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Will chamber Celebrate Tualatin differently next year?

In September the city had 350 volunteers turn out for its first volunteer appreciation barbecue

TUALATIN - After just eight years, Celebrate Tualatin could undergo a makeover of sorts.

The Tualatin Chamber of Commerce function that includes dinner at the country club followed by a night of recognition for community volunteers could be going by the wayside.

Chamber Executive Director Carla Thaler said the chamber is talking about doing something bigger and better with the city to recognize volunteers in the community.

'But there's no idea that we want to walk away from this event,' Thaler said. 'We just want to make it more fun.'

This year's event, set for tonight (Thursday) at the Tualatin Country Club, will include the presentation of the outstanding chamber volunteer, the business excellence award, the chamber's distinguished citizen award, a spirit of Tualatin award and the city of Tualatin's volunteer of the year award.

But even as Tualatin city councilors narrowed down their picks back in March for 40 volunteers to be invited to the event on the city's dime, they noted that the city's involvement in Celebrate Tualatin could be coming to an end.

Mayor Lou Ogden, who commented on the uncertainty of the event during a work session, said he meant to just note discussions that had been talked about among chamber members.

The annual Celebrate Tualatin event which had proved difficult to sell sponsorship for in years past took off this year with a Going Green theme. The overall sponsor for this year's event is PGE. And the keynote speaker is Bill MacKenzie, communications manager for Intel Texas and Intel Oregon. MacKenzie will give a speech on 'Green Business - The Intel Perspective.'

The chamber was able to sell 150 tickets, at $30 a piece, to fill the 15-table event. But of those tickets sold, 80 were sold to the city either for the volunteers to be recognized or for city employees. Thaler estimates that at Celebrate Tualatin more than half of attendees are usually there to represent the city.

And with more and more volunteers earning the right to be recognized every year, city officials saw it fit to recognize all of them last year. In September the city held its first volunteer appreciation barbecue.

All 860 active city volunteers were invited. Chanda Stone, operations volunteer specialist, said that about 350 volunteers came out for the free event held in the Tualatin Community Park.

'We had a lot of volunteers who hadn't been recognized in the past,' Stone said. 'And really all people should be recognized for all their efforts.'

In the 2006-2007 fiscal year, volunteers logged more than 35,000 hours in the city of Tualatin.

Both the chamber and the city take nominations from community members for awards. Thaler admits that the chamber sometimes has difficulty generating nominations from the community.

Meanwhile, the Tualatin City Council had to sift through close to 50 nominations. The city usually picks just 20 volunteers to recognize and pays for each to bring a guest to the Celebrate Tualatin dinner. This year the council opted to recognize more volunteers and to pay only for their dinners.

Stone said the city has every intention of continuing its volunteer barbecue as an annual event. Last year's event was run by city employees who cooked the food and organized the evening.

Still, Ogden said he is convinced that the city can be involved in both the volunteer barbecue and Celebrate Tualatin. Every year, Ogden, who is a nonvoting ex-officio member of the chamber board, encourages people to attend.

The mayor still proudly displays the Distinguished Citizens award given to him during the first Celebrate Tualatin in 2000.