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A Tradition of Compassion

Event honors volunteers and philanthropists

Celeste Hill-Thomas, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation, presents the Outstanding Philanthropist award to Dean Dollarhide, who was acknowledged for his support of many local activities such as youth athletics and the Pig Bowl.

Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
Celeste Hill-Thomas, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation, presents the Outstanding Philanthropist award to Dean Dollarhide, who was acknowledged for his support of many local activities such as youth athletics and the Pig Bowl.

The 2018 Tradition of Compassion event was held at the Mid-Columbia Senior Center last week to honor volunteers and philanthropists in The Dalles community.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the event, which was created by the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation, an organization established in 1983 to provide financial support to Mid-Columbia Medical Center and support quality healthcare throughout the Gorge.

Tradition of Compassion was sponsored this year by The Springs at Mill Creek, along with last year’s Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation award winner, Copper West Properties, and also Griffith Motors, INB, The Dalles Grocery Outlet and Columbia State Bank.

The main purpose of the evening was to hand out four awards for volunteerism and philanthropy, but time was taken at the start to honor eight individuals: Doris Alley, Meridith Berkovich, Mary Fields, Clara Hooser, Robert Munro, Wayne Ryan, Stan Sawyer and Eva Sharp, all named as Legacy Honorees.

“These are folks who spent a lifetime giving to their community before they passed on. It's a chance for us to honor their memory and acknowledge their families for the legacy that their loved ones have left,” said Celeste Hill-Thomas, executive director of the foundation.

Family members were invited up to receive a bouquet of flowers on the honoree’s behalf.

The foundation also presented several grants—including the Area of Greatest Need grant, which is presented annually to two chosen nonprofits or initiatives to improve community health. This year, however, Hill-Thomas said the foundation couldn’t pick just two and used money from the Community Health Fund and Healthy Community/Healthy Youth Fund to award four grants: A hydration station for Dry Hollow Elementary, AED for Riverside Gymnastics, Sherman County Ambulance Services, and the startup SNAP Match program for farmer’s markets.

Over $17,000 was awarded, Hill-Thomas said.

Two additional grants were presented at the event: Windy River Gleaners received $3,398 to purchase a three-door refrigerator, which would allow them to accept and distribute more fresh produce; and the Columbia Gorge Pregnancy Resource Center received a $5,000 grant for their “cribs for kids” project, which works to ensure infants a safe place to sleep.

After presenting the grants, Hill-Thomas began announcing the evening’s award nominees.

Nominations in four award categories were submitted to the foundation, who turned them over to a committee of community members who reviewed them.

The categories were: Outstanding Volunteer, Outstanding Philanthropist, Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation and Outstanding Community Service Organization.

“It gets harder and harder every year to select award recipients,” said Hill-Thomas. “There are so many people doing great things around here.”

Twenty-two individuals, groups, businesses and organizations were nominated for awards.

This year’s Outstanding Volunteer award was given to Patricia Lucas, a life-long member and current secretary of the VFW Post 2471 Auxiliary, a founding member of the Mid-Columbia Veteran’s Memorial Committee and a Community Meal board member.

She also organizes the Veteran’s Day parade and the following potluck dinner.

Dean Dollarhide was awarded this year’s Outstanding Philanthropist.

“I don’t think people realize just how generous this community is,” Hill-Thomas said, acknowledging that the statement is certainly true with all of the nominees, including Dollarhide, who regularly supports activities as local fairs and rodeos, youth athletics and the iconic Pig Bowl.

C.H. Urness Motors was named Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation and recognized for their commitment to supporting community programs, such as 4-H, the Fort Dalles Rodeo and the Arlington Saddle Club, as well as the Sherman County Athletic Fund and the Dufur-based Jerry-Walker-DePriest Scholarship Fund.

“In the category of Outstanding Community Service Organization every nominee does tremendous work,” said Hill-Thomas.

“This was probably the most difficult category to pick just one winner in.”

Ultimately, the Community Backpack Program received the award and was acknowledged for their work organizing volunteers to support food-insecure families during the school year by collecting donations and packing meals for students to take home over the weekend.

Hill-Thomas stressed that, though not selected for the award, fellow nominees Columbia Gorge Children's Advocacy Center, HAVEN and Patriot Guard Riders were worthy of mention.

At the end of the evening, she invited all past and present nominees in attendance to stand. Over half the room did so.

“If there's one thing people take away from this event,” she said, “I hope it's that we live in an amazing community full of generous, loving people. I know I, for one, am truly blessed.”


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