A fire lit a fire under Cascade Locks businesswoman Caroline Park, and for her efforts the Oregon Tourism Commission (Travel Oregon) awarded Park its Travel Volunteer of the Year for 2017.
Park was honored at the 2017 Oregon Travel and Tourism Industry Achievement Awards, presented at the 2018 Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Bend on April 29.
The achievement awards recognize people and organizations that enhance travel and tourism experiences across Oregon. The award recipients are outstanding professionals who demonstrate perseverance and dedication to the state, according to Travel Oregon.
The Volunteer Award recognizes “significant commitment by an individual or a group of individuals who exemplify the positive impact volunteers have on Oregon’s travel and tourism industry.”
In the wake of the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, Park from Thunder Island Brewing “stood out as a pillar of strength, ingenuity and resilience for her community in the Columbia River Gorge,” stated Travel Oregon in an award press release.
She created a GoFundMe account to support local volunteer firefighters, raising nearly $25,000. She created Cascade Locks Strong, a campaign and online shopping portal for people to buy gift certificates to support businesses in Cascade Locks to help create much-needed cash flow in the community. The site raised more than $20,000 for local businesses.
“Caroline’s unwavering support for her community has been invaluable through the aftermath of the fires,” said Travel Oregon.
“In the time frame of doing the work, I certainly didn’t imagine ever receiving the award or anything like it, so I was very touched and humbled to be recognized,” said Park, who co-owns Thunder Island with Dave Lipps.
“What I like to tell people is that a lot of people did a lot of things. I happen to be really good with social media. It was lots of people.
“I very much appreciate the support of the Mount Hood/Gorge region direct marketing organization, aka Mount Hood Territory,” Park said of the Travel Oregon regional coalition that nominated her.
Park was recently honored by Hood River County School Board for her volunteer work, in particular helping organize a bike rodeo at school, and the county-wide Gorge Kids Triathlon, staging a fundraiser for the school Excel program, and serving on the Education Foundation Board.
Park and Lipps also guided a preschool fieldtrip to their backyard to visit their chicken coop. “Caroline and Dave have been Eaglets preschool’s dearest friends, supporting us through both monetary donations and their hearts,” said Eaglets’ Preschool Director Suzanne Haidri. “Their support has been priceless.”
“I cannot say enough about what you have done for this district and I know how much you have done for this city,” said Hood River County School District Board Member Chrissy Reitz.
“You are phenomenal and your energy is contagious,” she said.
“All this and they have no children in the school,” Cascade Locks Principal Amy Moreland said. Park told the board that she and Lipps are now engaged. “We do things backwards: run a business and live together for five years, through ice storms and fires, so we decided it was time to get married.
“I love supporting our school district. I grew up in a small community in Clatsop County, and I appreciate the community support in rural districts, and I want to do what I can,” Park said
The Cascade Locks Strong website, which Park described as “a business within a business,” is currently not in operation, but she plans to restart it in the fall.
”When the fire was happening, it’s almost paralyzing and we were forced to be creative to think about how to find a way to either get through the whole experience or find a way to be productive for the community. If I had years of firefighting training I’d want to help out, but the whole experience made me look at my skill set, and ‘how can I help? What can I apply to this situation?’ Which was an unusual one.
“I was encouraged by friends and I put one and one together: As a business we were getting a lot of phone calls about how to help,” Park said.
“People were reaching out to us and I wanted to find a way to facilitate peoples’ interest in helping in the same way. I had my own interest in helping, and that seemed to be the best way to do it.
“I was really tickled to get the funds we raised through GoFund me for the 13 (firefighting) stations and to be able to write them a check and say, ‘this is so you can keep doing what you doing,’ and show some commitment to their commitment to helping keep us safe.”
She said the Cascade Locks Strong and firefighter campaigns amounted to “an action of figuring out how, since we were all shut down, and we all need a cash flow, ‘what we can do to help the bottom line?’
“Again, it was addressing an urge from the public, by a lot of people who wanted to reach out and help, asking, ‘can I wash dishes, or feed the firefighters?’ That wasn’t where the help was needed, so we put it together to say, ‘you can support our community and businesses and our friends by supporting either the firefighters campaign or Cascade Locks Strong.’”