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Winston honors First Citizens

February 28, 2017 GMT

WINSTON — Bedecked in cheetah print and zebra stripes, the audience members filling the Winston Community Center looked to the safari-themed stage to hear the speakers and honor their neighbors Monday night during the 2017 Winston First Citizens Banquet.

As a de-scented skunk roamed the room and a parrot said “peek-a-boo,” representatives of Wildlife Safari answered questions from the guests before giving a presentation on the park’s elephant and cheetah breeding programs, with a special appearance by one of the ambassador cheetahs.

Sandra Thorn and Clay Caldwell were named the 2017 Female First Citizen and Male First Citizen, respectively, as the crowd cheered with standing ovations.

2016 Female First Citizen Kathy Stutzman said if Thorn sees something she can help with, she lends her expertise to get it done.

Thorn is the chairperson of Go Team and the City Planning Commission as well as a member of the Park Board and the Winston Area Chamber of Commerce. On the Park Board, she has been instrumental in updating the Parks Master Plan, helping to get amenities in the parks and fundraising for the renovation of the Riverbend Park restrooms.

“I’m totally surprised,” Thorn said. She said she feels like a “newbie” compared to other volunteers in the community. She grew up in Winston, moved away for college and only returned a few years ago to help her aging parents.

“I just decided to help out where I could,” she said. “I’ve always been the type of person that if I see something that could be better, I try to make it better. If I see a need my talents fit, I try to step up and help.”

Most recently, Thorn has been raising funds for facilities and programming in the parks through the Winston Parks and Recreation Association, and she also created an event with her husband called the Blue Jean Ball.

“Winston is a great place to live because of the people,” Thorn said.

2016 Male First Citizen Ron Quimby said Caldwell embodies the spirit of volunteerism.

“A true hometown gentleman, he is always giving and never asking, except for others to join him or organizations he is associated with to help improve our community,” Quimby said.

As president of the Melon Festival Association, Caldwell is in charge of that three-day event, in addition to the Summer Night Cruise, Christmas tree lighting and decorations at Civic Wayside Park, and the Christmas parade. Caldwell also developed the Dillard Community Action Association to benefit Dillard through construction of a park and other projects.

As a kid in Dillard, he used to play at the Dillard grade school playground, but he said now the kids have no where to go. He got the idea to create a playground in Dillard, with a possible bike path and new signage.

“I kind of grew up volunteering for Winston through my mother and some other people that I got acquainted with at a younger age, and it just became a natural thing to do and something that’s very enjoyable,” Caldwell said.

High school seniors Caleb Hobson and Mariah Holcomb received the 2017 Student Awards.

After graduation, Hobson plans to attend Umpqua Community College before transferring to Oregon State University.

“While I do not have the specifics of my life planned out, I know that I will be successful and I will make a difference, no matter what I decide to do in life,” Hobson said. “I feel positive about my future and the plans I have made and know that I will go on to make my family, my school and my community proud,” Hobson said.

The Associated Student Body president has also worked with other community members to improve the parks as secretary of Winston City Park Board.

“There are many people in my life who volunteer in this community,” Hobson said, mentioning Edie Young and his grandfather. “People like that have been positive role models and I just look up to them.”

Holcomb plans to attend UCC’s nursing program and transfer to Oregon Health and Science University to become a trauma nurse in Douglas County.

“I am unflappable in medical situations that others have trouble with,” she said. “I want to help people every day and I am going to be a great addition to the medical field.”

Holcomb said she was surprised and thankful for the award. She said she’s put in a lot of community service hours at school and at a horse ranch near her house.

“It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping somebody else,” Holcomb said.

The Humanitarian award went to Jennifer Mitchell for renovating two acres of land in the heart of Winston and creating a living, shopping and dining center called The Elephant’s Walk.

Sharon Harrison said Mitchell has taken the initiative to change the image of the community and improve the center of town that was in disrepair.

Kelly Bingham and the Special Talent Enrichment Program crew were given the 2017 Civic Award for their 780-plus hours of community service, including picking up trash in the parks, blowing leaves, washing city vehicles, trimming shrubs, landscaping in front of public works and more.

Though Winston does not always give out this award, named for Jim McClellan, Gary Leif received the 2017 McClellan Award for his involvement in the community as a past president of the Chamber of Commerce and a former male First Citizen. Leif started his photography business in Winston before moving it to Roseburg, and has donated First Citizen portraits to the community for the last 37 years.

“Jim was my mentor since day one,” Leif said. “This means more to me than you’ll ever know.”