Citizen of the Year celebrates volunteer leaders


Irene Torres, KP News

Volunteers. They are everywhere on the Key Peninsula. Usually, one or two or three at a time, they seem nearly invisible to the casual observer. But not so on a recent Saturday night at the KP Civic Center. Nearly 50 of them were gathered in a single place. Hosted by the Key Peninsula Lions Club members, and surrounded by their friends, family, and visiting dignitaries, they were honored for their incalculable contributions at the 20th annual Citizen of the Year Banquet.

With pomp and circumstance, Boy Scout Troop 220 presented the colors. The Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of a patriotic song, and an invocation kicked off the celebration. Event Chairman and Master of Ceremonies Hugh McMillan gracefully handled a few minor technicalities with the sound system, while Lions Club President Pat Medveckus juggled selling raffle tickets with arrangements for ample seating and extra table settings to accommodate the buzzing crowd, nearly 220 strong.

Keynote speaker Terry Lee, Key Peninsula’s representative on the Pierce County Council, read a letter from Gov. Gary Locke, acknowledging the volunteer spirit on the Key Peninsula. Locke’s letter referenced words first spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King, distinguishing people "who share their special talents to make the world a better place from those who focus on making a living rather than making a life". Lee’s comments included a summary of several projects in store for

the Key Peninsula, and how he is working to secure funding for them.

“Key Peninsula residents no longer have to travel to Tacoma for traffic court appearances, thanks to a partnership with the county and the city of Gig Harbor,” Lee said of one such project. He quipped that he had been the first to appear before a District Court judge in the new decentralized traffic court, for a parking citation. He added, “With law enforcement a priority, there are plans to reassign eight trained deputies to the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsulas when Lakewood’s contract with the county for sheriff’s services comes to an end.”

Lee encouraged citizens to become involved in Key Peninsula comprehensive planning and the KP Advisory Commission, both efforts in the works, “to be prepared for the ribbon-cutting on the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the influx of population and urban development that is inevitable for this vulnerable and accessible community.”

Individuals and groups, including several members of the KP Community Council Organizing Committee and Fire District 16, were nominated as Citizen of the Year. The Lakebay Community Church was well-represented with nominees, and the entire Vaughn Cemetery board and staff were nominated. Seven-year-old Galilee McCarrell won the hearts of the audience when she explained how she had used her allowance to buy gifts for children who would have had no Christmas presents.

The winner of the 2003 Citizen of the Year award, Erlene Twidt, summarized the magnitude of their collective volunteer work in her acceptance: “Don’t think that one single person can’t make a difference in the quality of life of others. Indeed, they’re the only one who can.”  Twidt told KP News after the ceremony, “I want to thank the Lions Club for providing a venue to validate the important volunteer work being done in this community. I think it is wonderful that they do this without any political ties.”

This amazing woman, who had recently been struggling with health problems, was later invited by Rep. Pat Lantz to attend a ceremony at which Gov. Locke signed three legislative bills into law. The new laws, related to domestic violence prevention and mandatory police training, will become effective in June 2005.

“I was greatly privileged to be able to participate,” said Twidt, who was nominated for Citizen of the Year, among other things, for her longtime involvement with Key Pen-based I.M.Pact in a fight against domestic violence. “The governor was very kind and accommodating. He congratulated me on being named Citizen of the Year and referred to me as ‘the guest of honor.’ He even demonstrated how to pose and position my plaque for better photographs... It was a wonderful experience.”

At the Civic Center banquet, Lantz was in attendance along with Rep. Lois McMahan, school board officials, and local dignitaries. McMahan said, “I look forward to this event every year.” One attendee commented, “The quality of this event was better than any Citizen of the Year banquet I’ve attended.”

The delicious dinner was catered and served by Lisa’s Deli and volunteer staff, followed by a rousing vote of confidence that they should prepare all future Citizen of the Year banquets. Tracy Manning and volunteers from the Key Center Saloon served refreshments and were seen helping bus tables after the meal. Then those volunteer Boy Scouts returned at the end of the evening and returned the banquet hall to a gymnasium once again.