Hermiston Shows Its Heart During Citizens Awards Banquet

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Holly Wood, to the left, and Josh Ross, on the right, accept the Community Champion Award on Wednesday, March 1, with their daughter Paislee Britt. The honor came during the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s 53rd annual Distinguished Citizens Awards at the Hermiston Community Center. (Photos by Yasser Marte/Hermiston Herald)

The generosity and compassion of the Hermiston community was on full display Wednesday night during the 53rd annual Distinguished Citizens Awards banquet.

There was a festive mood inside the Hermiston Community Center throughout the evening as Umatilla County Commissioner Dan Dorran and Cathy Lloyd were among those celebrated for their commitment to helping others.

Dorran and Lloyd were honored as Man and Woman of the Year during the banquet put on by the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce.

Other winners Wednesday night were Umatilla Electric Cooperative, recipient of the Bob Severson Business of the Year award; Spinden Project coordinators Josh Ross and Holly Woods who received the Community Champion award; and Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Ellwood, who took home the First Responder award. Hermiston School District Superintendent Tricia Mooney also honored the district’s Educators of the Year.

Woman of the Year

“This community has given so much to our family and it’s a pleasure to look for simple ways to give back,” said Lloyd after receiving the award from presenter Mike Atkinson, the 2017 winner of the Business of the Year.

Cathy Lloyd gives a heartfelt speech Wednesday, March 1, 2023, after accepting the Woman of Year Award at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s 53rd Annual Distinguished Citizens Awards at the Hermiston Community Center.

“Our Woman of the Year has served countless people in their hour of need,” said Atkinson.

Lloyd has a long history of service to the community. She has worked with the elderly in assisted living facilities and is trained to work with Alzheimer’s patients. She has volunteered in schools over the years, provided sign language services, prepared meals for student athletes and is a former Little League Volunteer of the Year.

Along with being a member of Altrusa International of Hermiston, Lloyd serves as board chair of Stepping Stones Alliance, a nonprofit group in Hermiston that works to provide the necessary “stepping stones” for homeless people in Umatilla County.

Lloyd has pushed the issue of some type of shelter for the homeless for several years, including urging the Hermiston City Council to get behind Stepping Stones’ efforts. That effort paid off in 2022 when the cities of Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo, along with Umatilla County agreed to partner with Stepping Stones to build transitional housing for the homeless. That partnership led to Project PATH which, when completed, will have an office space with a common area, shower and meal facilities and, at least initially, 12 individual huts. The facility will also include assistance with basic medical, dental and vision services as well as drug and alcohol counseling. Other services would include transportation to work or school.

And to those who take the position that helping the homeless is merely enabling them, Lloyd said the following during Project PATH’s groundbreaking in November:

“This is not a handout – it’s a hand up.”

Lloyd said Hermiston has been a special place for her and her family.

“Growing up in an urban environment, we didn’t’ have this kind of sense of community,” said Lloyd

Man of the Year

During his acceptance speech, Dorran talked about “generational generosity,” something he knows all about. His father, Russ Dorran, was the 1989 Man of the Year. After thanking his wife, Dorran thanked his dad, who passed away in 2014.

Dan Dorran thanked the Hermiston community Wednesday, March 1, 2023, while accepting the Man of the Year Awards at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s 53rd Annual Distinguished Citizens Awards at the Hermiston Community Center.

“I know he’s looking down tonight,” said Dorran, before showing his trademark self-deprecating humor.

“He may have thought one of his kids might someday win this award, but it wouldn’t have been me,” he said.

Along with his service in county government, Dorran has been “involved in everything that happens around here,” said presenter Ford Bonney, the 2018 Man of the Year. Bonney said Dorran is always available to lend a hand. He’s been a longtime supporter of youth sports, served in the Kiwanis Club and was a key player in the getting the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center established.

“When other people are trying to retire, he’s stepping up,” Bonney said. “He makes you proud to be from Eastern Oregon.”

Dorran gave all the credit to the people of Hermiston.

“This award isn’t mine alone – it’s Hermiston’s, as well,” he said. “There isn’t a person in this room who wouldn’t step up and help anyone in need. I don’t deserve this, but I’m going to take it home.”

Community Champion Award

Presenter Dennis Barnett, the 2009 Man of the Year, started off his remarks by acknowledging that Hermiston may not be physically gorgeous.

“But beauty comes from the heart,” he said, “and we, as a community, have the biggest heart you could ever want.”

The perfect example of that is the monumental effort put forth by Community Champion winners Josh Ross and Holly Woods.

Ross and Wood spearheaded a community-wide project in 2022 to renovate the home of a family in need. The home belongs to Heather Spinden and her son, Ben. Spinden bought the home in 2003. At the time, she was a caregiver to her parents until they passed away. In the ensuing years, Heather, who is legally blind, and Ben, who has autism, have worked hard to pay the bills, but it had been a struggle. Money was tight despite both working full time. Heather has worked at Walmart for nearly 20 years, while Ben is employed at Burger King. They both walk to and from their jobs. They lost their home insurance in July 2021 when their chimney collapsed and the two hadn’t had a family vacation since 2012.

Along with a new chimney, the home needed a new walkway, siding, an irrigation system, roofing, paint and more. The total cost was well beyond what the Spindens had to spend.

Ross knew the Spindens, having gone to school with Ben. He and Woods helped the Spindens get temporary home insurance and then really kicked into high gear by rounding up hundreds of volunteers and getting supplies and labor donated by numerous local businesses. The Spindens were put up in a motel while the house was being renovated last April. They were driven home on a sunny afternoon to be welcomed by countless friends and to walk into their new home.

The incredible act of generosity moved Heather Spinden to tears.

“It means so much to live in such a special community,” she said.

Barnett said no one had to push Woods and Ross to get involved – they just did it. “When there’s a need in this community, our hearts start showing,” said Barnett.

Ross thanked everyone who helped out on the renovation project and had a message for the rest of the community.

“People always ask us, ‘What are you going to do next?’ Well, Hermiston – it’s your turn.”

First Responder of the Year Award

Mike Ellwood accepts the First Responder Award on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s 53rd Annual Distinguished Citizens Awards at the Hermiston Community Center.

Detective Mike Ellwood of the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office has been an advocate and “seeker of justice” for victims with a passion for being a first responder.

Several years ago, Ellwood started a Christmas toy drive for children in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. Since then, he and countless volunteers have collected and donated thousands of toys to children in hospitals, foster care and other less fortunate kids.

Like all the night’s winners, Ellwood gave credit to others.

“I want to thank my community for all your support of the years,” he said.