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Our Volunteers: An Appreciation

Our Volunteers: An Appreciation
From left to right, Gorge-ous Volunteers Sharon Ross, Richard Kolbell, and Lottie Bromham; Volunteer of the Year Debbie Asakawa; and Executive Director Kevin Gorman. (Not  present: Sarah Raab and Colin Zylka) (photographer: Brandon Davis)
By Kate Lindberg
Outdoor Programs and Publications Specialist
January 27, 2020

Friends of the Columbia Gorge hosts a Volunteer Appreciation Celebration early each year as a way to show our great appreciation for all of the volunteers who donated their time and talents the previous year. In 2019 we had over 500 individuals volunteer in many different areas of our organization: Hosting a party is just a small way we can say thank you to each and every one of our important volunteers! 

The most recent appreciation event was held on Jan. 22, 2020. With over 140 attending guests looking on, we were able to recognize six individuals whom we felt went above and beyond for the Gorge in 2019. Five were recognized as Gorge-ous Volunteers, people who had demonstrated a great dedication to a particular area of our organization. We recognized one Volunteer of the Year, someone who lends a hand in so many ways, truly embodying the full range of work Friends does.

Volunteer of the Year

Few people have had such a broad impact on Gorge protection work as Debbie Asakawa, and there isn’t a single aspect of our organization that doesn’t have her fingerprints all over it. Debbie is a former board member and remains one of the Gorge’s most effective advocates – on the trail as a hike leader, behind the camera as a brilliant photographer, and through her relationships with donors as a member of our Philanthropy Committee. She also regularly organizes groups for stewardship work parties to help fight the scourge of invasive plants. Her enthusiasm and energy for appreciating and protecting the Gorge is contagious and has inspired countless others to discover the wonder for themselves.

Gorge-ous Volunteers

Lotti Bromham was recognized for her important work in environmental activism. She has spoken truth to power and in doing so helped the city of Hood River become the first Pacific Norhwest city to join a worldwide movement by passing a Climate Emergency resolution. She testified before the Columbia River Gorge Commission and asked them to include the climate crisis in the National Scenic Area Management Plan. A member of Hood River Valley High School's Earth Action Club, Lottie and her fellow student activists participated in numerous school and community activities to make her town and the Gorge a better place.

Richard Kolbell has a gift for using his camera to capture natural scenery as well as flattering pictures of people, both candid and posed. Though his interest in capturing the beauty of the natural world has him traveling abroad, the wonders of the Columbia Gorge remain a constant source of inspiration for him. He’s become one of our go-to people for photographing numerous Friends events and activities. If he’s in the area, he’ll readily answer the call with camera equipment always at the ready. He even volunteered to photograph the Jan. 22 event without knowing he’d be recognized.

Sarah Raab is as dedicated as one can get about trails. In the summer of 2019 she volunteered 156 hours as a Trailhead Ambassador, a remarkable achievement. Her dedication to the the Trailhead Ambassador program, her amazing depth of knowledge about the Gorge, and her passion for protecting it always means she goes above and beyond in connecting with hikers and her fellow volunteers.
Sharon Ross has been a dedicated Trailhead Ambassador, hike leader/shepherd, and steward. On the board of Cape Horn Conservancy, she rarely misses their monthly stewardship work parties and even leads some throughout the year. She jumps on any opportunity to give back, and she jumps in wholeheartedly. Her enthusiasm and passion for the Gorge and for the outdoors is infectious, and any outside excursion is more fun with Sharon by your side.

Colin Zylka has really hit the ground running as a stewardship volunteer since recently moving to the Gorge. He always has a smile on his face and a can-do attitude when helping with projects on public lands and Land Trust preserves. He’s helped Friends assess trail damage on preserves, pull a plethora of weeds, and has participated in many native planting parties. Along with his wife, Colin is deeply engaged in conservation issues in their community and is on-call to scope out potential new stewardship projects. He’s truly a caretaker of the Gorge.

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration Photos

Volunteer Event Supporters

Each year at our Volunteer Appreciation event, we offer a free raffle comprised of numerous items donated in-kind by the many businesses that support our work and mission. We are very appreciative to receive gifts for this year's event from the following supporters listed in alphabetical order: Thank You!