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Shining Star Bruce Kaiser named city's First Citizen

From cooking to yardwork, Tigard's Bruce Kaiser helps in any way he can

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Bruce Kaiser said he'd rather volunteer with local organizations than just about anything else. Kaiser was named this year's winner of the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce's First Citizen award.Bruce Kaiser may have retired in 1998, but you’d never know it.

Kaiser, 78, volunteers with several organizations across Tigard, and on Friday, he was named the winner of Tigard's First Citizen award, the highest award issued by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce each year.

The award recognizes people who make in-depth, long-term volunteer contributions to the Tigard community.

Kaiser isn’t used to the spotlight. He has been working behind the scenes for nearly two decades with several local groups, and said he prefers to work in the background.

“That’s where I work best,” Kaiser said. “I want to help people, but I don’t interact with people very well. I’d rather provide money, or food and a bit of banter.”

For 39 years, Kaiser worked in education as a science teacher at the university and high school levels, including time at Tigard High School as a teacher and administrator.

But after retiring, Kaiser began to get more involved in his community.

Kaiser has a long history of volunteerism. A member of Tigard United Methodist Church, Kaiser volunteers up to 20 hours each week doing landscaping work around the church. He works as a busboy at the Tigard Senior Center, and volunteers at the emergency warming shelter which operates each winter at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

But that’s not all. For more than a decade, Kaiser has spent three nights a month making dinner for the residents at the Good Neighbor Center, Tigard’s homeless shelter.

“My problem is that I enjoy doing what I’m doing,” he said. “You can only watch so much television, or take so many ocean cruises. I’d really rather do what I’m doing than almost anything else.”

He has spent more than 1,500 hours packing medical supplies for Medical Teams International, those supplies shipped overseas to Doctors without Borders and other medical providers.

Kaiser is a member of the Tigard Kiwanis Club’s board of directors. The Kiwanis sponsor Key Clubs at Tigard and Sherwood high schools. Kaiser served as advisor to Tigard High School’s Key Club in the early 2000s before moving to Sherwood High School’s Key Club, where he continues to serve today.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kaiser has been volunteering since he retired more than 20 years ago. It's something he's drawn to do, he said, whether its landscaping or working with local high schoolers.

Kaiser said he stumbled into much of his volunteer work.

“When I was with the Tigard High School Key Club, they had a student who I heard talking about cooking at the Good Neighbor Center. I thought, ‘Cooking? At the Good Neighbor Center? What’s that about?’ But the kids would go out and buy food and make them dinners. I watched them in action and it dawned on me that this was something that we could all do. It took a 16-year-old to teach us how to give back.”

Now, Kaiser can’t stay away. He volunteers at the shelter three nights a month cooking with various groups, serves on the shelter’s Board of Directors and does landscaping work around the facility.

Kaiser has a special place in his heart for helping children.

“The Kiwanis is really focused on children, and that’s really why I have gotten so involved with the Good Neighbor Center is because of the children that are there.”

Kaiser joins a long list of First Citizen award winners including mayors, city councilors and newspaper publishers.

Last year, the Chamber gave the award to Tom Murphy, a Tigard attorney who works with Community Partners for Affordable Housing, and led a charge against a controversial light rail ballot measure.

“Bruce is one of those unique individuals who cannot say ‘no’ to any request for help and he is always quick to volunteer his time and talents whenever he perceives he can be helpful,” the Chamber said in its release. “He is quiet and operates ‘under the radar,’ but volunteering since 1998 when he retired as an educator comes natural to him. It is his passion and truly his reason for being. We need many more like him.”

The First Citizen award is part of a series of Shining Stars community awards issued by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce each spring. Kaiser will be presented with the award at Tigard’s 2015 Shining Stars Community Awards Celebration on April 24 at Embassy Suites, 9000 S.W. Hall Blvd.

The Oscars-themed award ceremony includes dinner and silent auction for the Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets cost $35 per person and can be purchased at www.tigardchamber.org.

Read more about all the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce's 2015 Shining Stars award winners

Community awards

‘From the Heart’ Volunteer of the Year: Angel Gnau

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Olivia Paulson

Shining Stars Scholarship winners: Jaime Gensley, Renee Padia and Tyler Walker

Chamber of Commerce awards

Chamber Business of the Year: Tigard Tire & Auto

Outstanding Chamber Volunteer: Megan DeSalvo

Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Ashlee Vance

Chamber CEO Shooting Star: Ethan Frelly

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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