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Island Thrift scholarship named in honor of long-time volunteer

Island Thrift created a community service scholarship in the name of longtime volunteer Helen Ludvigson, left. The first recipient was Oak Harbor High School senior Micaiah Davis.   - Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times
Island Thrift created a community service scholarship in the name of longtime volunteer Helen Ludvigson, left. The first recipient was Oak Harbor High School senior Micaiah Davis.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

It was clear that the members in the room were pleased with the choice of Micaiah Davis as the first recipient of a community service scholarship.

They nodded in approval and smiled as the Oak Harbor High School senior spoke about what inspired her to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor.

What was even more clear, however, was the awe in the room when Helen Ludvigson got her chance to speak.

She had sat quietly for a half hour in a waiting area before the meeting, never uttering a word.

Then she joined Davis in a room with members of the Island Thrift board of directors who sat around a large conference table.

They were invited Wednesday to both be recognized for the first Helen Ludvigson Island Thrift Scholarship for Community Service.

After waiting politely and patiently, it was Ludvigson’s turn to talk, which began with an inquiry of how she was doing.

“Wonderful,” Ludvigson said warmly. “I am 93 and still going to church, keeping the books for the farm and volunteering as needed where needed.

“I’ve lived a beautiful life. I’ve lived all over the world but my very favorite place (is) Whidbey Island. I’m very happy here and I’m very happy working and doing for others. I was raised in a big farm family that always did for other people. It’s my life and I’m very happy. And I’m very honored that you would recognize my work. Thank you.”

Wednesday’s meeting, which was held at attorney Jim Kotschwar’s office on Kettle Street, was more than an opportunity to honor both the recipient of the scholarship and the person for which the award was named.

It also became a moment of mutual admiration by two people at opposite stages of their lives bonded by a common passion.

Ludvigson, who turns 93 next month, has worked as a volunteer at Island Thrift for 33 continuous years since coming to Whidbey Island.

Davis, 19, started volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor in middle school before landing a job there in high school.

“It’s pretty inspiring to be around someone who puts so much into an organization,” Davis said.

Davis is about to start her college journey at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where she will pursue a degree in visual arts.

She’s earned a 3.5 grade-point average at Oak Harbor and will graduate next month, using the $1,000 Island Thrift scholarship to help with college expenses.

“I want to do something involved with art,” she said. “I don’t really know what. I want to experience a lot of things. I want to learn a lot of languages. I want to travel.”

Davis said life at home hasn’t been easy with her parents divorcing, so she’s ready to venture out on her own and begin a new chapter in life. She’s found the Boys & Girls Club to be a place to escape those problems and focus her efforts on helping others.

Even after her work shift ends, she stays and helps. She teaches arts and crafts, drawing and painting and helps run other activities.

She said the club helped her when she started going there in the third grade.

“I remember coming here in the summer a lot,” Davis said.

“The volunteers I thought were so cool. I kind of wanted to be like them.”

Island Thrift recently passed the $4 million mark in funds provided for community projects and programs. The community service scholarship was designed to inspire volunteering.

Sandee Oehring, career and technical education director at Oak Harbor High School, said there roughly 20 applicants for the Helen Ludvigson scholarship, and that list was pared to four or firve for interviews.

“Micaiah really rose to the top because she took the initiative herselft to give back to the organization that gave to her when she was a young person,” Oehring said.

“She just goes out and volunteers and that’s what we felt was really an outstanding spirit in our community.”

Ludvigson, who was born and raised in Texas, said she enjoys helping out anyway she can and has been involved with volunteering of some sort for most of her adult life.

She said the progression of age has made it difficult for her to stand for long and use her hands as well as she used to, but she still travels from her home in Coupeville to Island Thrift in Oak Harbor on Wednesdays to help sort items, place price tags or help in anyway she is able.

“It’s the best store in town and I get a lot of pleasure in going and doing,” she said. “I get more from volunteering than I give. I’m very happy to have wound up my life in such a beautiful place. Other places in the world are beautiful three months a year. But the other nine months, forget it. Whidbey Island is beautiful. I live in a beautiful home, with the animals and flowers. I could not ask for a more beautiful place at the end of my life.”

Before Davis left the attorney’s office Wednesday, Ludvigson offered some parting words.

“I hope you have a wonderful life,” she told her. “I hope your life will be as beautiful as mine has been. I’ve worked all my life and I’ve gained happiness from work.”

“It’s fun to work. It’s good to work. And my heart goes with you. I know you will do your best. Just put your best foot forward and keep walking.’

“Ignore everybody else.”

 

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