And the winner is… Aaron Awesome, er, Ostrom

COMMUNITY BUILDER Aaron Ostrom, the founder of McKinleyville Community Watch, was presented with the Community Builder Award Jan. 4. From left, McKinleyville Community Services District Manager Greg Orsini, Director John Corbett, Ostrom, Board President Dennis Mayo and Director George Wheeler. Submitted photo

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Community Services District has awarded Aaron Ostrom its prestigious Community Builder Award for his many contributions to the town, including the founding of McKinleyville Community Watch and the organizing of massive trash cleanups.

The district’s Board of Directors presented Ostrom with the award at its Jan. 4 meeting, praising the business owner for his good deeds.

A resident of McKinleyville for 10 years, Ostrom founded McKinleyville Community Watch four years ago “because I felt like McKinleyville was lacking a sense of community.” The group has a Facebook page, where residents share information about crime, town events and local news. Participants also come together for trash cleanups and other community projects.

Running the McKinleyville Community Watch Facebook page is a significantly more time-consuming effort than people might think.

In order to maintain the page as an effective forum for sharing information and discussing community issues, moderators must constantly review postings and moderate comments. As anyone who has ever run an online forum knows, if it is not moderated properly, it will devolve into flame wars and a string of insults.

As McKinleyville Community Watch grew, Ostrom realized he needed help running the group.

“I soon started to realize that I couldn’t do this on my own,” Ostrom stated in a written interview conducted by the district. “I needed  to recruit moderators, so I treated this group as a business and  started  interviewing  people.”

A group of moderators now oversees the Facebook page and has developed guidelines for participants,

Ostrom said the Facebook page has helped create community awareness about crime in McKinleyville and has helped reunite lost animals with their owners.

The group has also held town hall meetings, giving residents an opportunity to meet with law enforcement and state representatives.

“We’ve hosted bimonthly 90-minute cleanups in McKinleyville resulting in more than 30,000 lbs. of trash removed from streets, trails, parks and open spaces,” according to Ostrom.

Another one of Ostrom’s accomplishments is the creation of the PacOut Green Team three years ago with Tim Haywood, an employee at Ostrom’s business, Pacific Outfitters.

The PacOut Green Team hosts a cleanup every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. from as far south as the Fortuna/Ferndale area and as far north as Orick.

“We haven’t missed a Saturday since we started three years ago,” Ostrom stated.

In the first year, the team cleaned up 24,000 lbs. of trash; in the second year, 35,000 lbs.; and last year, about 60,000 lbs.

Also at the meeting, district employee Chris Jones was presented with the 2016 Employee of the Year award. A 13-year employee of the district, Jones works as a Utility Person II. Employees of the district selected Jones through a secret ballot, recognizing their fellow employee for his positive contributions to the district.

The award was started by district manager Norman Shopay in 2009 and has continued every year since. Sharon Denison was the first Employee of the Year in 2009, followed by Tony Rutten in 2010, James Henry in 2011, Lesley Frisbee in 2012, William (Bill) McBroom in 2013, David Baldosser in 2014 and Diane Sloane in 2015. Jones was presented with a much-coveted lawn gnome for his contributions.

“It’s a wonderful place to work. I love it,” Jones said about the district.



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