Gresham police chief wins March of Dimes award

Carla Piluso one of five Oregonians to be honored
by: John Klicker, Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso was chosen as one of this year’s five White Rose Award winners by the March of Dimes. Her sister, Julie Piluso, nominated her for the award, which recognizes volunteer activity and excellence in a profession.

Julie Piluso admits she's biased.

She adores her little sister, Carla Piluso, and thinks the woman, who was named Gresham's first female police chief in 2002, is amazing.

Others agree.

The March of Dimes will honor Carla Piluso with the prestigious White Rose Award on Wednesday, May 16. The award, now in its 25th year, honors outstanding women in Oregon based on volunteerism, professional excellence, commitment to improving the status of women regionally and contributions to the community as a whole.

Piluso is one of five 2007 honorees including Roz Babener, Gayle Cheldelin and Lorraine Hood-Jack, all of Portland, and Karla Chambers of Corvallis.

'No sister could be more proud than I am of Carla, and it is impossible to see her in an impartial light,' wrote Gresham's Julie Piluso in nominating her sister for the award. 'But when I mentioned to others that I was nominating Carla for The White Rose Award, they quickly jumped on the bandwagon to lend support. It was wonderful to confirm her enthusiastic supporters come from her circles of influence that range much wider than our family.'

In fact, Julie Piluso's one-and-a-half pages of testimony swelled to an 11-page nomination with references from Carlene Weldon of Snow-Cap Community Charities and Jean DeMaster, director of Human Solutions - both organizations that Carla Piluso volunteers for - plus five supporting e-mails from members of the community.

They are Brenda Butler, former Rockwood Weed and Seed site director who now works as a crime prevention specialist for the Gresham Police Department; Martha Brooks, state director of Fight Crime: Invest In Kids Oregon; Carlynn Capps, principal of Powell Valley Grade School and formerly principal of West Gresham Grade School; Wendy Lebow, director of the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community; and John Brookens, past president of the Historic Downtown Gresham Kiwanis and Lt. Governor of Division 66, Pacific Northwest District, Kiwanis International.

'Her commitment to family, profession, and community service are exemplary and are worthy of nomination and recognition by not only those who benefit directly but as an example and inspiration for everyone who strives to a better community and world,' Brookens wrote.

Their collective voice sang praises for a woman lauded as a fantastic mother to her 14-year-old daughter, Kate, a dedicated daughter to her 94-year-old father, Chuck, a strong leader for her community and a tireless volunteer.

'Carla inspires us - at Human Solutions, in the city of Gresham, and in the wider community,' DeMaster wrote. 'Her spirit, her joy and her energy abound in the good works which she does - and in the wider sphere of good works which she inspires everyone around her to do.'

Piluso, 51, was stunned to hear she won the award.

In fact, when the March of Dimes called Piluso at her office, she figured she'd end up in jail as part of one of the organization's better-known fund-raisers in which leaders call for donations from behind bars in order to be released.

'I was actually floored,' Piluso said. 'I had not a clue.'

And when she heard that sister Julie nominated her, Piluso sheepishly admitted she broke her cardinal rule to never cry at work.

Piluso, 51, joined the Gresham Police Department as its second female officer in 1979. She is now one of about 200 female police chiefs within the nation's approximately 18,000 police departments.

Over the years, she has volunteered for Human Solutions, Snow-Cap Community Charities, the Police Activities League, Salvation Army, Head Start, Historic Downtown Gresham Kiwanis, the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community, TIP (Trauma Incident Program), Mt. Hood Hospice, Gresham High School's Senior Party fund-raiser, Soroptimists, Mt. Hood Community College, DARE and Explorer Scouts.

'It's kind of, it's just what I do. I like doing all those things,' Piluso said. 'I'm just really lucky I've been successful in a career that allows me the flexibility to do them.'

Piluso is humbled to receive an award that doesn't only recognize her police work, but honors her overall community contributions.

She's also honored to be in the company of previous winners from East Multnomah County, such as Gussie McRobert - a strong woman known for calling it like she sees it who served as Gresham's mayor from 1989 to 1999.

'It is so flattering to be recognized for service and for work,' Piluso said. 'And I would so love to take all of the credit, but nothing happens without a whole bunch of folks who are well intentioned and who want to do the right thing.'

If you go

What: The 25th Anniversary Silver Jubilee White Rose Luncheon.

When: Wednesday, May 16. Patron reception begins at 11 a.m. with the luncheon starting at noon.

Where: The Governor Hotel, 614 S.W. 11th St., in downtown Portland.

Details: The event honors Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso and four other Oregon women of achievement, selected based on their volunteerism, professional excellence, commitment to improving the status of women in the region and overall community contribution.

For tickets or tables: Call Brenda Kinoshita at 503-222-9434, ext. 16 or 1-800-811-0895. E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit Patron tickets cost $120. Regular tickets cost $75.

Proceeds benefit the Greater Oregon Chapter of the March of Dimes, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Previous East Multnomah County winners: Betty Schedeen, 1986; Sharon Nesbit, 1989; Gussie McRobert, 1990; Gwenda McCall, 1992; and Mother Francine Cardew, 1997.