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Volunteer recognized for work with victims, children

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: KATIE WILSON - Linda Gaskill has worked as a volunteer at the Columbia County District Attorneys office for 13 years. She was nominated by Deputy District Attorney Jenni Jordan for the Champion of Children volunteer award.Last year’s binder is bulging, the multi-colored pages documenting Columbia County’s many child abuse victims inches thick between the covers.

This year’s binder is not nearly so full yet, but it’s quickly catching up.

“It’s disturbing,” said Linda Gaskill, volunteer with the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office. Gaskill recently received the Champion for Children volunteer award from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office for her work in Columbia County. The binders are part of what has driven her to spend four days a week for the last 13 years at a tiny desk pushed against a wall in the grand jury room.

“My first love has always been children,” said Gaskill. “We have an opportunity to protect a lot of kids here.” Now and then, a child will slip through the cracks, but Gaskill works to make sure this is a rare occurrence.

“Linda doesn’t have a law degree, a badge, or even an office, but her devotion, unequaled in my 25 plus years of experience prosecuting criminal child abuse and dependency cases, to creating a system which truly helps the rest of us do our jobs, helps countless children in ways few see or acknowledge,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Jenni Jordan in her nomination of Gaskill.

Gaskill, a Columbia County resident since 1980, first became involved as a volunteer victim’s advocate, after a relative became a victim. She was impressed by how the District Attorney’s office handled the case.

“It’s time for me to make a difference in someone else’s life,” she remembers thinking.

She still steps into the victim’s advocate roll as needed, but most of her time is spent being invisible, quietly doing the sometimes all-consuming job of follow-up: requesting information from a variety of agencies, getting updates on cases, contacting prosecutors and law enforcement, touching base with victim’s assistance, mental health and schools. All the little things that push cases forward.

“But Linda handles it all,” Jordan wrote, “smoothly, correctly, carefully and with the absolute least bother to any of the people or agencies involved.”

The District Attorney’s Office is already warren-like, its cramped hallways leading to small offices overflowing with documents, files and books. In the middle of the busy office, Gaskill creates her own order. She coordinates the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team, the Sexual Assault Response Team and the Elder Abuse Team.

She doesn’t seek out praise for her work, Jordan said, and she never complains.

“Linda can always be counted on, regardless of what’s going on in her busy life,” Jordan wrote. “If something takes time she didn’t otherwise plan, she will do it regardless because it may help a child.”