A community ambassador

Virginia Warren retires from the Friends of the Camas Community Center Board after 27 years of service

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Virginia Warren is retiring from the Friends of the Camas Community Center Board. She has served as the historian since 1985.

Positive. Unwavering dedication. Heartfelt hope.

These are just a few of the adjectives people who know her use to describe Virginia Warren.

“Her personality has consistently been upbeat, vivacious, loyal, dedicated, fun-loving, and with a “glass is half full” outlook on life,” said Krista Bashaw, special events coordinator for Camas Parks and Recreation.

Bashaw has known Warren since she moved to Camas in 1995 and began volunteer work with the Friends of the Camas Community Center. Warren has served on the board since 1985 and is retiring for the third time.

“This time it’s final,” she said. “No one would take over the (historical) scrapbook before, but this time I’ll just step back and let it be.”

During her years on the board, Warren has assembled eight scrapbooks, beginning with the history of the Community Center, which was built in 1915. Each one has been bound with hardcover and includes information about the center, the City of Camas, the staff and the Friends’ Board.

On the walls of the Community Center hang portraits of smiling children and teachers, which date back several decades. These are from when the center was an elementary school.

“I thought it would be fun to have two or three pictures on the wall, now I think we have about 350,” she joked.

Warren decided to make her retirement final after 27 years because she wants to focus on other activities.

“I think I was a bit tired, and want to go on to other things,” Warren, 87, said. “I was young when I started this. I still do record keeping for the historical society, and help out at the Camas Cemetery. So I am keeping busy.”

When she’s not busy volunteering, Warren enjoys walking three or four miles every other day. She also belongs to a local gym and has tried Zumba.

She feels that staying physically active has been key to her longevity.

“It has kept me very healthy,” Warren said. “I don’t like to just sit. So many people are not out walking, and now they are in wheelchairs. You have to stay active.”

She keeps her mind active with quilting and reading.

“I can sit here and quilt for hours,” Warren said. “If I read a book in the evening, sometimes I’ll fall asleep, but I can quilt until 2 a.m.”

She said that she’ll miss the people who work at the Community Center and those involved with the Friends Board.

“I’ll still go and visit though,” Warren said. “I like to make them cookies and cakes and fudge. And (Parks and Recreation Manager) Jerry Acheson has always been great to work for. I’m really close to all of them. They are so good to me. They are like family.”

Bashaw agrees.

“I’ll miss seeing her as often at the Community Center: Her hugs and her delicious baked goods,” she said. “As far as her service on the board, I’ll miss her realistic and practical observations and suggestions, and her indomitable, energized spirit at those meetings. She has retired from her duties with the Friends’ Board, but she remains an incredible and bright fixture with us here in the community.”

Verla Jonason has worked with Warren on the Friends Board since 1987.

“She was always here and always available,” she said. “There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t take on. She had the ability to keep going when everyone wanted to give up.”

One of Jonason’s favorite memories of Warren is her tendency to do things that could be considered a bit daredevil.

“I’m 73, and she will not let me do things that she insists on doing at almost 87,” she said. “Four years ago, we were decorating the Community Center for the holidays, and she was using this rickety, 14-foot ladder that someone else had to hold to keep it from falling. Someone saw her up there and raised hell that she shouldn’t be on that ladder.”

Nan Henriksen, former mayor of Camas, has known Warren since she was young.

“Virginia worked in my dad’s drugstore while going to Camas High School,” she said. “She was cheerful, kind and energetic then and she still is. I’ve always admired her positive attitude, energy and kindness. I’ve told her and others for years that I want to be just like Virginia when I grow up.”

Henriksen has served on the Friends Board for six years.

“Since then, Virginia has been a role model of optimism, enthusiasm, generosity, adventure and quality aging for me,” she said.

When Henriksen was mayor of Camas 27 years ago, the city didn’t have the funds to remodel the Community Center, which had been purchased from a private owner.

“Thanks to Virginia and other caring, hard working citizens who scrubbed, painted, decorated and more, we were able to open the center,” she said. “Ever since its opening, Virginia has helped with ongoing refurbishing, decorating and actively helping with the center’s programs with wonderful energy and optimism. She has also been a strong advocate for a new community center.”

Lloyd Halverson, Camas city administrator, has known Warren since he was first hired in 1989.

“She is positive, engaged and graceful,” he said. “She sparkles and you see it in her eyes. Virginia is a very ‘high energy,’ community minded person, an inspiration.”