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Unsung heroes

Seven residents lauded for going the extra mile

Maybe the Christmas shopping got done a little early this year. A local senior learned to use e-mail, to file taxes or to open a computer file.

Whatever the need, if it passed through the Computer Lab at Lake Oswego's Adult Community Center, Bob Eick and Esther Wood were there along the way.

The duo was among seven people honored Tuesday in a ceremony for Unsung Heroes, a city-sponsored award for volunteers whose selfless achievements see few thanks but benefit many. This year's winners were chosen by a slate of local judges from 25 nominees.

The list of heroes for 2006 ranged from environmental enthusiasts to neighborhood activists and computer lab volunteers like Eick and Wood.

They also include John Samuelson, Ron Hanson, Mike Buck, Audrey Mattison and John Keller.

Each received plaques Tuesday to the cheers of about 100 family and friends, and special thanks from the Lake Oswego City Council. Mayor Judie Hammerstad and Councilor Gay Graham honored each recipient, adding seven new awards to the 17 distributed in previous years.

Bob Eick and Ester Wood were recognized for their efforts assisting seniors in the ACC Computer Lab. The lab started out five or six years ago with a handful of donated computers and the suggestion of classes.

'Pretty soon, before you knew it, we had a waiting list of 65 names,' Eick said.

While he's taught a handful of the classes since, Eick has mostly served as a volunteer during open hours at the lab with Wood. The pair can usually be found in the lab between 12:30 and 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, during open hours, or between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Mondays, when the lab's user group holds informal meetings and training sessions.

Both Eick and Wood have served in the lab about eight years; Eick putting to use an early retirement from Pacific Power and Wood a crash-course in computers at Portland Community College. Wood has also served as hostess to the users' group.

Since then, both say they like helping local seniors learn computer tricks and continue to learn themselves.

'I learn every time,' Wood said.

'It just depends on the needs of the people. We try to help them with pretty much everything that comes through the door,' said Eick.

They were both nominated as Unsung Heroes by Kay Kerr, also affiliated with the ACC.

'Many seniors would give up trying to learn how to use a computer without their help,' Kerr wrote in their nomination form. 'Private instruction is very expensive in the public sector. Our seniors have the benefit of these two special volunteers donating their time and ex-pense.'

Mike Buck was honored for his role in a number of local projects and organizations, including work on the advisory committee of the Lake Grove Village Center Plan.

Buck, manager of Gubanc's in Lake Grove, has also helped run a booth at the Summer Fun Fest for three years, is president of the Lake Grove Business Association, a board member of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, a member of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Com-merce, helped to organize ivy pulls in the Brookside Natural Area and also flower baskets in Lake Oswego in the spring.

'If you needed something done, just ask Mike Buck, and he will get it done - and with a smile - a really unsung hero,' wrote Bob Stageberg, who nominated Buck.

Daniel and Deborah Work also nominated Buck for 'tirelessly and emotionally' contributing to better the community.

Barbara Zeller, chair of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, said Buck's 'quiet community support and service has gone on, in some cases, for decades.'

Buck said his greatest reward for volunteering is to see ferns and other fauna return to restored land in natural areas.

'I feel more proud of the hidden stuff that gets done, my work with Brookside and on Iron Mountain, trying to restore that area,' he said.

He said he is driven to volunteer by the relationships he forms while at work on civic projects. One effort leads to another, he said, in a town with so many volunteers.

'I think I'm just grateful to the community that we live in. It is all held together by individual work and collective work,' Buck said.

John Samuelson and John Keller were named Unsung Heroes for their service delivering Meals-on-Wheels to homebound seniors and disabled residents of Lake Oswego.

'In 1991, when John Samuelson applied for a volunteer position delivering Meals on Wheels, he simply said he wanted a job 'helping people'… Fifteen years later, John is still 'helping' to ensure that housebound adults in our community receive hot nutritious noon meals. He embodies the true spirit of committed volunteerism,' said Berta Derman, ACC social services supervisor.

