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County celebrates our Health Heroes
No good deed goes unnoticed in Island County.
The Island County Board of Health and the Community Health Advisory Board honored the good deeds and positive attitudes of individuals and organizations during a joint public meeting April 14.
Ten community-minded rock stars, including Mary Fisher, Kathy McLaughlin, Joyce Swanson, Karin Watson, Anza Muenchow, Lee Spear, Holly Troyer, Jill Workman, Marcia Statz, Anna Statz and Victoria Santos received the Linda Lee Martens Health Hero of Island County Award during the late afternoon celebration.
The honor recognizes volunteers and groups that consistently go the extra mile to make the island community a better, friendlier and healthier place to live and work.
“Sometimes these activities are quite noticeable; others are unseen except for those directly involved,” Dr. Roger Case, Island County Health Officer, said.
Karin Watson, a former parent educator with Island County Public Health, received the “Health Hero Lifetime Achievement Award” for expanding child/parent programs, such as Baby Connections, parenting classes within the Island County jail system and networking with childcare providers. Her work led to nation-wide alliances and opened doors for grant opportunities.
Under Watson’s leadership and guidance, Island County now has a much broader scope of parent education options, from more Mother’s Circles (now called Baby Connections) to parenting classes in local jails. She also brought together all early childcare providers and provided them with a professional entity to serve them, called the Family Support Alliance. She brought together multiple partners, countywide, to obtain grants and start projects all aimed at bettering the lives of children.
Past coworkers provided stories and anecdotes about the care Watson took in her work and with those she worked with.
“I wanted to emphasize the many extra hours she put in baking cookies, making magnets and providing her own home in order to create community not only for the families she served but also for the parent educators and advocates.” Toni Kotchwar said. “She understands that support is more than information or another referral.”
Kathy McLaughlin, winner of the “Adult Hero of the Year Award,” is a prime example of compassion through her work and volunteer activities. Island County Board of Health and the Community Health Advisory Board chose McLaughlin, not for her work as executive director of Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, but for her involvement in numerous community-stimulating endeavors and her help establishing the South Whidbey Resource Center, Partners for a Drug Free Community, South Whidbey Relay For Life and Children’s Day.
The “Youth Hero Award” went to South Whidbey High School senior Anna Statz for her school project titled, “Inattentive Drivers: The Most Dangerous Drivers.” Stantz’s paper caught the attention of Rep. Norma Smith after the senior sent her paper to Island County Legislators. Smith is now the primary sponsor of Bill 2273, which attracted five additional co-sponsors. The bill is currently before the Transportation Committee.
Victoria Santos, a teacher at Langley Middle School, won the first-ever “Children and Youth Hero Award” for her infectious enthusiasm and unwavering ability to act a as real-life role model to her students and other island youngsters.
South Whidbey School District Staff took the “Hero of the Year Award” for their work to ensure the long-term health and safety of the students, with special focus on immunizations, nutrition and physical activity. Most notably, Jill Workman and Marcia Statz spent a portion of their summer indoors to catalog the immunization records for South Whidbey students and implemented a program to give immunizations to children during school registration.
In addition to the awards, Joyce Swanson, Lee Spear, Mary Fischer, Anza Muenchow and Holly Troyer received certificates of recognition.
Whidbey General Hospital hosted the event, which recognizes these individuals and organizations for their inspiring and selfless work. Past award winners received honors for promoting child abuse prevention, fostering parentless children, reducing substance abuse, enhancing their community’s health through environmental stewardship and working to improve their neighbor’s quality of life.
The award, named in honor of the late Linda Lee Martens, began in 2000. A press release described her as “an ordinary person with an extraordinary love for others.”
A longtime community activist, Martens served as the former executive secretary of the Health Department, as president of Soroptimist International and was involved in numerous community service activities at the local and national level. She died in 2001 as a result of cancer.
For more information about the awards, or to nominate someone for next year’s honor, call Carrie McLaughlin of the Island County Health Department at 360-221-8486.