In an evening of honoring some of Hermiston’s most compassionate and dedicated community members, the emotion in the room was most palpable when Charlie Clupny took his turn at the microphone to accept the Award of Merit at the Distinguished Citizens Awards banquet.
“I was back there crying because I just thought I came here to dinner,” Clupny said, wiping his eyes. “I said I wanted to make a difference in the world but I didn’t think I’d get recognized along the way. I just thought that’s what you’re supposed to do in life.”
Jesus Rome, a coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates, said Clupny was the “poster child” for advocating for foster children in the court system with integrity and passion. He also serves others through the prison ministry at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Meadowbrook Springs camp for children with learning disabilities, the Lions Club, Relay for Life, the Catholic church and as a Parkinson’s support group co-facilitator.
“He has devoted his time, his energy and his love to these organizations,” Rome said.
Clupny responded with the selflessness Rome had just described, calling himself “just a kid who came from California up to Oregon at age 19.”
“I’ve seen a lot, but the thing I know we’re here on earth for is we’re supposed to love each other,” he said. “I don’t mean hugs and kisses, but treating everyone, I mean everyone, with respect.”
Another of the night’s honorees recognized for their selflessness and compassion was Pat Hart, as Man of the Year.
Hart retired as chief of Hermiston Fire & Emergency Services in 2014, and presenter Phil Hamm said he still shows a “servant’s heart” in the community through serving in Rotary Club and community Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, maintaining Funland playground, opening his home to overnight visitors, serving on the Chamber of Commerce board and donating his photography for charity fundraisers.
“He is truly an example of someone who has unselfishly used his talents to make Hermiston a better place,” Hamm said.
Woman of the Year was Liz Marvin, who works as a counselor for Hermiston High School. Presenter Bob Green called her compassionate, graceful, wise, devoted, an impressively skilled organizer, passionate and someone to whom students often turn for advice out of respect and admiration.
“It’s rare to find an individual so talented and yet so dedicated to the success of others,” Green said.
The Spirit of Excellence award went to Jeanne Jewett, a multimedia consultant for the Hermiston Herald and a chamber ambassador. She was recognized by Sherri Smith and Debbie Pedro for her “real leadership and exemplary values” as she works as chairwoman of the chamber ambassadors, a member of the Leadership Hermiston steering committee, the founder of the Butte Challenge and an organizer of many golf tournaments for charity.
Altrusa president LuAnne Davison presented the Altrusan Outstanding Young Citizen award to Vanessa Ambriz-Mendoza and Elias “Ismael” Arenas. Davison said Ambriz-Mendoza is an intelligent young woman with grace, curiosity and a dedication to serving others, which she does through the Ford Leadership Foundation, Good Shepherd Community Student Foundation and frequent fundraisers for nonprofits.
She described Arenas as a dependable young man who has gained great confidence and maturity through participation in National Honor Society, Key Club and soccer.
“He has an immense amount of compassion and character,” Davison said.
The Fire Service Award went to pastor Terry Cummings, who serves as lead chaplain for Hermiston’s fire district and police department.
Ric Sherman said Cummings helps counsel and comfort first responders who face difficult circumstances each day, as well as the families who are experiencing the shock of losing a loved one or a home. He is a calming influence on chaotic scenes, Sherman said, and plays a vital role in both departments.
Cummings accepted the award by saying it was a “real privilege to be able to serve the men and women who make up our first responders.”
Rotary Business of the Year went to Good Shepherd Health Care System, which is one of Hermiston’s largest employers with more than 550 staff and a payroll of $37 million.
Presenter Dean Fialka noted the national recognition the hospital has received recently, the long list of services Good Shepherd provides and its “huge impact” on the economy. He said Good Shepherd also gives back by providing free rides to medical appointments through the Carevan, awarding grants and scholarships through the Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation and activities like a recent food drive that collected 5,000 food items for Agape House.
Also recognized Wednesday was Hermiston School District’s Administrator of the Year, Hermiston High School principal Tom Spoo. Spoo was recognized for being a dedicated team player, respected for his sincerity throughout the district and his personal approach.
The district’s Educators of the Year were Linda White, Susie Cobb, Ericka Keefauver, Tate Enright, Kimo Gabriel, Mark Douglass, Jolene Davis, Joyce Barak and Margaret Gutierrez, with Desert View Elementary fifth grade teacher Garth Lind named the district’s overall top teacher of the year.
Assistant superintendent Tricia Mooney said Lind’s students have consistently posted test scores significantly above the state average, with impressive and unexpected growth each year, and that more than 70 teachers have come to watch Lind teach so that they can learn what makes him a model teacher.