Washougal honors community’s Hometown Heroes

Annual awards recognize community volunteers, public safety workers

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The city of Washougal recognized a variety of community volunteers during its first “Hometown Heroes” event, held Thursday, March 21, at the Washougal Community Center.

“You are all leaders. You are the future Washougal, and we appreciate everything you do,” Washougal Mayor David Stuebe told the attendees. “If you see something good out there, bring it to my attention because we want to recognize it. I focus on the people who are writing grants and getting awards and solving problems, not coming to us with, ‘I really have a complaint,’ but rather ‘I’m just going to solve this.’ We don’t want to look at the 5 percent (of the people who do the) bad stuff. We want to reward the 95 percent (of residents who do) good stuff that makes our city great.”

Rose Jewell, the City’s community engagement manager, presented Washougal residents Chuck and Barbara Carpenter with the 2023 Rose M. Jewell Volunteer of the Year award.

Barbara volunteers for Meals on Wheels, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Camas-Washougal, the Washougal Lions Club and the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

“I just want to say what an honor it is to be a part of this community,” Barbara said. “It means so much to Chuck and I to be someplace where we can make a difference and be welcomed.”

Chuck serves as a member of the City’s lodging tax and civil service commissions; the Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance; and the Washougal School Board. He also teaches music at Hathaway Elementary School.

“The thing that we have in common, other than that we’re all Washougalians, is that everybody here cares,” Chuck said. “That’s why volunteers do what we do, because we care about (people). I would say to everyone else — become a volunteer, because that’s how you meet the most wonderful people in your community.”

Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn issued a “Life-Saving Award” to Washougal police officer Riley Miller, who helped a local resident to recover from a drug overdose in February. “She was unconscious and not breathing, and there was no carotid pulse,” Steinbronn said of the person who overdosed. “Sergeant (Ryan) Castro took over chest compressions while Officer Miller prepared the automated external defibrillator (AED). Narcan was administered … and Camas-Washougal (firefighters) arrived shortly after and overtook the life-saving measures. After several minutes, they were able to regain a pulse and blood pressure, and she was transported to the hospital for further medical attention. Officer Miller’s actions made it possible for the woman to be transported to get the further medical treatment she needed.”

Steinbronn also gave “Award of Merit” certificates to officers Trevor Claudson, Virginia Smith, Greg Sulzinger and Mike Costa; and “Meritorious Conduct” certificates to officers Jermaine Burchfield, Mike Costa, Claudson, Miller, Sulzinger and Kevin Wooldridge; detective Sugey Lopez; sergeants Ryan Castro and Francis Reagan; and administrative assistant-evidence technician Kelly Clark.

“The officers are very deserving,” Steinbronn said. “If I could give an award to each and every member of our department, I would.”

Steinbronn added that the award-winners were nominated by their peers.

“But I know that there’s a lot of good work that goes on every day,” Steinbronn said.

Washougal City Manager David Scott, along with Stuebe and Jewell, gave kudos to members of the City’s art, salary, planning and civil service commissions; parks and cemetery, and lodging tax advisory boards; ReFuel Washougal; the Camas-Washougal Salvation Army; Unite! Washougal Community Coalition; East County Citizens Alliance; Washougal Senior Association; Washougal Business Association; and Meals on Wheels People.

“These are heroes of the city,” Stuebe said. “We cannot run the city without these people. These are people that just volunteer and really care about our city. They’re why our city prospers. We have so many groups that do so much.”

The City leaders also praised the efforts of Washougal School District students Abril O’Brien, Angel Plaza, Hannah Arnold, Jacob Larzalere, Charlotte Cardona, Laura Perez, Emily Monroy-Perez, Daniel Wood, Duke Bachelder, Hunter Racliffe, and Xavier Pineda-Gutierrez, who assisted with City events in 2023.

“Our Christmas parade is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and we needed people to man the parade route, and the school district really stepped up to help us,” Jewell said. “They’ve also helped us with serving hot dogs at the ‘Hello! Spring’ event.