Hometown

The ‘joy and art’ of cooking

You could say that cooking is a career for Heidi O’Connor, but that might be selling it short.O’Connor, of Vancouver, lives and breathes the culinary arts at The Kids Cooking Corner, a school that teaches children, “the art and joy of cooking.” The 45-year-old mother of three opened the school three years ago, when she realized her son didn’t know how to make a box meal because he didn’t understand how to measure ingredients. “The schools don’t have the budgets for home ec anymore, and with parents having full-time careers, it is challenging to find time to teach kids in the kitchen,” she said. O’Connor speaks from personal experience. She balanced a full-time career in the restaurant industry and then in sales while raising her family. She was searching for a new business to start when the idea for a cooking school came about. “A light bulb went on,” she said. “Why not teach other people’s children how to cook? You get to a point in life where you start wondering, ‘What am I really here for?’ This was the answer.”

Increasing international understanding

When asked what he enjoyed most about Camas, Michael Wagener, mayor of Wissen, Germany, said “the people.”“It’s the contact with the people that is most rewarding,” he said. “When you come to another country, you can learn a lot of things by listening. We can learn how a city gets a vision, and comes up with ways to make it happen.” Wagener needed no translator to communicate his statement. He speaks fluent English. He was part of a Partner Cities delegation visiting Camas. The group arrived on Sept. 13, and included professionals from the cities of Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow in Poland; Lipova Lazne in the Czech Republic and Wissen, Germany. The official partnership between Poland and Camas has been in existence since May 2004, when then-Mayor Paul Dennis signed a declaration of cooperation with the intent to: “Seek to establish and develop effective cooperation between the towns’ communities, institutions and trade. We are aware that this cooperation is a major factor in popularizing and promoting our town and that it opens up new perspectives for European and transatlantic integration.”

Students explore future careers in CHS internship program

While some teens were spending their summer kicking back with friends, others were working up to 40 hours per week in professional internships. These students, from the CHS Math, Science and Technology Magnet program, worked at internships ranging from designing a program at Underwriters Laboratories to spending time in the operating room of a plastic surgeon’s office, to measuring the health of local waterways. The internship program was spearheaded by CHS Magnet teacher Ron Wright and community volunteer/business organization developer Chad Stewart four years ago, as a way for students to gain real-world experience in potential future careers before going to college. Students are paired with businesses or experts in various fields and also had mentors.

Broadening their perspectives

It has been said that if one wants to broaden their perspective on life, volunteering is the way to begin. Several local teens are doing just that by making a difference in the lives of homeless animals. Eric Hou, Malini Naidu and Julia Bedont, all of Camas, participate in the Humane Society for Southwest Washington’s teen volunteer program. With only 30 spots available each term, and approximately 80 applicants, it’s a highly competitive process. Hou, 16, was motivated to apply because of his love for animals. “I have a dog of my own, so it really made me want to help animals who don’t have a home,” he said. “They really need love and attention.”

Sharing a love of color

Two artists who share a passion for color and form will fuse their interests with a September art show at the Second Story Gallery. Will Ray of Vancouver is a dedicated watercolorist, while friend Luane Penarosa of Washougal is branching out into oils. Their show, “Kaleidoscope,” will feature their different mix of artistic styles, but also similarities in their love of color, and dedication to their craft. “It takes me a long time to paint,” Ray said. “We’re both planners, we paint a little, then look at it, then decide what to do next.” Penarosa, 68, said she gets a lot of composition advice from Ray, 66, who has been painting for 25 years and has an art history degree. “I visualize what I want, then I go for it,” she said. “Both of us really like color and form, and that’s why we named our show ‘Kaleidoscope.’ It is all coming together.”

Rising above the obstacles

At first glace, Dakota Watson looks like any other 11-year-old boy. He banters with his sister, loves basketball and is growing out of clothes faster than his mom can buy them.But the fact that Dakota is even alive is a miracle in itself. The Camas resident was born with serious medical complications, including a cross-fused ectopic kidney. By the time Dakota was two days old, he had been through two surgeries. “He wasn’t expected to even survive,” recalled his mom, Samantha. But Dakota was a fighter and still is, she added. “The doctors thought he would have to get a kidney transplant by the time he was 2,” Samantha said. “Every time it sounds really bad, he just finds a way to pull through it.”

Camas' Woodburn Elementary design incorporates nature into the school

After three years in the making, the Camas School District’s newest building will open its doors to eager students and teachers. Woodburn Elementary, which can accommodate up to 600 students, is located off of Southeast Crown Road and surrounded by nature. “People ask which classroom has the best view, and I can’t really give them an answer,” said Jan Strohmaier, principal. “There are fantastic views everywhere.” The 12-acre site is adjacent to the Lacamas Creek trail system. To keep with the natural setting, outdoor elements were incorporated into the design.

Camp Currie gives youth the chance to explore nature close to home

Nestled amid a canopy of towering Douglas firs, with a rustic lodge and cabins, Camp Currie feels like it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.In reality, the 300-acre site is located just five minutes from downtown Camas and has been home to summer youth camps since 1943. The semi-wilderness setting includes a woodland chapel, large natural amphitheater, winding forest trails, covered outdoor eating area, and is home to a variety of wildlife. Last week, the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Washington hosted Currie Twilight Camp, which gave attendees the opportunity to learn outdoor cooking, fire safety, crafts and more. Although the camp is 300 acres, youth organizations only use about 30 of those, with the rest being kept in its natural state.

Sheep dog trials return to Johnston Dairy

The Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial will return to the Johnston Dairy in Camas, for its ninth year, from Aug. 15 to 18. This unique competition features handlers working in partnership with their dogs, sometimes at long distances, to move a small flock of sheep across a field through a series of gates, into a shedding ring and ultimately into a pen. According to organizers, the Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial has grown into one of the largest and most popular events of its kind on the West Coast. Its reach is regional, drawing 115 handlers traveling from six states and British Columbia and featuring nearly 180 dogs competing in a variety of skill levels.

Taking care of Camp Melacoma

Stepping onto the grounds at Camp Melacoma is a lot like stepping back in time.The 142-acre heavily wooded site is tucked away in the hills of Skamania County, 13 miles up Washougal River Road. It has been a kids’ camp since 1948, when Robert Wineberg deeded the first chunk of the property to the Camp Fire Cascade Council. Over the years, it’s been a place where literally thousands of kids of all ages and backgrounds have converged to explore nature first hand, and get the quintessential summer camp experience. Dodi Jensen, a longtime Washougal resident, became the camp’s on-site caretaker in 2008. Jensen was looking for a change of pace and was familiar with the property, having volunteered at the site before. “I had fallen in love with the camp long before I ever came to work here,” she said.