2023 Outstanding Service Awards
Community Members Honored for their Service at
151st Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Banquet
sponsored by Pacific Power
About 175 community members attended the 151st Annual Meeting & Banquet for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, January 27, 2024. As a chamber of commerce, we offer a variety of services to new, old, large & small businesses in the Astoria Warrenton area and our annual meeting is a way to celebrate all the wonderful things happening in our community. Pacific Power is the presenting sponsor of this annual meeting. The chamber is also supported by Recology Western Oregon to host a zero-waste event.
Learn more about our event here.
“A major part of this gathering is to celebrate some remarkable businesses and individuals with the announcement of the winners of the Richard Ford Distinguished Service Award and the George Award. Our community thrives because of the involvement of our residents and business leaders. These awards are among the most prestigious, highest honors our community can give to the super-volunteers in our midst. It is more evidence that we live in a truly special place that we have dozens of worthy nominees each year. The selection committees have an extraordinarily tough job to narrow that list down. This year’s recipients are deserving of this recognition and so much more.” shared AWACC Executive Director David Reid.
Several individuals and businesses were recognized for their contributions to the community during the evening’s program. Join us in congratulations and appreciation to:
The information below is an excerpt of the announcement script for the program. We'll add photos from the event to this post next week.
Bob and Irene Baltimore Leaders Circle Award:
Lewis and Clark Bank
We’d like to honor the recipient of an award named for two long-time and dedicated chamber Ambassadors. The Irene and Bob Baltimore Award is presented each year to a business that has gone the extra mile to serve the communities of Warrenton and Astoria.
The business we’re honoring tonight is Lewis and Clark Bank.
Not only are their Clatsop County staff among the kindest and most professional in the business, but, through Relationship Manager Jack Ficken, they support the ideas, the programs, the people, and the dreams that are at the very root of our rural towns.
Just last weekend, Jack himself cooked steaks for over a five hundred attendees of the Clatsop Working Watershed Cooperative fundraiser which helps fund natural resource educational programs in all the county high schools.
Even closer to home for us, Lewis and Clark Bank was quick to step forward to sponsor our Nonprofit Bootcamp program in 2022. When they saw what a tremendous impact it was having for local nonprofits, they readily agreed to renew their sponsorship again this year. Just another example of how they think about the community first.
Board President's Choice Award:
In addition to being strong and ubiquitous supporters of education, social services, and many other important aspects of our daily life in Clatsop County, Hampton Lumber has been a leader—THE leader—on the important issue of rationalizing the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for public forest land. Hampton people have been there at every opportunity. Every meeting, every time, everywhere in the state. Organizing testimony, lobbying, rubbing elbows. Whatever, Hampton has been on the job.
Hampton has long been a mainstay of our Chamber. In my (2023 Chamber President David Oser) time on the board, we’ve had two absolutely great Hampton board members: Lois Perdue, our 2019 president, and Lindsay Davis, our 2022 president. Beyond that Hampton is a huge supporter of Clatsop County including recent flabbergasting donations to the College. Hampton’s corporate motto is Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Materials, Sustainable Communities. That last one, that’s us, right here.
Melba and Tim O’Bryant
The Applause Award is for someone who, in the past year, did a particular thing in a spectacular way. In this case, they’ve been doing that particular thing in a spectacular way again and again since 1996.
It all started when one half of our Applause Award couple moved to Astoria as a young boy. He loved how the lights at Christmastime brightened the winter gloom. But then one day the lights and the decorations were not there anymore and he missed them.
Fast forward to 1996 when he happened upon one of those magical decorations at a local garage sale. He bought it and 70 others for $100 and a promise that he and his wife would put them up every year.
And so, they have. Every year. Every year more and more lights and color and holiday spirit. More volunteers helping and more sparkle in the winter gloom. For those doing the math, that’s 27 years of bringing magic to downtown Astoria.
Tim and Melba O’Bryant are this year’s Applause Award winners but they are every year’s Mr. & Mrs. Christmas. Please join all of us in thanking them for their incredible work and for building a tradition that will endure for many years to come.
A Lifetime of Service Award:
Volunteer firefighter John Sleutel served the community of Warrenton for over 37 years. His sudden passing in November of last year was a shock to everyone who knew him and to everyone who had become so used to seeing him when anyone needed help.
And we do mean anyone. Even if you didn’t know John, you would probably still have recognized him as the first volunteer firefighter to show up on scene. Or the person who pulled over if you were having car trouble, the person taking your donation at the food drive, the person who made sure everyone got a hot dog or burger at the fourth of July parade.
His presence became synonymous with small town living. With community. With Warrenton.
We thought John would always be there because, well, he was always there.
This Award is called “A Lifetime of Service” because that’s exactly what John gave. Constantly and willingly and well.
We’re pretty sure that John wouldn’t have liked receiving this award, but it’s not really an award for John. We just needed to find a way to say thank you, to tell Jean how widely and deeply John’s service was felt in our town, and to remind ourselves that it’s not the scenery or the businesses or the fishing that make this the best place in the world to live. It’s the people and their commitment to each other. No one demonstrated that more effortlessly than John.
Richard Ford Distinguished Service Award: (multiple winners)
presented by the City of Warrenton & the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
is someone who took a nationwide problem and made it her mission to solve it locally. One of the strongest indicators of future success and prosperity is the age at which a child learns to read.
