Tom Schaafsma, Citizen of the Year

At center, Tom Schaafsma awaits the announcement of the Citizen of the Year.  Sequim Gazette photos by Michael Dashiell

For a few moments, a humbled Tom Schaafsma looked to honor the crowd that had come to pay him honor.

The Rotarian and volunteer for a slew of community groups, however, would be the one taking home Sequim's top civic honor.

Schaafsma is the 2009 Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

Nominated for his involvement with projects through Sequim-based groups Sequim Sunrise Rotary, Rotary Exchange, ShelterBox USA Response Team, Olympic Theatre Arts, Snap and others, Schaafsma told an appreciative crowd at SunLand Golf & Country Club's banquet room he was surprised by the award, but quite thankful.

"None of us do what we do with this (award) in mind," he said, then turned the tables a bit.

"All of you make this community what it is. My hat's off to you."

Borden, Martin

Schaafsma edged out finalists Joe Borden and Dr. Cynthia Martin, who both accepted Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce's Community Service Award honors.

Carol Pope, Lori Brothers and Vern Frykholm nominated Schaafsma. Hailing the Sequim resident for his volunteerism, Frykholm described the myriad projects Schaafsma has his hands on throughout and outside the community.

Schaafsma has helped with building ramps for elderly residents, the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse and at the Sequim Food Bank; helped build a bird observation platform at Dungeness Bay, the youth playground at Sequim Community School, the new Chamber of Commerce sign and covered bus stop near the Co-op Farm & Garden; co-managed the renovation of the gathering hall at the Olympic Theatre Arts building; donated a house to the Snap community group; hosted six exchange students; worked with the Clallam County Juvenile Diversion Board; and, through the ShelterBox USA Response Team, provided aid to victims of residents in an earthquake in Peru and hurricanes and flooding in Honduras.

He also was the recipient of a 2009 Clallam County Heroes award.

'Part of what you do'

"Volunteering just becomes part of who you are," Schaafsma said following the ceremony. "It's not something you plan or orchestrate."

Schaafsma, his wife, Jacque, and their daughter Leanne recently traveled to Cartagena, on the northern coast of Colombia, to visit their son Torin to build a playground for local families in Mampuján, a two-hour drive south of Cartagena.

Before leaving, Schaafsma put together some basic playground plans from an image on the Internet and coordinated with Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club for donations to cover the cost of materials and to convert a tree to lumber.

"Rotary has given me an incredible vehicle (to help)," he said.

The annual award got its start in 1968 as a way to recognize residents who contribute volunteer time and effort to the community. Since its inception, 50 people have been honored.

Past recipients serve on the award's selection committee.

Joe Borden

Borden and his wife, Tawana, are part of the Ditchwalkers, the dedicated group of volunteers who design, build and accompany the Irrigation Festival float to parades throughout the area.

He's been the festival chairman for the past six years and, along with Tawana, volunteered for festival events for 14 years.

The float and crew travel to more than a dozen parades each year throughout the region.

Borden moved to Sequim in 1986 after he retired from the military as an Army first sergeant and immediately got involved with civic groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.

He's also trained volunteers to do maintenance for the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"It's an honor and a privilege to serve this community," Borden said in his Community Service Award acceptance speech.

Ken Hays and Deborah Rambo Sinn nominated Borden.

"I was impressed with his passion and commitment to the festival," Hays said.

"Joe symbolizes the good, positive things about this community."

Dr. Cynthia Martin

Martin is president of the Parenting Matters Foundation, director for the First Teacher program - a partner program with the Sequim School District - and is involved with the Prevention Works! community coalition.

Much of her work is volunteerism, bringing her experience as a psychologist, teacher, school counselor, published author, parenting expert and mother to each situation, friends say.

First Teacher reaches out to parents of prekindergarten children through newsletters, developmental cards, parenting classes and speakers.

"Who else gets to give advice to 12,000 people a month?" Martin said. "I appreciate Sequim giving me that chance."

Martin helped form a nonprofit organization called Parenting Matters Foundation to expand the First Teacher program to other districts.

She was nominated for the 2003 Citizen of the Year award that went to John Beitzel.

"You've got to watch retirement in Sequim - it's a real killer," Martin joked in her Community Service Award acceptance speech.

Previous Citizen of the Year award winners
1968 — Peter Black
1969 — Carl Klint
1970 — Virginia Keeting
1971 — Virginia Peterson
1972 — Tom Groat
1973 — NONE
1974 — Bill and Katie Merrill
1975 — Jerry Anjuili
1976 — Chuck Southern, Howard Wood and Lorna McInnes
1977 — Nellie Tetrude
1978 — Marcia Welch
1979 — Ruby Trotter
1980 — Iris Marshall
1981 — Howard Herrett
1982 — Guy Shephard
1983 — Don and Vivian Swanson
1984 — Bill and Shirley Keeler
1985 — Ed and Marcia Beggs
1986 — Ruby Mantle
1987 — Jeff Shold
1988 — Annette Kuss
1989 — Jim Haynes
1990 — Bill and Judy Rowland
1991 — Nina Fatherson
1992 — Bud Knapp
1993 — Paul Higgins
1994 — Rand Thomas
1995 — Rochelle McHugh
1996 — Esther Heuhslein Nelson
1997 — Annette Hansen
1998 — Jim and Cathy Carl
1999 — Bill Fatherson
2000 — Robert Clark
2001 — Don Knapp
2002 — Gil Oldenkamp
2003 — John Beitzel
2004 — Emily Wescott
2005 — Lee Lawrence
2006 — Bob and Elaine Caldwell
2007 — Stephen Rosales
2008  — Sheri and Walt Schubert
2009  — Tom Schaafsma

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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