Families First honors three with Champion Awards

Amy Molen presented John Justice with a Families First Coalition Champion Award during the June 28 Buckley City Council meeting.

Longtime city of Buckley employee and volunteer firefighter John Justice was surprised to receive the Families First Coalition’s final White River Communities Champion Award during the Buckley City Council meeting June 28.

The retired city employee and Vietnam War veteran joined White River School District volunteers Diane Robinson and Kristi Shafer as the first recipients for what the Coalition hopes will become an annual award honoring the unsung heros who volunteer in their community.

The FCC, a 15-year-old Buckley area organization, is made up of community, city, school, business and health and human service leaders who promote activities and partnerships that support the health and human service needs of individuals, youth and families in order to strengthen White River area communities. Monica Gaub served as committee chair for the project.

She and FCC Facilitator Amy Molen said they hope to present the award annually to recognize the commitment of those who make the community a better place to live, learn and grow.

“There are many wonderful individuals and groups who give of their time and talent to help others and make both small and large contributions within the White River School District,” Molen said. “Their contributions do not go unnoticed, be it within their organization, school, or community they serve in or by the lives they alter along the way. They are often behind the scenes, or the extent of how they impact others is not always known. For many, it is their life’s work.”

The committee sifted through several nominees before making this year’s selections.

Justice has been a Buckley volunteer fire fighter for more than 25 years. His letters of recommendation pointed out the countless hours he has spent helping with the fire department’s year-round activities as well as lending a hand around the city whenever necessary. He also went to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have John as our next door neighbor, but we’ve witnessed him be a ‘neighbor’ to the entire community,” wrote one letter writer.

“He has never turned down a request for help and he does all these things without the expectation of anything in return – that is the sign of a community champion,” wrote another.

Robinson and Shafer have been volunteering in their respective schools for decades.

Robinson began volunteering first in the Wilkeson Elementary library, as an assistant in 2003, and most recently with teacher Cindy Thompson.

“The special thing about her was that she was not a parent, but a grandparent of two of our students,” Thompson wrote. “Her oldest grandchild graduated from White River High School last year and her youngest is in high school. Diane still faithfully comes every week to help at Wilkeson Elementary.

“It is hard to find dependable volunteers and Diane’s commitment to our school for over eight years is amazing.”

Shafer has been a parent volunteer at Foothills Elementary for more than 17 years. Her sons finished their education there many years ago.

She has also been a PTA executive board member as well as being active with that organization at the state level. She too volunteered in the school’s library, where she would spend three to four days a week when the district’s library position was eliminated.

“Kristi is a valuable part of the Foothills family,” one recommendation letter noted. “She has touched the lives of countless students over the years in ways she may never know. She is loved by all staff and students alike. The hours and energy she gives of herself is truly noticed and appreciated by all who know her and treasure her friendship.”