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Author: Eric Howald

Merchant of the Year champions integrity

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

Larry Jackson wasn’t surprised to be named Keizer’s Merchant of the Year in 2018, it was something he worked toward. 

“I grew up in Keizer and volunteering at the fire district, the candy cane day and the breakfasts. I remember the dads who helped build Keizer Little League Park and being there for the kids,” Jackson said. 

In the year since his name was announced, Jackson’s presence in the community hasn’t dwindled in the slightest. He is a regular fixture at just about any community effort in Keizer and Salem. While he is more likely to be found working behind the scenes than in photo ops, the relationships he makes through involvement have allowed others to tap into resources they might not otherwise have known were available. In addition to the extra-curricular activities, Jackson’s Auto Body, the business he co-owns with his cousins Jerry and Carol Jackson, celebrated its 60th anniversary and the third generation of family owners. 

“It gets a little complicated – sometimes very complicated – mixing business and family. But when I talk to other people in family businesses, most don’t get this far,” Jackson said of the milestone.

It was a busy year to say the least, but the Merchant of the Year title was more of a capstone in a long journey. He’d been working toward it for eight years, which is as long as he has been working on sobriety.

Jackson started working in the shop at 14, when his dad woke him up and told him he was going to work on the first day of his summer vacation. From that point until he graduated from McNary High School in 1984, he split his time between a part-time job at Orcutt’s IGA and the family business. 

“When I started at 14, I painted the buildings and swept floors and did some of the prep work on paint jobs, but I wanted to get into the shop and repair things,” Jackson said.

In a field more and more dominated by technology, car body work still requires a personal touch. 

“I always felt I was good with my hands and collision work takes a feel. You have to sand to a happy medium before something can be repainted, and I liked pounding on something from time to time,” Jackson said.

He started full-time in January 1985 and rose to co-owner in 1998. By 2010, Jackson’s dependency on alcohol was consuming him. He spent New Year’s Eve 2010 in a hotel by himself, a few miles away from his actual home. 

“I didn’t want to drink, but wasn’t able to not drink,” Jackson said.

By the end of the first week of 2011, he checked himself in to Eugene’s Serenity Lane.  On his first day in Eugene, a guest speaker shared his story and Jackson connected with it on almost every level. He left the bottle in the rearview and set his sights on staying busy. He found outlets in the Keizer Chamber of Commerce as well as Salem Chamber of Commerce.  

“It was service and it was a way to keep moving,” Jackson said. “People are looking to get involved and do things, we have to give them an opportunity to. It’s not about the business I own, it’s about volunteering and then you go to a store a month later and you meet someone who was working alongside you and you have a new relationship, and it keeps going from there.”

The first time he decided to wrap gifts for the Keizer Chamber’s annual Giving Basket Program, he was the only male on site. That’s changed in the intervening years, thanks mostly to social media, but Jackson does his part by showing up, the same way he saw other adults do when he was a kid. 

In recent years, he’s found himself among a new generation of Keizer leaders—including Bob Shackleford, the current Keizer Chamber president—who picked up the volunteerism baton from their parents). But, he also thinks more can be done. 

“The Keizer Network of Women (KNOW) do a great job of bringing young girls into what they do, I want to get the young boys involved in doing the right thing,” Jackson said. 

For the Merchant of the Year, that is the heart of what integrity means: doing the right things even when no one is looking. Jackson also walks the talk, he celebrated his eighth year of sobriety on Jan. 5.

One of his regular gigs is speaking with others battling alcoholism at Serenity Lane and through visits to the Oregon State Correctional Institution. Any effort that taps into the issues surrounding alcoholism is likely to find an action-minded supporter in Jackson. 

“There were a lot of people worried about me and thought I was going to die, but I want to be someone with a legacy of hope. I know where I was at during the lowest point and I know where I am now,” he said.

 

Hurdles remain to reunifying youth leagues

By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

Don’t look now, but springtime is right around the corner, meaning that youth baseball and softball will be in full swing a few months from now.

