Two Portland-area organizations received awards for service from former President Bush

One of the enduring parts of former President George H.W. Bush's legacy is his commitment to service and his "thousand points of light" belief that America's volunteer organizations "are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good."

Bush's well-known "thousand points of light" mantra originated on the campaign trail in 1988 as he hailed the virtues of community and volunteerism.

In 1990, President Bush established the Daily Point of Light Award for individuals making a difference. He advocates that "points of light" demonstrate how "a neighbor can help a neighbor." The award is now administered by Points of Light, Bush's independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization.

During his administration, President Bush formally recognized more than 1,000 volunteers as "points of light."

Two local organizations received recognition from President Bush and the foundation: Vancouver's First United Methodist Church in 1991 and St. Vincent de Paul Portland Council in 1992.

The church received the signed award and accompanying medallion for the exceptional community service done by its volunteers, who work with local Vancouver elementary schools.

Gwyn Vollmer joined the church in the 1970s. She has tirelessly volunteered on its behalf ever since.

"We were pretty ecstatic. It was pretty wonderful," Vollmer recalled when volunteers received the award in 1991. "It shows that we are doing something outside of our church, working and doing things, something for the community."

Since the 1980s, the church has partnered with Washington Elementary School in the Vancouver School District.

Volunteers cook meals for students and families in need, and donate clothing. They also help walk students to school and participate in host readings.

Vollmer hosted sixth graders.

"It’s hard to keep them on task, paying attention," Vollmer said, laughing. "But it was really fun."

Vollmer prefers cooking. Since she began volunteering with the church, she's cooked countless meals - some for math and science nights at the school.

"I did that for quite a few years," she said. "I’ve always cooked. It’s a way I can volunteer."

Washington Elementary Resource Coordinator Elizabeth Owen says the school could not do everything without the volunteers.

"Everybody has skills and talents and abilities, and it’s great when people can share those with others," Owen told KATU. "I think Vancouver is a good representation of what community can do when they all work together."

Owen says 85% of the school's students rely on free or reduced school lunches.

"Our community partners provide so much," she said. "The great thing about with a long term partnership with our community partners is that relationship building between the [volunteers] and the school... and the [students] know that the school is a safe place, they know that the school has a level of comfort."

The service relationship between the school and the church continues today, answering the call of President Bush.

"With your help, every American can be called to do something good and feel something real," Bush said in a speech in the early 1990s.

On September 18th, 1992, President Bush honored the Portland Council of St. Vincent de Paul as one of the nation’s “1,000 Points of Light”.

As part of the award, the United States Office of National Service named the Society as its 898th Daily Point of Light for the Nation.

Next year, St. Vincent de Paul of Portland (in Oregon) will be celebrating 150 years of service to the Portland area and beyond.

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