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Unsung Heroes of 2012

Lake Oswego pays tribute to five outstanding citizens


by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The Lake Oswego Unsung Heroes of 2012 display the certificates of honor they received at a city council meeting Tuesday night. From left are Alan Mela, Phil Rossi, Michael McConnell, Sarah Howell and Tom Carey.It takes great people to make a great city, and Lake Oswego honored five of them as Unsung Heroes for 2012.

These citizens were celebrated by the Lake Oswego City Council at its meeting on Tuesday night. The honorees were: Tom Carey, Michael McConnell, Alan Mela, Phil Rossi and Sarah Howell.

Carey, McConnell and Mela were honored as a group for their outstanding service to the Lake Oswego Farmers Market, one of the top farmers markets in Oregon, drawing up to 10,000 patrons every Saturday from May to October. It is their behind-the-scenes work that is largely responsible for making the Lake Oswego market such a success. Each Saturday they arrive at Millennium Plaza Park to guide the vendors’ cars and trucks as they bring their goods and produce to the farmers market.

The three help the vendors make their way through the maze of tents and tables on the plaza to their designated areas safely and efficiently. This is a difficult feat considering the size and number of trucks, the small area to maneuver in and the number of people at the plaza in the early morning hours.

Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman had high praise for the three men, saying, “But for their dedication and commitment to the market, the vendors and the citizens who shop there, the market would not be the wonderful experience it is now. I appreciate their unsung efforts to make Lake Oswego one of the best and most livable cities in the nation.”

The three men also came in for praise from farmers market Director Maddie Ovenell.

“Tom does an amazing job with customer service as he is super friendly, always helpful and has a wonderful eye for the intricate puzzle of market traffic,” she said.

Carey said he was honored to be an unsung hero, but he had no expectations for his service other than having fun.

“There is such an opportunity for volunteer work,” Carey said. “I get a kick out of getting up early and helping people do what they’re supposed to do, whether the weather is good or if it’s bad.”

“It’s fantastic,” said McConnell of the honor. “It’s like winning the lottery, only better.”

McConnell said he got into community service because of the influence of his girlfriend, and he is glad he did.

“I love it,” McConnell said. “It’s an early morning rise but I love it. I love Lake Oswego.”

“It was a complete surprise,” said Mela. “It’s a real honor. But the real pleasure is working with such a great group of volunteers and city staff members that keep the farmers market going.”

Rossi has been a true leader of the Boy Scouts of Lake Oswego, serving Troop 230 for 15 years.

“Phil has been a dedicated leader for many years even after his son left scouting,” said Dan Clark, who nominated Rossi for the honor.

“I saw what scouting did for my son, David,” Rossi said. “He made Eagle Scout in 1997. Scouting really brought him out and developed his leadership. If scouting could do that for him, it could do it for other boys.”

Rossi has served as advancement chairman for Troop 230, always making sure that each Boy Scout earns his rank by the book.

He is also a volunteer with Clackamas County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, a group of licensed amateur radio operators dedicated to providing communication for local agencies in case of emergencies or disasters.

An interesting note on Rossi is that he lives in the historic George Rogers House, former home of the man who donated the land that became George Rogers Park. He was also Rossi’s grandfather.

Howell, the mother of three young children, has played a tremendous role in making the Lake Oswego community better. She has served on the Lake Oswego School District Foundation Board, the Lake Grove Elementary PTA and Christ Church Episcopal. However, she is best known for taking the lead in a five-year campaign to establish an elementary world language program in the LOSD. Howell worked to educate district education leaders on the benefits of such a program by gathering extensive research and interviewing experts in the field of language immersion. She also created a petition and gathered more than 100 signatures of citizens desiring such a program.

A self-described “mediocre language student” while growing up in West Linn, Howell said she received a “traditional” American education of that time. But she was quick to see the advantages of a language immersion program in this globalized world, one that would help not only her own children but also other Lake Oswego children.

“The more I learned about the global economy, the more I learned that a language immersion program is not nice to have — we need to have it,” Howell said. “Our kids are only young once, so we have to take this opportunity. I am so grateful we’ve taken this great step forward.”

One of Howell’s more remarkable efforts was organizing a trip to Minnetonka, Minn., where a school district had seen outstanding results with its language immersion program. Accompanying her were parent Lara James and school board members Bob Barman and Teri Oelrich. James said the trip proved to be the turning point in proving to the LOSD just how well a language immersion program could work in a community.

“Truly, I cannot think of a better unsung hero to nominate this year,” James said. “Thank you, Sarah, for working for my child and all of the children in this community.”

Howell’s efforts drew an outpouring of this year’s award nominations, including from nine community leaders and 34 families.




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