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City honors five for going above and beyond

by: VERN UYETAKE, 
Lake Oswego’s Unsung Heroes for 2008  include, pictured, J.J. and Jan Jenkins, Mark Matson, Lisa Shaw-Ryan and Ron Peterson.

It started as a simple stroll.

But as J.J. and Jan Jenkins made daily walks through the community for exercise, they soon began collecting the litter they noticed along the way.

Many days they can be seen with garbage bags in tow. They can now also be found coordinating staff appreciation lunches at local schools, power washing brick signs in their neighborhood and trimming branches along local paths.

According to a panel of nine judges, the Jenkins are among five Unsung Heroes deserving of recognition. On Dec. 4, they received the city-sponsored award reserved for volunteers whose selfless efforts see few thanks but quietly benefit many.

This year's heroes also include Mark Matson, who volunteers computer maintenance and instruction at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center; Ron Peterson, who writes the monthly newsletter for the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition and Lisa Shaw-Ryan, whose achievements as a volunteer and business owner in First Addition Neighborhood are many.

Each recipient received plaques and special thanks from the Lake Oswego City Council amid an audience of family and friends. They also added their names to a growing list of civic-minded city residents to be honored as Unsung Heroes.

Mark Matson spends as much as 30 hours a week keeping the Computer Learning Center at the adult community center maintained and upgraded.

He also hosts a weekly users group meeting, helps people tackle tough computer problems during open lab hours and teaches classes, including a current class on how to create a Web site.

That's useful for local genealogy lovers, he said, many of whom want to create Web sites that track family history.

A 31-year employee at IBM Computers, Matson has been involved with computers since starting at IBM in 1962. Becoming involved with the adult community center, he said, is 'a natural fit.'

'It's very satisfying. The people are great down here,' he said. 'When you're not teaching a class you're teaching people how to do different kinds of things and to manage and maintain their own computers.'

Matson said he continues his own learning right along with visitors to the learning center.

'They are always coming here with new problems that I haven't seen before and so I learn a lot from them,' he said.

Matson was nominated for the Unsung Hero award by Kay Kerr, also a member of the Computer Learning Center.

If you see him around town, you may not recognize Ron Peterson. But just about everyone has read Peterson's writing in the last 10 years, which appears monthly in the newsletter for the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition (LONAC).

Peterson started the project in 1999 at the suggestion of his former wife, Norma Heyser.

The job seemed a good fit for Peterson, who produced a newsletter for fun at about age 7 or 8 called 'News and Views in Review.'

Since starting the LONAC newsletter, he has helped keep Lake Oswegans informed about local issues, writing articles every month, printing LONAC meeting minutes, a calendar of events and offering a monthly editorial.

The newsletter started as a four-page document, but has run to as many as 12 pages. Typically it now runs about six. It circulates to LONAC's paid membership, primarily by e-mail since 2003. About 100 readers receive a copy every month.

Peterson, who was among the founding members of LONAC in 1993, said he began the project primarily as 'something to do in retirement.'

'The last 10 years have gone by with different things happening to keep me busy, various computer problems and such. I hope the next 10 years go a little easier,' he said.

Peterson said the award for the newsletter caught him by surprise.

'It was well received and that was such a pick-me-up,' he said.

He celebrated the accolades with Heyser, who nominated him for the honor.

Jan and J.J. Jenkins say a lot of their volunteer work comes from a background in hospitality.

The couple met 20 years ago working for Marriott International. J.J. recently retired after 32 years in the business. Jan has been a stay-at-home mother for 15 years.

Jan began volunteering while her children were at local schools and J.J. has joined her. Now, their volunteer work includes cafeteria duty at Waluga Junior High School, delivery for Meals on Wheels, light replacement at the Lake Oswego Academy of Dance, work for the National Charity League, organizing benefit auctions and helping with orientations and events at schools.

Both the Jenkinses say they volunteer because they love Lake Oswego and think highly of the professionals that work for schools and organizations here.

They especially like to help take pressure off teachers and administrators at schools. They recently took tickets at a musical at Lakeridge High School, for example, to help the drama teacher be more available to her students.

'It's like feast or famine,' J.J. said of their schedule.

While involved in a project, he said, Jan and J.J. might work up to 40 hours a week.

Though their youngest child will graduate from Lakeridge in a year, 'There's no reason to stop' volunteering, J.J. said.

'We just love this school and these teachers,' Jan said.

Both the Jenkins said they were humbled by the Unsung Heroes award. They were nominated by Kathryn Ernst.

For the last 10 years, Lisa Shaw-Ryan has served the First Addition Neighborhood with unique gusto.

Shaw-Ryan has donated more than $30,000 to local charities through the shop she and her husband Chuck run called Chuck's Cookies + Coffee. Shaw-Ryan also donates coffee and cookies to charitable events like Relay for Life, Lattes for Teachers and to the First Addition Neighborhood Association's annual meeting.

A past-president of the Downtown Business District Association, Shaw-Ryan helped create the Passport program, a marketing campaign that encourages Lake Oswegans to shop local.

Her ideas also brought about Harvest Fest, now a three-year-old program that provides a safe trick-or-treating experience for children in Millennium Plaza Park.

Shaw-Ryan has also organized volunteers to serve meals at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center and testified on important civic issues.

As chair of the First Additional Neighborhood Association, she is credited with increasing neighborhood participation by 50 percent.

'A lot of this is about how welcomed we've been and how fortunate we feel about living here,' said Shaw-Ryan, who credits her husband Chuck with aiding her volunteer efforts, especially by pitching in with their two children, ages 7 and 17 months.

'We feel like we've found one of the greatest places to live and whatever I can do to help I am happy to do,' Shaw-Ryan said.

She was nominated for the Unsung Hero award by Diana Smith-Bouwer, a First Addition resident who also works in the city's citizen information center.