With registration starting to ramp up, both Brad Arnsmeier — Keizer Little League President — and Ryan Walsh — McNary Youth Baseball President — are really encouraged about the direction of their respective programs going into the 2019 season. 

“We feel really good about the direction were going,” Arnsmeier said. “We have seen growth in both our softball and baseball programs. Every new year is exciting and we can’t wait to get started.”

“Our numbers were really strong after the first week out,” Walsh said. “We want both programs to succeed and have youth baseball in Keizer in a good place. That’s what the goal is.”

From 1972 to 2008, KLL was the only option for youth baseball and softball in the city. But just over a decade ago, several leaders left the group — with tournament revenue being the main point of contention — to form Keizer Youth Sports Association (which is now MYB).

Both Walsh and Arnsmeier weren’t involved with their respective leagues when the split occurred, but both parties claim to actively be trying to bring the two groups together. 

“It’s not just the city that would like to see a unified program again in Keizer. I would say we all would like to be under one umbrella. Keizer Little League and MYB officials sit down several times each year to try and find common ground,” Arnsmeier said. 

“We each offer solutions, but we haven’t found the perfect fit yet. I will always remain optimistic, but until the two groups can resolve just a couple of fundamental philosophical differences it will be difficult.”

While MYB Vice President Bo Lane does want to have those conversations about coming together once again, he also believes that it won’t happen in the near future.

“I would consider both programs successful, so we need a really good reason to undoubtedly say that we need to make a change in order for our two programs to be better, and I’m not sure that we actually have an answer for that right now,” Lane said.

“It doesn’t mean that we won’t explore it, but at this point we don’t have that one main reason to do this. But maybe that is something we should talk about more.”

One of the biggest philosophical differences between the two programs is the way teams are constructed. 

With KLL, players who tryout are put through a drafting process to determine which team they will play on during the regular season.

At the end of the regular season, the best players will be put together to form an All-Star team that will compete in the District 7 Little League Tournament, with the hope of progressing to the state tournament or even the Little League World Series. 

MYB, on the other hand, has tryouts and places kids on teams that match their skill level and experience:  Federal, highly competitive, American, very competitive, National, level similar to recreational. leagues with a bit more competitiveness. (For kids under the age of eight playing T-Ball or Double-A, only the recreation option is available). 

Each team will play a league schedule against other squads from the valley — such as Sprague or West Salem — and then has the chance to qualify for the state playoffs.

There are also some minor rule differences between the two programs as well. For example, MYB, which plays by Junior Baseball of Oregon (JBO) rules, allows players to lead off of bases. But that is not permitted in KLL play.

KLL also offers softball while MYB only does baseball.

Since both KLL and MYB play the majority of their games at Keizer Little League Park, there have been some disagreements about what each side wants to do with some of the individual fields. 

At the KLL Long Range Task Force Meeting on Jan 2., MYB personnel stated that they wanted to make the infields all dirt — likely due to the fact that it would be easier to change the dimensions of the infield with the pitcher’s mound and the bases, making it so teams of different age and skill levels could use the same field.

KLL, however, wants the infields to have the more traditional grass look for baseball — KLL has had the city’s contract for management at Keizer Little League Park since 2013.

Even though it seems that theyhave conflicting ideals, Arnsmeier claims that the two sides aren’t all that different.

“If people were to take a close look at the two programs, they would find out that we are so much more similar than different,” Arnsmeier said. 

The truth is that youth baseball looks much different in 2019 than it did in 1972. There are youth teams all over the Salem-Keizer area that aren’t attached to a league, so they exclusively play travel ball in weekend tournaments. 

Both KLL and MYB place a large emphasis on player development, which is why KLL Vice President Lisa Buik believes that keeping the two programs separate may not be such a bad thing. 

“It’s almost a better thing to stay as we are, because if we decide to march together under the same umbrella, it doesn’t stop somebody else from coming in and starting their own thing,” Buik said. 

