PHS auditorium
The Samaritan Awards were staged last year in the PHS auditorium but because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event will go virtual while the auditorium remains empty. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It’s getting to that time of year when the Philomath Samaritan Awards event takes place to recognize the contributions of volunteers, organizations and businesses that make this community such a great place to live.

In the past, the big night involves a nice evening in the Philomath High auditorium with folks enjoying a little food and beverage while an emcee calls award recipients up to the stage. It’s an occasion for a lot of handshakes, smiles and photos.

If you think back to last year, it’s one of the last times we had an event like that before the COVID-19 restrictions took hold to send off into the virtual world. And it’s in that world that we remain.

The Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the event, didn’t want to just cancel. So the only option is to hold the event virtually.

“This is disappointing as it’s the most rewarding event the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce does each year,” Chamber director Shelley Niemann wrote in an email to members. “We truly enjoy honoring the many local volunteers that give so much of their time supporting our community.”

The typical Samaritan Awards evening will not be 100% complete, however.

“After much discussion contemplating our options, we are moving forward with volunteer and organization recognitions but will hold off on First Citizen nominations until next year when we can honor those long-serving community members more appropriately,” Niemann said.

In addition, the chamber knows many businesses and organizations were not able to support the usual level of volunteer work.

“As such, we are asking you to especially think about those individuals or organizations who stepped in to help with COVID-19 relief whether through funding opportunities or donations, making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), deliveries, checking in on neighbors, virtual volunteering, as well as those that helped out during the wildfires last summer assisting evacuees with shelter, food, clothing, supplies, animal relocation, etc.,” Niemann wrote. “There are so many and we are tremendously grateful for their service!”

A date for the event was not announced but it appears it will be in March with a deadline for nominations set at Feb. 28.

I’m glad to see that the Samaritan Awards will go on. We’ll all miss the experience of getting together but that’s just not possible at this time. As Niemann said, I bet there are a lot of individuals out there in town who have done their part to support the community.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at