From fire fighters to smiling clerks and everything in between, here's a look at 19 people who made a difference in the Columbia-Pacific region this year. 

Ian O'Brien 

O'Brien was nominated for his work at Warrenton High School where he coaches football and works as the Athletic Director. His focus on building relationships with students and pointing them toward academic, athletic and personal successes stood out. 

"The primary focus of my job is really student centered ... we help our kids be successful in the classroom and out on the courts and in the field. I spend a lot of my day talking to kids and trying to build relationships with them to make sure kids know that people care about them."

Jacque Pressley

Pressly's dedication to and overwhelming love for animals put her name on this list. As the founder and president of Angels For Sara, a sanctuary for senior dogs, it's obvious she cares deeply for the wellbeing of others. From feeding and bathing the dogs to finding them a home, Pressley is there every step of the way. She says the Naselle and larger Columbia-Pacific community helps make this possible. 

"The people in both of these communities are all so wonderful … if we need anything, people are there to help us out." 

Karen Gill

Karen Gill and her husband Tom Gill are both active members of their community, church and neighborhood. Karen Gill volunteers at their church as a leader for "Primary," an organization focused specifically on working with children. Her name was also nominated for her warmth as a neighbor. 

"We live on absolutely the best street in Astoria, which is Floral Street ... It’s a wonderful neighborhood."

Robyn Koustik  

Koustik is the executive director of the Astoria Armory, where she does everything from designing communal programs, secure funding and tend to janitorial duties. She founded the "Just Ask" program, made to help anyone in the community who needs extra support. The program, she says, is special because it's designed to help absolutely anybody. She feeds about 60 children every weekend and provides a safe space throughout the year. 

"My biggest thing is don’t judge … you can’t judge until you invest your time into somebody. There’s a lot of hidden treasures in our community."

Brenda McKune

This year, McKune celebrated her 14th year of Scrap Hunger, a scrapbooking event turned food drive. Community members enter by donating non-perishable food items and are rewarded with craft supplies and expert assistance as they make cards, scrapbooks and more. 

"With Scrap Hunger, my motto is let’s help feed those in need. It doesn’t take much to help your neighbor. You can be surprised with how many people you can help just using something you know how to do. We don’t have much — what we have is the will to help others and that’s really all you need."

Mark Jeffery

This year, Jeffery retired from his role as the superintendent of the Warrenton-Hammond school district. Jeffrey had been in that role for eight years. As a final act of leadership, he helped pass a bond that secured funding for the schools. 

"I was surprised that we were able to pass it — most people we talked to, the experts said we were asking too much. I’m really really impressed with our community for doing that."

Andrea Mazzarella

Mazzarella was nominated for a long list of services she has provided to the community throughout the year. She co-owns the Astoria Arts and Movement Center and has learned to operate a nonprofit. She sat on numerous boards and helped the community move forward as a part of Clatsop 2040, a planning committee dedicated to preserving the wellbeing of the area. 

"I think what it comes back to with me is wanting to get involved … Choosing to work in those organizations, learn the policies, learn the procedures, figure out the ways that you can be of service, getting focused. Getting the work done. It’s not glamorous. It’s not a glamorous job, but we love it."

Daniel and Heidi Dlubac

The Dlubacs own Good to Go, a store in downtown Astoria. The couple is going into their third year with the store. They were nominated for their dedication to the community, and for the fact that they frequently give out soup to members of the homeless population when they can. 

"It’s just generosity, trying to help people out," said Daniel Dlubac. "We have good hearts. We don’t like to see people hungry."

Charlene Larsen

Larsen's name is familiar across the community. She has lived in the community for decades, and has dedicated countless hours to different nonprofits and organizations. This year, she searved as president for Partners for the PAC and the president of the Astoria Lions Club. She also plays in the North Coast Symphonic Band and the North Coast Chamber Orchestra. 

"If you never give back, you never get to know the wonderful folks in the community who also volunteer. I think in our whole of Clastop County, volunteerism spirit has kept us going as a wonderful place to live."

Kylene Quinn

Quinn moved to Astoria a few years ago and has been involved in the community ever since. She completed the Master Gardener program and now volunteers at the high school. She also focuses on seabird rehabilitation, is a member of the North Coast Choral and a teacher at Clatsop Community College. 

Jennifer Crockett

This year was huge for Crockett. As the executive director of the Liberty Theatre in Astoria, she undertook a massive, multi-year fundraising project to upgrade and enhance the historic theater. The fundraising campaign has been widely successful thus far, and Crockett credits that success to the team behind the campaign. 

"What I like to always say at the theater is I try to be the least educated person in the room for any given topic. I try to surround myself with those who have more knowledge ... I get a lot of credit for what goes on at the theater, but there are so many people that are doing the hard work."

Caitlin Seyfried

Seyfried may be the newest member of the community on this list, but the work she has done since moving to Astoria this year is humbling. Seyfried moved here to work for the North Coast Food Web, where she works as the program manager. 

"What I’ve learned in the past few years and what’s going to be really important … is building connections with people and meeting people where they are." 

Jeff Roehm

One of the most enticing places about this region is its natural beauty, and Roehm spent the year working to protect and enhance that space. As a longtime volunteer for the North Coast Land Conservancy, Roehm has spent countless hours monitoring protected sites, writing blogs for the organizations website, leading other volunteers and playing in the mud.

"I kind of like to be there whenever I’m needed ... The work we're doing, it kind of pushes you forward. I'm a results oriented guy and I like to finish things. I have several thing that I want to see happen in 2020."  

Thomas Phillips 

Phillips is a senior deputy with the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office. He has worked there since 2006, but this year was especially big for him — he's now a K-9 handler for narcotics and ha two working dogs. 

"I enjoy being a service to the community and helping keep people safe and being there for people." 

Sandra Reyes 

Reyes in the morning clerk and manager at Stop and Go, a convenience store in Seaside. She was nominated for bright, sunny attitude. It's hard to catch Reyes without a smile on her face, and that can be contagious.

"I’m just so pleasant in the morning, never a bad face, always so happy. Even if they’re having a bad day, I make them get better. I’m just so touched that I made someone happy."

Carol Newman 

Newman was nominated not only for the work she has done this year, but for her long lasting impact on the community throughout the past 40 years. Newman volunteers at KMUN, where she hosts a weekly arts program and a weekly folk show. She also volunteers at the Liberty Theatre, the Arts Commission and more. 

Mara Dowaliby 

Dowaliby is the youngest name on this list, but her work is extensive. As a senior at Warrenton High School, Dowaliby is involved with numerous organizations including Communicare, a program that allows her to work closely with nonprofits throughout the area. This year, she also became the Regatta queen.

"I love our community. I think what helped me really see our community was Regatta ... I saw how important our community was ... I just think it’s so cool that I got to grow up here. We always support each other."

Gearhart Volunteer Firefighters

Though not an individual, this group of volunteers is the embodiment of what making a difference entails. Collectively, they donate hundreds of hours to keeping the community safe and protected all year.  

From the Gearhart community member who nominated the group: 

"We all know our Gearhart volunteer fire fighters are there for us ... Thank you for making the difference you do in our community and beyond. " 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.