete at Washington’s Law Enforcement Academy,” explained Stephen Gillard of Port Townsend in his nomination letter. He added that Becker paid for all his own training.
Becker has personally assembled all of the supportive volunteers and professionals who keep the animals’ health at the forefront of day-to-day operations.
His wife, Phyllis, is also a major volunteer at the Humane Society, helping in many areas.
The Jefferson County AARP Tax-Aide program has benefited from his involvement as a tax-preparation aide.
He has been a leader in Jefferson County Master Gardeners, the Western Cascade Fruit Tree Society and other organizations.
On Fridays, more than 170 kids in Jefferson County bring home easy-to-prepare food to eat over the weekend.
Eligible Chimacum High School students also have access to a “pantry” where their needs for clothing and personal items can be filled.
All of these kids are participants in the “Backpacks for Kids” program that was started by Jensen, a retired teacher.
During the week, food is purchased and the backpacks are filled by volunteers including Jensen and her husband, Harold.
The supplies are paid for through many community donations, grants and fundraisers, which are all overseen by Jensen herself.
“It has been Karen’s leadership and perseverance that has made this program possible from its inception to its successful performance today,” said Rodeama Abrams of Port Ludlow in her nomination letter for Jensen.
For four years, Jensen has also taken time each tax season to assist others to complete their taxes as an AARP tax aide. This requires personal study so she can efficiently help implement the new tax laws each year.
“She performed this activity in an outstanding manner, being courteous and tactful with taxpayers and ensuring the privacy of their financial information,” said David Self, the local AARP Tax-Aide coordinator for Jefferson County.
When the Tri-Area Community Center quit serving senior meals, Wilcox urged her church council to act.
Since October 2011, the Irondale Church has been serving free soup Tuesdays.
To do this, Wilcox led the effort to get the church’s kitchen approved and has taught all the volunteers how to abide by all of the state and local regulations that go with serving the public.
Wilcox shops and helps prepare food that is entirely paid for from earmarked donations.
There have been more than 30,000 bowls of soup, hundreds of loaves of bread and dozens of cookies served, according to Pastor David Hodgin.
“Kim’s vision to feed anyone who walked through the doors has been an amazing journey of compassion,” he said.
Wilcox’s nomination packet included pages of handwritten notes of thanks from those who partake of the meals.
“Some days I would not have eaten,” wrote an appreciative diner.
“I may not have even talked that day if a friendly person didn’t come talk to me here.”
Helen and Ken Brink
“Ken and Helen are a real power team,” wrote Louise Raymond of Port Townsend in her nomination letter.
“When one gets involved with something or comes up with an idea, the other is right behind to give maximum support.”
Most of their energy has flowed through the Kiwanis and Elks clubs, where they have assisted each others’ leadership and committee roles.
According to Steve and Melanie Bozak of Port Townsend, the Brinks have volunteered “at least a thousand hours each year” for the Port Townsend Kiwanis Club alone.
Helen is active with the American Association of University Women, the Daughters of Norway and has belonged to the Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and Jefferson County’s Board for Developmental Disabilities.
Ken has been the Exalted Ruler of the Port Townsend Elks and chaired several committees for them. These include membership, building and scholarship fundraising.
He also is the force behind the Kiwanis Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for Camp Beausite Northwest, a lakeside camp for people with special needs.
William Nikolaus ‘Nik’ Worden
Worden died of cancer Oct. 23, 2014. He was 73.
“He [always] remained calm and focused in the face of adversity and the many complex issues that arose involving the many aspects of completing all phases of the trail projects in which he was involved,” wrote Jeff L. Selby, Peninsula Trails Coalition vice president for Jefferson County.
“He worked cheerfully and cooperatively with individuals, agencies, jurisdictions and other nonprofits . . . [his work was] invaluable in contributing to the effort of the creation of the Olympic Discovery Trail.”
He was also cited for trail work in partnership with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and Jefferson County Department of Public Works.
Worden was a hardworking board member of The Hospice Foundation for Jefferson Healthcare.
Its president, Mary Ann Seward, wrote:
“After Nik was diagnosed with cancer, he requested a leave of absence from the board; however, he continued to keep up to date with his prognosis, care and personal learnings about facing into the challenges and tough medical decisions that must be made when faced with the possibility that there is no cure and death is sitting on a close horizon.
“His wisdom taught us much!”
A graduate of Chimacum High School who became the district’s technical director, Martin died March 2 after suffering a massive stroke while riding his motorcycle in the Olympia area Feb. 28.
He was 44.
“He built the technical backbone for the district,” Principal Whitney Meissner said of Martin.
“He always had a smile on his face,” she said. “He loved working and being here.”
Martin had worked as a volunteer for the Port Townsend Film Festival.
“It’s a huge loss for the community because he helped so many people learn technology as a place to learn and experiment,” said Janette Force, the film festival’s executive director.
She said Martin, a volunteer, designed a system for combining several formats under a single digital umbrella that permitted festival jurors to view films in high definition from their homes.