Opinion

Opinion | Secrets of the ‘Citizens of the Year’

Could you be a ‘Citizen of the Year’?

There’s no reason why not. Take a lesson from Nela Cumming, North Bend’s Citizen of the Year, and Danny and Robyn Kolke, the recipients of the Business Owner of the Year nod.

Nela’s a social worker for Encompass, running that children’s organization’s Pediatric Therapy clinic for the last two years. She often volunteers at schools during her lunch breaks, and serves as a translator for local Spanish-speaking families.

She’s inspired by the blessings of life, like our Valley’s natural setting, and in her own background, her mother stressed education as a means of betterment. Nela was a big reader as a kid. She’s also inspired by seeing, firsthand, people overcoming challenges or tragedy to succeed.

One might see Danny and Robyn as typical business owners, but their business is about way more than food, drink and service. The restaurant, a hub of live music in North Bend, is also an important facet of music education in the Valley.

They do a lot. Danny directs a middle school jazz band, started the Boxley’s Music Fund and the Future Jazz Heads program, giving students a chance to play. The Kolkes do the Downtown Block Party, started last September’s jazz walk, and plan a blues walk.

The Kolkes set out to make “a place that we could feel comfortable with our kids,” says Robyn. They took the leap, and included young people from the get-go. It’s hard to imagine Boxley’s without the youth focus. And it’s hard to imagine North Bend without their establishment.

Service to youth and families are a common thread for Nela, Danny and Robyn. So is the impulse to make a difference, which they follow through into action. All three citizens are inspired by a sense of belonging—they treasure this place.

As Danny told Carol Ladwig (see story here: www.valleyrecord.com/news/189066301.html), it’s a natural fit: “I hear it from people all the time, it’s so amazing to find a place like this in a small town...Where else would I put it?”

 

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