“So, having people with a more constructive mindset on two separate sides of the fence is probably the better thing, instead of creating another war that could potentially happen.”

Since the two groups split in 2008, there have been several instances of animosity between MYB and KLL over the last decade.

One of the more recent examples came in December of 2017 at a Keizer City Council meeting regarding a proposal by KLL to hike up field usage fees by $10. 

Walsh, as well as other MYB members, were opposed to the increase. After Clint Holland — who manages the concession stand at Keizer Little League Park — claimed that not showing up to the fields for reserved times had a large impact on concession sales, the temperature in the room evidently got so heated that Mayor Cathy Clark had to cut the conversation short.

At the task force meeting on Jan. 2, concession sales were a big point of contention yet again as multiple people at the meeting confirmed that, over the years, KLL and MYB kids and parents were instructed not to buy anything from the concession stand if it didn’t benefit their own organization — concession revenue goes to whoever holds the contract at the park. 

However, both Walsh and Arnsmeier indicated that the two programs have left those troubles in the past.

“Many times, when you have competing programs, you always have stuff that you have to deal with,” Arnsmeier said. “We’ve had some bumps in the road, but it’s all water under the bridge.”

Walsh also added: “It’s two separate programs working amicably and very fluidly. We have a cohesive and fluid relationship and we work together all year long.”

Both programs also shared how developing players on and off the field is their top priority.

“Our board is filled with people that are really passionate about kids improving and having fun and helping them become successful young men in our community.” Lane said. 

“I take my involvement with (KLL) very, very seriously. I love to volunteer and I love to coach,” Arsmeier said. “If it makes a difference in someone’s life, every minute I spend on the field is worth it.”

KLL Park mgmt. planning lurches — slowly — forward

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Little League Park Long Range Planning Task Force met for the third time on Jan. 2. While the meeting was wide ranging, little tangible progress appeared to be made.

At the core of the continuing discussions regarding future management of the park and what it could or should become. When Mayor Cathy Clark asked attendees whether they were ready to discuss a new management structure – a third-party entity comprised of members of both Keizer Little League (KLL) and McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) alongside others representing the community-at-large – there was no dissent, but the resulting conversation never reached a decision point. 

Off the bat, talk turned to other possible solutions, such as the managing organization leasing the park and reducing the city’s oversight. 

KLL Vice President Lisa Buik seemed interested in the possibility, but wanted more information. 

“The advantages to you is that you would have absolute and full control. The negative is that [the city] would have nothing to do with it,” said City Manager Chris Eppley. While the city council might be willing to enter into agreements to help maintain or improve the park, the managing organization would likely be expected to exhaust all other avenues of funding. 

City Councilor-elect Dan Kohler returned to a more fundamental question of which activities should be the park’s primary focus. 

While some at the meeting felt the park should continue to be focused on Keizer youth, others felt it could fulfill that mission while attracting outside tournaments. 

“I think we can do both simultaneously,” said Brad Arnsmeier, KLL president. 

“There is going to have to be more improvements to have quality tournaments,” countered MYB Vice President Bo Lane. 

That drew a slight rebuke from Kohler. 

“If we say we want the capital improvements, and to draw tournaments, I’m not sure that MYB or KLL is the organization to manage the complex,” Kohler said. 

Clint Holland, who manages the concession stand on the property, said that the tournaments during the low-activity times of late July and August could help cover improvement costs.

“There’s a huge amount of people that use that complex in August, tournament teams, and we have softball teams that come in. We’re not looking at all the other groups,” Holland said. 

Matt Lawyer, a member of the Keizer Parks Advisory Board, then suggested that having a third party manager of the complex could “optimize use during those months with a mission of funding a space for Keizer kids.”

Still, Lawyer asked what the representatives of KLL and MYB had come up with in private discussions. 

To that, Arnsmeier responded that the organizations were still unclear on what was being asked of them. 

He added that while the two groups wanted to maintain a focus on Keizer kids, there were differences regarding how the facilities should be maintained. 

