Most Impactful Corvallisites You’re Not Hearing About

Corvallis is a city with two faces.  One face we show off to the world proudly, coaxing outside money and interest to our corner of Oregon through our bustling University.  The other face is the one we show each other, every day helping each other make Corvallis the sought after destination for families and businesses that it is. The people who live here outside the school year know this face well, and these are the local names that the Advocate staff think you should be putting with that face.  These are the impactful residents who made the heart of the valley pump in 2014.

OBPcollageRichard Arterbury and Rosalie Bienek by Kirsten Allen

Richard Arterbury and Rosalie Bienek, founders of Ocean Blue Project (OBP), an environmental non-profit, have undertaken an innovative project to restore vegetation and aquatic habitats and remove harmful toxins from local waterways. With the help of volunteers, Arterbury is using a concept known as mycelium mycoremediation, with the goal of using restoration “to create a self-supporting ecosystem that is resilient to perturbation without further assistance.”

In 2014, the team at OBP has just scratched the surface in using this innovative eco-technology, and will be looking to expand the utilization in appropriate locations. By the way, mycoremediation isn’t the only project OBP has lined up. Arterbury and Bienek have taught mushroom workshops to educate community members on the benefits of having fungi integrated in backyard ecosystems, and plans more workshops throughout the year 2015.

Cynthia Spencer, Christine Hackenbruck and Jennifer Lommers by Johnny Beaver

CSKAJLcollageCorvallis’ arts community may not be leaping tall buildings in single bounds or inspiring Damien Hirst to pickle his latest farm animal, but its openness and strength of character has made a huge difference in the lives of many of us. Whether you make art or love someone who does, enjoy the many galleries or festivals, you’ve likely been touched by the hard work and dedication of those in the community. Though everyone is important, three names that really seem to stick out in regards to 2014 — Cynthia Spencer, Christine Hackenbruck and Jennifer Lommers.

Spencer has expertly helmed The Arts Center with a series of fantastic events and exhibitions, while Hackenbruck came back from a rough go with 2013’s Fall Festival (cut short by a storm) to a great run this last fall as Executive Director. perhaps bringing more art lovers together than anyone else for miles and miles. Jennifer Lommers’ Studio 262 near 4th and Madison has proven itself a great addition to both downtown and the art scene in general, offering a huge variety of local art as well as arts supplies and a lot more. Most artists around town wouldn’t hesitate to say that 262 has filled a major void.

All three of these pillars of the art community are new positions in one sense or another, and their energy and drive is not something I plan on taking for granted. The environment for those of us touched by the arts has been lifted up, and so for that, a thanks is in order.

Bart Bolger by Bethany Carlson

BartBolgerFew people in Corvallis have made more of an impact in 2014 than Bart Bolger. As Chairperson of the Corvallis chapter of Veterans for Peace, the group provides a counterpoint to military recruiting by offering info tables at high school lunchrooms and career fairs. In 2014, Bolger and Veterans for Peace raised around $4000 to bring the World Peace Game to Hoover Elementary School in 2015. The World Peace Game assigns the students roles such as UN officer and prime minister, then puts them through a series of world crises to be resolved through negotiation.

Bart also serves on the Board of Directors with Corvallis Housing First doing homeless outreach, and in 2015 will be continuing to work on planning the new shelter to be built in downtown Corvallis.

Bart is active with the Corvallis/Albany group CARE, Community Action for Racial Equality. The group got started shortly before Ferguson and its efforts have already led Albany’s city council to pass a resolution to be a “welcoming community.” Bolger anticipates that CARE will target racial equality issues such as housing, curriculum, and law enforcement in Benton & Linn Counties.

We look forward to seeing how Bart’s community efforts will impact the Corvallis community in 2015.

Judy Gibson by Denise Ruttan

judy gibsonThis Thanksgiving, about 1,500 Corvallis and Benton County-area families enjoyed a holiday dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings. Over the course of those two weeks, nearly 400 volunteers, including the Boy Scouts, other area groups and individuals, volunteered to pack boxes and deliver these meals to people in need.

