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Maps Community Awards, Part I

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Meet our 2023 Community Award winners!

Each year, the Maps Community Foundation honors several amazing locals with the Maps Community Awards. These awards recognize those who are going above and beyond to “Make a Difference” in the Mid-Willamette Valley. The winners (who are nominated by someone in their community) are then given the opportunity to select a charity that will be awarded a $1,000 grant in their name. Here are the uplifting stories of our 2023 winners (part 1 of 4).

Abby Johnston-Fitts and CASA of Polk County

Grant winner: Abby Johnston-Fitts (nominated by Jillian Layton)

About Johnston-Fitts’s chosen charity: CASA of Polk County is a non-profit that works to recruit, guide, and support well-trained advocates to be a voice for neglected and abused children and youth in the judicial dependency system. They aim to provide a volunteer for every child who comes into foster care through the legal system of Polk County.

Why Johnston-Fitts picked CASA to receive the $1,000 grant: I have chosen CASA of Polk County because the work they do directly impacts the lives of children in my community who are at their most vulnerable. Supporting CASA means supporting those who advocate on behalf of the best interest of a child.

Johnston-Fitts’s Give-back Story: Johnston-Fitts served in the United States Navy for over 10 years before earning her Juris Doctor law degree from Willamette University. She now runs her own law firm, which regularly provides free services to veterans and other Polk County community members in need. In addition to being a board member for the Monmouth-Independence Community Foundation, Oregon Ag Fest, and Central Panther Club, Johnston-Fitts also provides pro-bono representation to survivors of domestic violence and volunteers to serve as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the foster system.

“Abby works tirelessly and has for many years,” Says nominator Jillian Layton. “She proves that anyone can make a difference in their community…She has the true heart of a volunteer. I couldn’t recommend a better person for this award.”

Emily Jaskoski and Center for Hope and Safety (Safe Paws Program)

Grant winner: Emily Jaskoski – Maps Member (nominated by Christina Weber)

About Jaskoski’s chosen charity: The Center for Hope & Safety (CHS) is a non-profit that offers a safe refuge and support to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. The “Safe Paws” program of CHS—which was launched in 2017—provides kennels onsite that allow pet-owning abuse survivors to bring their much-needed companions with them when they come to the shelter. This is a crucial service because, according to the ASPCA, perpetrators of domestic violence often threaten harm or bring actual harm to their victims’ pets in order to control their victims, punish them, or prevent them from leaving. Sadly, studies have shown that nearly half of the victims in abusive situations choose to stay or return to an abusive situation to protect their pet.

Why Jaskoski chose the Center for Hope and Safety (Safe Paws Program) to receive the $1,000 grant: My reason for choosing this nonprofit is because my heart is with those suffering abuse and always in the heart of my children is animals. The Safe Paws program allows those suffering abuse who need shelter to bring their animal along with them. Many who experience domestic violence do not leave simply because they have no place for their animal to go.

Jaskoski’s Give-back Story: Jaskoski works as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) nurse, helping her patients work through the traumatic experiences they have encountered in their life. Through her work, Emily is able to show her patients that there are kind and loving people out there. According to her nominator, Christina Weber, Jaskoski loves her work because it gives her the opportunity to listen, love, and help her patients tell their story for the first time. She also leads a girl scout troop and is always coming up with new ideas to get the girls in the troop involved with the community.

“Emily is just lovely,” says Weber. “She is joyful, she is humble, and she’s fun to be around. She is already a winner—but she would be so proud to be able to name a non-profit to continue spreading love to those around her!”

Patty Nevue and the Ella Curran Food Bank

Grant winner: Patty Nevue (nominated by Jenn Columbus)

About Nevue’s chosen charity: The Ella Curran Food Bank is a volunteer-staffed food pantry in Independence that provides free groceries to a broad spectrum of residents in need in Monmouth and Independence. They serve between 800 and 2,400 people per month by allowing them to shop for meat, dairy, produce, canned goods, pantry supplies and even special items like Thanksgiving turkeys. The Ella Curran Food Bank is also the home of the Monmouth-Independence Food Project (which works to redistribute nonperishable food in the community).

Why Nevue chose Ella Curran Food Bank to receive the $1,000 grant: “For 45 years, Ella Curran Food Bank has provided food to our neighbors in need. The all-volunteer and all-donated food organization currently sees 240 families or 950 people each week. Each family is able to make their own food choices in an easily accessible, welcoming setting.”

Nevue’s give-back story: Nevue volunteers as the head of the Ella Curran Food Bank and gives countless hours and resources to make sure local families and individuals have the things they need to live and thrive. According to nominator Jenn Columbus, Nevue is a quiet, humble leader whose steadfastness and belief in the mission of the food bank and community is accomplishing amazing things.

“Whether she is helping with a fundraiser, raising awareness about a community event or cause, distributing food to hungry families, or raising funds for the food bank’s capital campaign, Patty is connecting people with each other and helping to create a stronger foundation for those who live in her community,” says Columbus. “Strong, successful communities are possible because of people like Patty.”

Oni Marchbanks and Equity Splash

Grant Winner: Oni Marchbanks (nominated by Vanessa White and Tricarico Schwartz)

About Marchbanks’s chosen charity: Equity Splash is a youth-focused non-profit that offers mentorship programs, a S.T.E.A.M. program, a learning-driven community garden; meals and supplies to the unsheltered; and other outreach programs.

Why Marchbanks picked Equity Splash to receive the $1,000 grant: “Equity Splash is committed to working towards achieving equitable outcomes for the Black & BIPOC community, with an emphasis on youth, through educational, community, and volunteer experiences. Equity Splash strives to create, increase, and sustain equity practices for future generations.”

Marchbanks’s Give-back Story: Marchbanks is the co-founder of Equity by Design, LLC and the executive director of the nonprofit Equity Splash. Through her work with Equity Splash, Marchbanks teaches, encourages, and inspires everyone she encounters. Marchbanks was also recognized in April of 2023 with a Distinguished Service Award from the Salem Chamber of Commerce.

“Oni has made a difference in so many people’s lives and continues to every day,” says nominator Tricarico Schwartz. “I hope this award can honor her and recognize her to give back some of the love and support she radiates out into everyone around her.”

Marchbanks’s second nominator, Vanessa White, agrees and credits Marchbanks for inspiring her to use her “big voice”. “She speaks life  into the youth,” White says. “She shows them that they can do whatever their heart desires when they grow up.

We have more amazing give-back stories to share with you in the coming days. These four individuals are just a few of the 17 Community Awards we gave out this year. To our 2023 winners and nominees (and to all of the community members who nominated these amazing, inspiring candidates) thank you for sharing your stories. This annual program is such a joy to offer and such an integral part of how the Maps Community Foundation hopes to connect with and celebrate those who make life better for our members and all of the residents in the Willamette Valley basin.

Just catching up? You can meet the rest of the 2023 winners Part II, Part III, and Part IV

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