“Ryan [Walsh, president of MYB]  is interested in dirt infields and I feel that the infields should be grass for baseball,” Arnsmeier said. 

“[Walsh’s] philosophy behind that is generating income. We could make more money for softball fields that double as baseball fields,” countered Lane. 

It was the first time, in a public setting, representatives of the leagues addressed the fundamental differences of opinion that complicate the notion of co-managing the park.

At that point, past disputes again reared their head with several members of the task force and some audience members claiming that coaches had told athletes and their parents not to frequent the concession stand when it was being run by the opposing organization. 

Once those grievances had aired, Arnsmeier tried to turn the conversation back to the complex. Contrary to what some believe, said Arnmeier, it’s not organized, outside tournaments that require the most time and effort, it’s cleaning up after pick-up games, unscheduled practices and average users who aren’t aware of how to properly care for the fields. 

“They don’t know not to wear cleats, or let a dog poop there,” said Buik. 

Slot fees, and whether there would be a way to restructure league fees to include field usage and then subsidize those with fees collected from outside groups, was also briefly discussed. No consensus on that issue was reached either. 

As the meeting wound down, Clark tasked MYB and KLL to continue talking about alternative forms of managing the complex. 


Lady Celts pick up huge win

By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary girls basketball team desperately wanted to break a six-game losing streak and give themselves some momentum heading into Mountainside Valley Conference play.

Thanks to some key buckets down the stretch, along with their tough defense, the Lady Celts got exactly what they were looking for.

Abigail Hawley led the way with a game-high of 15 points and Leah Doutt chipped in with 13 points as McNary came away with a 47-39 overtime road victory against McMinnville in their last non-league game of the season on Friday, Jan. 4. 

“It was a great confidence builder for us,” McNary head coach Elizabeth Doran said. “We have had a really tough non-league schedule, so that was a great way to finish it off. I think were in a good spot going into league (play).”

Each team struggled on the offensive end in the first half as both McMinnville and McNary shot under 30 percent from the field in the first 16 minutes. McMinnville, however, went 7-of-10 from the foul line in the opening half, which allowed them to take a 16-12 lead at the break.

McMinnville still clung to a four-point lead at 29-25 as the game entered the fourth quarter and even increased their lead to seven with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. But the Celtics finished the fourth period on a 9-2 run to tie the score at 37-all and force overtime.

Hawley knocked down a pair of free throws to start the extra session, which was followed by a big put-back hoop by Anna Leigh Besa on the next trip, putting the Celtics on top 41-39.

Hawley would add a clutch bucket, as well as another pair of free throws, to give the Celtics the six-point lead. Sabella Alfaro came through with a key basket moments later to help McNary outscore McMinnville 10-2 in the overtime.

“We were able to get to the basket and we just shot free throws a lot better towards the end of the game,” Doran said. “We stayed aggressive.”

Doran also commented on McNary’s tenacious defense that held McMinnville to just four points in the final seven minutes.

“The girls really buy into the scout and what were supposed to do against opposing personnel,” Doran said. “We play really hard on defense and our zone is looking a lot better.” 

McNary will travel to West Salem tonight for a 7:15 p.m. contest.

McNary wrestlers place fifth at Portland Tourney

By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

Even though it had been more than two weeks since they faced competition, the McNary High School wrestling team proved that they didn’t have any rust to knock off.

The Celtics took fifth place out of 21 teams and sent seven athletes to the podium at the Don York Invitational last Saturday.

While a lot of squads might take it easy during the holiday break, McNary wrestlers use that time to turn up the intensity of their practices and workouts.

Based on the results last weekend, it appears that the extra practice time paid off.

“It’s kind of become a tradition for us to work really hard and get better during the break,” McNary head coach Jason Ebbs said. “I was definitely really pleased. We’re definitely on an uptick when it comes to performance.”

McNary sophomore Tia Vincent provided the main highlight for the Celtics as she won the girls tournament with back-to-back pins in the semifinal and final matches.

If was the first time Vincent placed first at a tournament in her career.