This is, of course, the annual Holiday Food Drive. But this massive effort by the Linn-Benton Food Share would not happen without Judy Gibson, who has quietly worked behind the scenes for the last 18 years. It’s a way for this Corvallis real estate agent to give back. Moreover, she’s quick not to take credit.

“It’s a 10-day period of intense work, though we start organizing well before that,” Gibson said. “We’ve been doing it for so many years because we have so many good community groups and volunteers who come every year.”

Jay Gracey by Alicia James

jay_graceyAside from efforts to feed the truly impoverished, food’s impact on a community is frequently overlooked. I posit that food is always important whether you make six figures or live below the poverty line. Therefore, I nominate Jay Gracey, owner of McWeenie’s Hot Dogs, as a Corvallis Person of Impact. His awesome dogs are made with local, free-range meat, which supports Oregon farmers. The cart’s Madison Ave. location gives employees of nearby businesses a much-needed spot for quick lunch. Plus, the cart lends a necessary urban vibe to our downtown district. When I sidle up to McWeenie’s on a drizzly day to quell my hangover with a hot Italian and Coke, I can almost feel subways rumbling underground.

Taylor Nelson by Rachel Sandstrom

taylornelsonTaylor Nelson is a local charity leader and many people in our community are likely not aware of the positive impact she made in 2014. As an undergrad at Oregon State, Nelson started Beavs Helping Kids and found Oregon State University sponsors in order to become a school-sponsored organization. Beavs Helping Kids is, according to their website, “a philanthropic organization that raises funds and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.” Children’s Miracle Network provides medical treatment and more for children suffering from cancer, heart transplants, and other serious health concerns. They offer financial support despite the eligibility of parents. Taylor has has moved from founder to advisor of the organization where she hopes to continue to raise more money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network and the local hospital they support: Sacred Heart at Riverbend in Springfield, Oregon.

To make a donation, visit or support the April 18, 2015 Dance Marathon.

Abby Terris by Kirsten Allen

AbbyTerrisAbby Terris is quite active in the meditation scene. Whether its hosting sittings, leading retreats, giving talks, or developing a meditation retreat center, Terris is driven to helping people find peace and tranquility in the midst of the chaos of life.

She has spent considerable effort in 2014 to develop and plan the construction of the Sangha Jewel Temple. The Temple would provide an available space for meditation seven days a week, as well as a kitchen to provide meals for the hungry. The temple will also host visiting teachers, and be accessible by foot and or bike path.

With donations, ongoing fundraisers, and 46 dues-paying members, Terris speculates that by the end of 2015, they will be very close to purchasing a property.

Andrea Thornberry by Dave DeLuca

PHOTO OF IMPACTFUL ANDREA THORNBERRYAndrea Thornberry’s impact can be measured in saved lives. As the Executive Director of Heartland Humane Society, Thornberry works to take in virtually all of the stray or abandoned animals in both Corvallis and Benton County. The staff feeds and shelters dogs, cats, small animals, and any other miscellaneous beasts dropped off by local Animal Control officers. Thornberry explained “We do not have limited intake…We take in all animals regardless of behavior or health and if the animal is suffering we will humanely euthanize.”

Since Thornberry took over as ED in 2007, the shelter has consistently increased the number of animals returned, rehomed, or fostered and decreased the number of animals euthanized. In 2014, of the 1,506 animals entrusted to Heartland, 1,314 were saved.

Gina Vee by Bethany Carlson

gina_vee_middleAs the Executive Director of Corvallis Housing First, Gina Vee keeps busy. CHF is planning to tear down their current homeless men’s cold-weather shelter in 2016, and build a new facility by the winter of that same year. This year, Gina oversaw this planning and was the main media liaison for the group. In Advocate interviews, Vee has mentioned her concern for the 509j school district’s homeless children and families, as well as the aging population of homeless in Corvallis. In 2015, we’ll likely see Gina continue in her work at the cold-weather shelter and in planning the permanent facility. No matter where you stand on the issue of building a downtown shelter, there’s no doubt of Gina’s impact on addressing the issue of homelessness in Corvallis.