This year’s Richard Ford winner took that knowledge to heart. She knows the power and importance of reading and believes that every child at Warrenton Elementary School should have the opportunity to be great readers. So, she began reading to and with those children – as many as she possibly could. She’s been doing it for years. She’s always been willing to go above and beyond to obtain and prepare books, organize volunteers, and collaborate with others to make her reading space appealing and fun for the students. Most of the furniture items, in fact, were donated pieces she wrangled herself. She even creates annual themes that show students goals and inspire them to read more.
When the pandemic made that work seem impossible, she did it anyway. She went so far as to purchase books for those kids to read and keep for their own, making sure that Warrenton’s youngest readers were getting back on track academically and instilling a love of books and adventures and reading in every child she could reach. Can you imagine a better gift?
This winner never gave up on those kids. She never wavered in her conviction that she was doing the right thing and she never stopped being the kind of champion every child should have. In the words of one of her nominators, she is “The kind of Badass I want to be when I grow up.”
Can you guess who we’re talking about? That’s right, it’s Jeanne Moha. Please join us in thanking and honoring her.
Richard Ford Distinguished Service Award: (multiple winners)
is, relatively speaking, rather new to Warrenton but who immediately immersed herself in service to the people. She has been the first to raise her hand when help was needed, the first to raise new ideas, the first to organize new projects and events, and the first to show up to do the work.
This year’s winner arrived in town in 2015 and before the year was out had identified a need for an “Adopt A Teen” program to go along with existing “Toys for Tots” and similar programs for kids. In true Richard Ford fashion, she didn’t say “they should offer something similar for teenagers”. She said, “We should do something” and set about doing just that. With support and donations from Main Street Market, Van Dusen Beverages, and Clatsop Distributing she began what has become an annual tradition serving over 200 Warrenton High School kids with everything from clothing to paying off medical bills for their parents and buying gifts for younger siblings.
Some time later our winner shared the idea with some of her friends of throwing a Fall Festival for Warrenton families. Little did those friends know how big her vision for that event was. Fast forward a few months and another Warrenton new tradition took shape with carnival games, food vendors, crafts, bounce houses, trick or treating, and more. The first year alone drew 4,000 people and it has grown since then.
When Mayor Henry Balensifer asked her to join forces with local nonprofit Spruce Up Warrenton on their events committee, she said yes immediately. Soon that committee, responsible for the 4th of July parade, was also throwing an Easter egg hunt and a Regatta bike parade complete with games and a movie in the park. She has become the chairperson for Spruce Up Warrenton.
Her dreams always seem to involve making somebody else’s life better and she seems to find ways to do so in a wholesale manner.
George Award: (multiple winners)
presented by the City of Astoria & the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce
is one of those volunteers that every organization dreams of. Passionate, versatile, dependable, and someone who always seems to not only know what work is needed, but how to get it done.
Retired from a life of service to his country and community, He has been a volunteer at the Columbia River Maritime Museum since 2011, and they had this to say about him: “(He) has been involved in all aspects of the Museum’s volunteer program, including curatorial research, woodshop demonstrations, education and docent activities, the ham radio club aboard the Lightship Columbia, and much more. He demonstrates a high level of dependability, integrity, and genuine passion for learning. He is kind, personable, and shares his enthusiasm and knowledge with guests of all ages. He produces quality work, often creating projects of his own that improve the visitor experience. Ham radio operators know that the oscillator is a key component and the ”heart” of all radios. Time and again, this year’s George Award winner proves to be just that for the community of Astoria.
As if that wasn’t enough, this year’s George has been all that and more for the beloved Astoria Riverfront Trolley. He has educated himself on the mechanics of a 110-year-old trolley that needs nearly daily maintenance and repair. He researches mechanical, wood, canvas, electrical, and track repair and gathers the expertise to get the work done. He is the first call-out when there is a problem and even serves as liaison between the trolley and the City as well as ODOT, and he serves on the board of directors, responsible for the long-term health and safety of the Astoria Riverfront Trolley Association.
In October 2023, he travelled to Willits, California to evaluate and help secure a second trolley which will begin operations later this year and ensure that trolleys will be a part of the Astoria waterfront for decades to come. Trolley volunteers and board members tell us that without this George winner, the trolley and its association would be in a very different situation. He is truly the heart of the Astoria Riverfront Trolley.
George Award: (multiple winners)
is someone who also answered the call when it came. In fact, she seems to answer every call and sometimes doesn’t wait for the call. Every time her community needed her, she was there.
Also retired from a lifetime’s work in service to humanity, this George winner moved to Astoria and immediately found ways of serving. Her many nominators used words like “smart”, “tireless”, “generous”, “organized”, “kind”, “capable”, “extraordinary”, “fantastic”, and, our favorite: “Leader”.
As if to demonstrate the spirit of the George award, she can be seen watering plants downtown, greeting cruise ship visitors, walking dogs at the shelter, fundraising, helping a new friend with travel and care after an illness, working for food security through the foodbank, serving on the parks board, President of the Liberty Theater board, and more. As if that wasn’t enough, when the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine became available, she volunteered over 400 hours for the Clatsop County Health Department administering shots, performing testing, and helping seniors sign up for both. She is a long-time member of P.E.O. and is an Assistance League member, though it sounds to me like she’s an assistance league all unto herself.