July 14, 2021 —
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has adapted its annual Siuslaw Awards into a night celebrating the resiliency of the Siuslaw region and its businesses, organizations and individuals. One of the major awards to be announced during the awards — held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 22, at Three Rivers Casino Resort, 5647 Highway 126 — is the First Citizen Award.
This prestigious award has honored dozens of people over the years, and this year four area residents are being considered: Lori Gates, Steve Olienyk, Jodi O’Mara and Bob Teter.
Each one has been involved in community work of the highest caliber, volunteering on top of the import work of their day jobs.
Looking over the variety of volunteer work, specialties, passion projects and skills of the four nominees for First Citizen, there won’t be a lot of similarities. What unites them is a dedication to the Siuslaw community and its residents.
Lori Gates was nominated by Chris Saltmarsh, a colleague at Oregon Pacific Bank (OPB), and Siuslaw Outreach Services (SOS) for her work on the board.
“Lori is one of those faces we all see at every event you go to. She has been extremely devoted to organizations, including Siuslaw Outreach Services, Rotary, Interact and many others. … She is quick to volunteer anytime she sees a need and can lend a helping hand,” Saltmarsh wrote in the nomination packet.
Over her years of service, Gates has served on several boards and committees, including Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue, Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, Lane Community College, SOS and Florence Community PTA. She has also volunteered with youth, Florence Food Share and those needing help with budgeting.
“Lori is one of the most selfless individuals I know,” wrote SOS Director Bob Teter, fellow nominee. “She is an active member of Florence Rotary, which has a mantra, ‘Service Above Self.’ Lori is the best example of that.”
In her work at OPB, she makes an effort to connect with every customer.
For Saltmarsh, “Lori is simply a pillar of the community in Florence. She is the embodiment of community devotion and selflessness.”
Steve Olienyk was nominated by the Kiwanis Club of Florence, of which he has been a member since 1983. His longest-lasting legacy with the club is his dedication to the flag program, which was passed to Kiwanis in 1991. This patriotic, community-building display on area byways is installed by volunteers a dozen times a year thanks to local sponsorship of the program.
“At age 94, Steve still continues to put up flags and he never misses a Flag day,” wrote Kiwanian and Flag Coordinator Shannon Sheets. “As a WWII veteran, he’s proud of how the Kiwanis Flag Program has instilled a sense of pride in our community and a stronger connection to our country.”
Olienyk served in World War II and is part of American Legion Frances M. Yost Post 59, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Veteran’s Memorial Park Commission. He also volunteers with Kiwanis and area churches and schools.
According to Sheets, Olienyk’s resume of volunteering “is not a choice of recent activities, but rather a lifestyle. Steve’s gift of giving of his time, talent, knowledge, etc., started at an early age and is engrained in his being.”
Over his lifetime, Olienyk has been honored with numerous awards and was previously honored with a First Citizen nomination twice.
Jodi O’Mara was nominated this year by the Rotary Club of Florence.
“Jodi has been dedicated to the students in our communities, both Florence and Mapleton, for the past 25 years as a teacher, coach, principal, superintendent and mentor,” wrote Past President Kim Erickson in the application packet.
Currently working as the Mapleton School District superintendent and elementary school principal, O’Mara is a Rotarian and a board member of Mapleton Community Foundation, PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Community Health Board and Siuslaw Education Foundation, as well as a member of Western Lane Health Network and other community groups.
According to Terri Johnson, Mapleton Youth Transition Coordinator, Jodi has left a lasting impact within the Mapleton School District and the community at large. She has bridged the gap between the Siuslaw School District and the Mapleton School District by creating a lasting collaborative partnership. … She continuously has gone above and beyond!”
O’Mara’s work extends to the Siuslaw Region’s Upriver communities. She works with not only her staff and students, but with the whole region.
“Jodi makes herself present. Not only to our kids, but our community,” said Mapleton High School Principal Brenda Moyer.
Bob Teter was nominated by Soroptimist International of Florence.
“Our club has selected Bob as a candidate for the First Citizen Award because of his outstanding efforts to make Florence a safe and healthy community for our youth, families and community as a whole,” wrote Soroptimist Director Lori Oltman.
The Teter family moved to Florence in 2005 and quickly became involved in the community. In 2016, Teter became the executive director at Siuslaw Outreach Services after working there since 2019.
Teter is involved in Rotary, Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, Mobile Crisis Response, Western Lane Emergency Operations Group, Lane County’s Housing Reform Task Force, Siuslaw Vision and a new effort for a community resource center. He has also been an active participant in Siuslaw High School, coaching football and guest speaking in classes.
Teter has also strengthened SOS’s ties to law enforcement, worked to address housing, built awareness to domestic violence and remained active in the community.
“Bob is a person of integrity, compassion and high standards,” Oltman said. “He is an advocate for those who have been victimized and works to teach youth to respect and show compassion to others.”
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s Siuslaw Awards: Phoenix Rising will take place Thursday, July 22, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Three Rivers Casino Resort, 5647 Highway 126. Doors open at 5 p.m. for appetizers and beverages.
The event includes full dinner, wine, live music, State of the Chamber presentation, installation of new board members, retiring of outgoing board members, Future First Citizen and First Citizen awards, plus the special “Phoenix Rising” business awards program. Tickets are $40 and are available at the chamber’s office, 290 Highway 101, or at www.florencechamber.com/event/siuslaw-awards-2-2-2/.