UMATILLA - Tears ran past Virgie Jarrell's glasses when her name was announced at the rejuvenated Umatilla Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Awards banquet.

For her years of cooking and volunteering her time and crafts at the Umatilla Senior Center, Jarrell received Umatilla's Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award.

"If it would have said 'volunteer' on the award, then maybe I'd understand," she said after the banquet Thursday night. "But citizen of the year?"

The community took the time to honor her efforts, as well as those of Robert Schiedler, superintendent of the Two Rivers Correctional Institute, for business person of the year, and Jane Starner, a teacher at Clara Brownell Middle School, as educator of the year.

The event in the Umatilla High School Commons was the first time the community held such an event for several years, said Chamber President Lucas Wagner.

The master of ceremonies, Cindy Eddy, said so many people contribute to the successes of Umatilla.

"This is a thank you back to you," she said.

More than 60 people feasted on a dinner of chicken cordon bleu, stuffed flank steak, twice-baked potatoes, green bean amandene and cheesecake with a berry glaze that was prepared and served by students in the Umatilla High School chapter of the Future Career and Community Leaders of America.

The Umatilla High School Jazz Ensemble and Swing Choir performed, and there was a slideshow of Umatilla residents and contributors.

Schiedler was named the first superintendent of TRCI as it was being built in 1998 and 1999, said City Administrator Larry Clucas. Since then, he's played a major role in leading the community.

"He's been described as being a forthcoming, open, quiet, thoughtful and honest leader," he said.

Starner gets her students involved with community projects all of the time, explained Clara Brownell Principal Bill Varady. And if students need encouragement, she's there, he said.

"If I, other staff members or the community need something, we go to Jane Starner," he said.

Jarrell is a volunteer in the Start Making A Reader Today program at the elementary school and does a lot of volunteer work at her church, but spends every Saturday at the Umatilla Senior Center.

"I just love working with those people," she said. "Volunteering is good for you. My doctor says it keeps you going. He's right."

Teri Meeuwsen is a reporter in the East Oregonian Hermiston Bureau. She can be reached at (800) 522-0255 (ext. 1302 after hours) or by e-mail tmeeuwsen@eastoregonian.com.

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