2021 Unsung Heroes

Meet Your Community’s Unsung Heroes for 2021

This year we celebrate 20 years of recognizing people in Lake Oswego for their impactful volunteer efforts largely conducted behind the scenes. Each year we invite the community to nominate an individual or a group who goes above and beyond in serving our community behind the scenes. Even with a global pandemic, there were people - some for the first - that worked quietly without seeking or receiving pay or recognition to help others.  These are the people who, when we needed help, put their hand up, stepped forward, and got things done without a motive other than helping their neighbors and their community. These are the people that make Lake Oswego such a wonderful place to live.

Over the years the City has recognized over 80 outstanding volunteers, and this year we are excited to recognize another group of outstanding residents.

When we called to invite this year’s unsung heroes to this ceremony, the recipients proved to be a modest group, somewhat reluctant to step into the spotlight. Their responses underscore the fact that to these people, their contributions and involvement are second nature and they have no expectation for rewards or recognition. They are helping others out of the goodness of their heart because it’s the right thing to do.

All the nominations have made a variety of contributions, all are extremely deserving of the award, with individuals and groups making contributions of volunteerism in all aspects of our community.

Abigail Otano-Haffner

Abigail, or “Miss Abbey” as she has affectionately been called by students has been serving for more than 7 years, has tirelessly volunteered her time and energy in many different capacities.  Every morning and afternoon, she helps kids safely navigate the crosswalk at Palisades School with a warm, friendly presence and safety gear.  She has also helped ensure the needs of each and every student in the River Grove Elementary community were met, assisting wherever needed, with support and encouragement.

Knowing River Grove Elementary was in desperate need of rebuilding and was unsafe for its student and staff populations, Abigail has advocated for the River Grove community as a school representative on the Bond Development Committee. This year she added another item to her already busy list of volunteerism.  When Palisades World Language School opened, she stepped up as PTO President and helped families and students feel safe and welcome in this new space.

Abigail is committed, hardworking, and creative, first to arrive and last to leave.  Our community is made better with volunteers like Abigail.

Ami Joshi

Ami Joshi has provided extraordinary service to the Lake Oswego community in her role as President of the board of Hunger Fighters Oregon, a local food bank based on the Lake Oswego High School campus and serving families in LO.

Ami had already been a longtime volunteer for Hunger Fighters, but with the founder leaving and the organization in flux, Ami took on a leadership role in early 2020 to move the organization forward.  Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit!  Many families in LO suddenly needed support like never before and food insecurity became more widespread.  Ami immediately stepped up as Hunger Fighters worked to fill the gap and provide much needed food and supplies. She volunteered hundreds of hours to help expand services and turn what was a small food closet into a community lifeline.  She personally stored boxes of donated supplies in her own home until they could be given to needy families.

Ami also coordinated with local leaders to make Hunger Fighters a community asset and find a semi-permanent home for the pantry on the Lake Oswego High School campus. Using her strong analytical skills –and her advanced degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University –she was able to implement important new procedures which would allow Hunger Fighters to serve more families and provide an expanded online service. She helped secure grants and through her leadership and put the organization on firm financial footing, which allowed it to hire its first Executive Director.

Ami has consistently championed expanding Hunger Fighters services so LO families can receive the support they need.  In part, because of Ami’s leadership, Hunger Fighters now serves the LO workforce, in addition to LO residents.  Because of Ami’s leadership, commitment and compassion to serve her community, many LO residents received the lifeline they needed over this past year-and-a-half, making our community a better place for those in need. 

David Lipton, Norm Hendricks, Adrian Olmstead, Ginny Gillett and Steve Eklund

Nominated by one of the clients of the Meals on Wheels program,  this delightful, punctual active team of volunteers rises and shines daily in their quest to deliver meals for the LO Meals-On-Wheels program, serving meals to seniors and home-bound folks in our community. Their efforts help deliver more than 19,000 meals each year.  In spite of 100 degree days, pouring rain or bone chilling icy roads, this group delivers more than meals.   They bring wit, humor, something nice to say and warm smiles. For some, it’s the only visit they will have.

These volunteers are so dedicated and happy to be serving the community and helping folks.  Some of them take vacation from full-time jobs just to make a difference.  These are the volunteers that we count on and that change the lives of so many!

Mark Thornburg

For the past five years, Mark has volunteered and served as leader of the all-volunteer Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) in Lake Oswego.  He coordinates and organizes the members to make sure they meet the needs of community while working with the City, Clackamas County and the national ARES organization.  Through his encouragement and guidance members have continued to train and learn by taking classes through FEMA, allowing them to be even more prepared in case of an emergency event.  Working with the Lake Oswego Fire Marshall, Mark provided input and guidance for the acquisition and installation of radio equipment that would best serve the needs of the ARES operators for communicating with the community in case of an emergency

Mark is also instrumental in the creation of a city-wide neighborhood emergency communications plan working with LO Fire staff.   This plan will help neighborhoods with communications during an emergency and allow for critical messaging to be shared by the volunteer ARES team members. 

Mark and his team of Ham Radio operators who train with our Firefighters, may be the only communication serving over 50,000 residents and be the life-line until emergency crews can reach every neighborhood.   As a community, we are extremely fortunate to have a group of volunteers like Mark who continually train and are prepared to provide lifesaving communications during an emergency event.  Thank you to Mark for serving his community and providing such a valuable service!

Julia Bohannon

Julia may be the youngest person to receive an unsung hero award, yet her service and mentorship within the student community is providing very impactful and needed support to younger peers. In 2020 Julia co-founded the Black Student Mentorship Program which pairs Black elementary students with Black high school students who then engage in a positive mentor-mentee relationship. For Black students in Lake Oswego, discovering how to fit in and navigate school and the community as a whole can be especially challenging. Julia’s work to connect older students who have been through what younger students are feeling and experiencing has had a profound impact on the well-being and success of her peers. Her work to help support the needs of other students has been part of a collaborative partnership with District staff, and she’s spent countless hours improving opportunities for all students. 

Julia’s leadership and collaborative efforts have solidified her role as a young leader making a difference in the LOSD and LO community. Julia’s work forms from a place of empathy and results from a desire to provide students with a type of support and guidance she herself did not have. Her courage to step forward to empower other students cannot be understated.  As a leader in the student community, Julia is also a youth facilitator and collaborator for Respond to Racism, helping bring awareness, compassion, and empathy for both students in the LOSD and adults in the broader community.

Julia’s passion for creating meaningful change in the lives of students and in our community at large is a lot to take on at her young age, but she is proving incredibly effective, dedicated and fearless in having such a large impact in Lake Oswego.


Thank You!  To all of our Unsung Heroes who make the Lake Oswego Community a better place for all of us!

Photo: Lake Oswego's 2021 Unsung Heroes 
Left to right: Mayor Joe Buck, Ginny Gillett, Julia Bohannon, Mark Thornburg, Abigail Otano-Haffner, David Lipton, Steve Eklund, Norm Hendricks, Councilor Daniel Nguyen 
Onscreen: Ami Joshi 
Not pictured: Adrian Olmstead