Derman nominated Samuel-son for the award. He was also nominated by meal recipient Marjorie Cooney, who said she enjoys Samuelson's upbeat conversation and talk about teaching skiing lessons.

'He always has a cheerful message to share,' she wrote of Samuelson. 'He always says, 'This is a nice day today!''

Samuelson said his wife first prompted him to get involved in Meals on Wheels delivery as something they could do together. He stayed with the service when his wife had to curtail her involvement because of arthritis.

'I saw the need and Lake Oswego's a great community and it seemed like I was helping to participate and move it along,' he said.

Samuelson said he most enjoys seeing previously homebound clients regain their independence.

'That's a really good feeling,' he said.

John Keller, also nominated for 10 years of service to Meals on Wheels, was given similar accolades by Derman.

'Over the 10 years he volunteered for the Adult Community Center delivering meals, his warm, caring spirit touched those meal recipients on his route,' she wrote.

When Keller recently retired, Derman said, meal recipients were grateful for his service but saddened to see him go.

Keller said he enjoyed his decade of service and considered Meals on Wheels a better option than 'sitting back and doing nothing' in retirement.

He never missed a day of service in 10 years of Monday deliveries. Keller said he liked making a contribution to local services and most appreciated the relationships he had with clients on his route.

'I enjoy talking to people, especially elders. It's not just delivering food. It's becoming acquainted with them,' he said.

Among his most memorable experiences was meeting with one meal recipient while her son recovered from an injury. Keller said he liked being part of that experience and supporting his client through the tough time.

Ron Hanson received the Unsung Hero award for serving as chair of the Uplands Neighborhood Association, expanding its membership and reaching out to ask for more civic involvement.

Hanson is credited with knocking on all of the 400 doors in the Uplands neighborhood to boost attendance at semi-annual meetings from about 10 up to 40 to 60 residents. He helped form Friends of Springbrook Park, improved relations between the neighborhood association and the city and created a vision for a small neighborhood park.

Hansen has since launched a summer picnic in the neighborhood. Ninety Uplands residents turned out to the first picnic in 2005. Two years ago, he also organized a civic work party that turned a small parcel of city-owned land into the neighborhood's new Prestwick Park.

His goal, Hansen said, has been 'to make everybody welcome and everybody feel a part so the neighborhood association and the city could be a better place to live for everybody.'

Hanson was nominated as an Unsung Hero by Paul Lyons, also a board member on the Uplands Neighborhood Associa-tion and a close friend.

Audrey Mattison of the Friends of Springbrook Park was honored for her role in leading the stewardship group to be one of the most active in Lake Oswego.

Mattison, a Lake Oswego native, is called a natural community organizer by Annie Bergelin and Lisa Hamerlynck, natural resources coordinator for the city of Lake Oswego. Both women nominated Mattison to be an Unsung Hero.

'I just volunteered at a neighborhood meeting to draft a 10-year plan for Springbrook Park. I was experienced in proposal writing but was ecologically challenged,' Mattison said. 'Four years later, I've learned the importance of the simplest of efforts - pulling ivy, digging blackberries and removing non-native plants - helps to restore and preserve the health and beauty of a nature area like Springbrook Park.'

Through work with Ron Hanson, Mattison said the effort eventually developed into the Friends of Springbrook Park group, which she has continued her involvement with.

Her supporters say Mattison visits Uplands Elementary School every Monday during the school year to take student volunteers on service trips to pull ivy and maintain trails.

She continues to promote the importance of natural resource stewardship, volunteers at restoration events and manages kiosks at trailheads of the park. She also helped develop Springbrook Park's Manage-ment Plan and regularly produces a newsletter for the Friends of Springbrook Park.

'I really feel volunteer efforts are very valuable in our community and to have this kind of recognition is really appreciated,' she said. 'For me it's a very special privilege because I'm being honored with two close friends that I hold in high regard, Ron Hanson and Mike Buck.'