The First Citizen award recipients included, from left, Doug Edmonds (Senior First Citizen), Mark Koeppe (First Citizen), Christopher McMorran (Junior First Citizen) and Lorelei Schell (Future First Citizen). (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Standing before the community on the high school auditorium’s stage Wednesday evening, four individuals ranging in age from 17 to 66 represented the latest group to be honored as first citizens during the annual Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce Samaritan Awards.

Seventeen-year-old Lorelei Schell’s impressive level of involvement led to the Future First Citizen award. Then there was the Junior First Citizen recognition for Christopher McMorran, who is currently sitting on both the School Board and City Council. Retired police officer Mark Koeppe’s long list of accomplishments that went above and beyond his duties in law enforcement earned him the First Citizen honor. And finally, Doug Edmonds was honored as the Senior First Citizen for his many contributions primarily to local government and education.

“I think it’s good to just help people out where you can help them out and use the talents that God has given you to encourage them,” Edmonds said at the conclusion of the evening event. “And I get great encouragement just helping other people learn a lot of things. It just grows your appreciation for the people around you.”

Edmonds had the natural desire to want to help others clear back to his younger days. In junior high, he got involved with student government and in high school, he started a science club. Then it was on to college where he became involved with an interdenominational Christian group.

“Every Friday night, we would go to an old folks home and sing songs with them and have a little brief message,” Edmonds said.

Patty Nobles shares a hug after receiving a Samaritan Award Wednesday night for her contributions to Philomath Community Services. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Locally, Edmonds founded the Philomath High School Robotics Engineering Division, which many in the community may know better as PHRED. The students build robots and participate in competitions while learning technical skills they can use in the future.

“You look for areas that are natural talents and abilities to help,” Edmonds said. “I like to organize things as part of that, too.”

Edmonds said he gets the most joy out of seeing what the kids go on to do in life.

“I’ve kept track of some of the kids early on with the robotics team and I know where they are and what they’re doing now and they’ve been very successful in their endeavors,” he said. “I think our society needs to have those kinds of role models.”

Edmonds was also involved with city government for 10 years as a planning commissioner and city councilor. He currently serves as a board member for Philomath Fire & Rescue and the Philomath Community Foundation.

PHS junior Lorelei Schell accepts the Future First Citizen award from co-emcee Bre Miller. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

On the other end of the life journey is Schell, a high school junior who is heavily involved with the local 4-H Club and has contributed to the community in several other ways.

“It’s important to me because I like to help people in the community and I just organize my time day-by-day and squeeze it all in somehow,” Schell said when asked how a busy high school student finds the time to give back.

Schell’s volunteer work has included sewing pillowcases for the hospital and making face masks during the pandemic. She helped the homeless through a backpack ministry and during the recent wildfires, helped with animal evacuation.

In fact, it’s a love for animals that really drives this young person with involvement in 4-H that has been important to her. A member of the Philomath Prime Cuts 4-H Club, she sews, raises sheep, pigs and currently, a steer. She’s held various positions in the organization at the local, county and state levels and was chosen as a delegate for the 4-H National Congress in Atlanta — an experience that she said she will always remember.

“I’ve been doing it since the sixth grade,” Schell said about 4-H. “I really like showing the animals.”

Schell said she plans to study veterinary medicine after graduating high school.

Asked if she’s had any major influences to give back to the community, she said, “My parents and then my 4-H leaders have been super important and encouraging.”

Schell is the daughter of Levi and Laura Schell.

Christopher McMorran interacts with co-emcee Ken Rueben while accepting the Junior First Citizen award. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

McMorran is a 2017 PHS graduate who went off to college, earned a degree and returned to his hometown to serve the community in several ways. He serves on boards for Strengthening Rural Families and Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in addition to his seats on the Philomath School Board and Philomath City Council. He has served on the Inclusivity and Budget committees for the city and also on budget committees for the fire district and school district.

In the November general election, McMorran attracted the most votes among the nine candidates.

Mark Koeppe accepts the First Citizen Award during Wednesday night’s Samaritan Awards event. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Koeppe retired recently from the police department and has been a familiar face to most in the community through his volunteer work. Koeppe led the weeklong Safety Town program that teaches incoming kindergarten students about everything from pedestrian safety to stranger danger. He also spearheaded a bicycle safety program and taught a hunter safety course.

In addition, Koeppe has served on the Philomath Youth Activities Club board, served as a football coach at the high school and youth levels and for a time sat on the City Council. Koeppe’s entire law enforcement career was with Philomath from his start in 1985 as a reserve officer to his retirement in December as a senior police officer.

Paula May sits at a table with her family during Wednesday’s Samaritan Awards. Lilly’s Lope for Hope, which May established, was honored as the Nonprofit of the Year. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Samaritan Awards also features recognition for businesses and nonprofit organizations. The Nonprofit of the Year honor went to Lilly’s Lope for Hope, which was established by Paula May after the suicide of her niece in 2013, and has gone on to support numerous programs related to positive mental health.

The Large Business of the Year award went to Pioneer Connect, which has been heavily involved with supporting the community. The Small Business of the Year honor went to Figaro’s, which has a long history of supporting school activities as well as other causes in town.

The People’s Choice Award was given to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians for its charitable contributions and involvement in various local efforts. In addition to several grants that have been awarded to support Philomath-area organizations, the Siletz worked with the school district to continue use of the Warriors logo and mascot.

Andy Louden won a Samaritan Award for his work with Philomath Fire & Rescue. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Samaritan Awards were handed out to various individuals that received nominations. The following received recognition (listed with the name of the organization that submitted the nomination): Tyana Newbill, Bountiful Backyard; Carol Leach, City of Philomath; Cara Sizemore, Clemens Primary School; Bobbi Conard, Girl Scouts Service Unit 29; Judie Lafrance, Maxtivity Creative Space; Joel Shonnard, Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce; Patty Nobles, Philomath Community Services; Andy Louden, Philomath Fire & Rescue; Brian Bailey, Philomath Frolic & Rodeo; Mark Bozdick, Philomath Lions Club; Fred Shaub, Philomath Rotary Club; Melissa Edwards, Philomath Youth Activities Club; and Luis Maciel, Strengthening Rural Families.

The Samaritan Awards were emceed by Bre Miller, president of the Corvallis Knights, and Ken Rueben, Philomath Police chief. The evening included a welcome message from Mayor Chas Jones.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.