By Lee Perlman/The Portland Observer
Opal Strong, a 93-year-old Humboldt neighborhood activist and family matriarch, has been recognized for her lifetime of community and volunteer service in the form of a Spirit of Portland award.
Presented annually to people and organizations who contribute to the city’s livability, the winners are selected from nominations submitted by the public – 90 this year – by a citizen jury under the direction of the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement.
Members of the Portland City Council get to make some awards of their own. Strong was selected by Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
Strong’s history of involvement includes charter membership in the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods board, chair of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, State Senior Citizens Council, Albina Art Center board, PTA, Albina Women’s League, Meals on Wheels, the March of Dimes, and the Saturday with the Arts program for youth.
After receiving her award from Fritz last week, she told the crowd at the East Portland Community Center, “What a wonderful day when I see all of my friends here, people who worked with me, people who put up with me, people who loved me.”
She added, “Young people need to get involved. Teach them the way.” She paid tribute to her late husband who “didn’t work as hard as I did, but ensured that I had gas money.”
One of Strong’s children, the Rev. Mark Strong, also received a Spirit award, this one chosen by Mayor Sam Adams, as part of the Mobilizing the Church for Community Action Committee. This group has generated some 360 volunteers to donate 45 minutes a week each to work on projects in coordination with the mayor, the Portland Police Bureau, and public agencies.
In addition to Strong, the group includes the Rev. Marcus Pollard, Dr. W.G. Hardy, Pastor George Merriweather, Bishop Steven Holt, Rev. C.T. Wells, and Pastor Franklin A. Alvey.
Another of Fritz’s Spirit of Portland selections was former State Sen. Bob Boyer, a local African-American whose activities have included chairing the Concordia Neighborhood Association, serving on the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, serving as executive director of the King Neighborhood Facility, and work on behalf of the Longshoreman’s Union.
“I humbly accept this award,” Boyer said. “If there’s anything I can do to make Portland a better place, I’m here to serve.”
Sgt. Willie Halliburton of northeast Precinct received an award for his help with the non-profits Better People and Big Brother/Big Sister, the Shop with a Cop program, and for his time spent with injured children at the Emanuel Hospital Burns unit.
In accepting his award from Commissioner Dan Saltzman Halliburton dedicated it to “every police officer in Portland.” He paid special tribute to Captain Kevin Modica, who he called “an inspiration and a friend,” and to officer Blaine Tyler.
Jackeline Luna received an award for her work on behalf of the Latino Network.