“It honestly didn’t even  feel real at first,” Vincent said. “I feel like I usually don’t win a lot of matches, but I just kept working hard and taking it one match at a time.”

Vincent fell behind early in her semifinal match against Dore Young from Franklin. But midway through the second round, Vincent was able to come back and get the pin.

“(Young) was super aggressive so I was just looking for her mistakes because she was coming out too aggressive,” Vincent said. “I was able to grab her from behind and pull her down.”

In the championship match, Vincent earned a first-round pin against Jennifer Lopez from Forest Grove to take home the title.

“It probably should have been a more challenging match, but Tia just controlled her position and did what she was supposed to do,” Ebbs said.

After losing his quarterfinal match, Jordan Orr came back with four straight victories to place third in the 106-pound division. Orr earned a 9-3 decision over his teammate, Damian Hernandez in the third-place match. 

113-pounder Grady Burrows earned a pair of falls in his first two matches, then won via technical fall in his semifinals match to reach the championship round.

Burrows, however, was pinned in the second round of the title match against Tualatin’s Argenys Arbarca-Lopez.

Garret Wampler (182 lbs.) finished with a record of 4-3 at the tournament, which was good enough for sixth place. Lanye Runyan also placed sixth in the 220-pound division. 

Anthony Garcia-Reyes (220 lbs.) earned three straight victories via pin, and then won an 11-4 decision in the semifinals, before losing the championship match against Dustin Jorgenson from Cleveland.

Five out of the seven McNary wrestlers that made it to the podium on Saturday were either freshmen or sophomores — with the two exceptions being Garcia-Reyes and Wampler.

“It’s exciting to see the growth out of our young guys,” Ebbs said.

The Celtics return to the mat this afternoon to compete in the Earl Gillis Invitational at Newberg High School

McNary dominates Forest Grove

By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

Forest Grove came into Keizer last Friday night beaming with confidence.

The Vikings had started off the season 10-1 and entered their matchup with McNary as the ninth-ranked team in the state.

But in the last non-league contest of the regular season for both squads, McNary emphatically showed that they were the superior team.

The Celtics never trailed in the game and dominated from start to finish, running away with the 62-39 victory on Friday, Jan. 4.

Nate Meithof had a game-high 24 points for McNary in the victory.

One of the main keys to McNary’s success so far this season has been the offensive productivity of senior post Boston Smith. However, Forest Grove made it a point-of-emphasis to try and take Smith out of the game, double-teaming him nearly every time he got the ball on the block.

Smith only scored two points on 1-of-2 shooting, but McNary head coach Ryan Kirch commended his senior leader for getting his teammates involved and not forcing up shots.

“I could not be more proud of him and the leadership Boston showed,” Kirch said. “He got his teammates so many opportunities to score because of the way (Forest Grove) was guarding us, and that allowed our guards to attack the rim off the bounce and get open looks.”

“Most people won’t be able to see Boston’s impact tonight, but it was incredible.”

Devyn Schurr was the beneficiary of Smith’s vision and passing ability in the early going.

With the Celtics up 6-4 in the first quarter, Smith kicked the ball out to Schurr on the perimeter after getting double-teamed down low, and the senior wing buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put McNary up 9-4. 

On the next possession, Schurr completed a three-point play after knocking down a floater while getting fouled. 

Later in the period, Schurr hit another triple off a feed from Smith, which concluded a 9-2 run for the Celtics and put McNary up 15-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Schurr finished the game in double-figures with 12 points.

“I hadn’t been playing well the last few games, so I wanted to make sure that I played with a fire and intensity all throughout the game,” Schurr said. 

In the second period, it was Meithof’s time to shine. 

The sophomore shooting guard hit back-to-back floaters to open the period up. Moments later, Meithof completed a three-point play, then knocked down a deep trey from the corner on the following trip down the court, putting McNary up 27-11 and forcing Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers to burn a timeout.

Meithof would finish the period with 12 points, guiding the Celtics to a 31-16 lead at the break. Meithof credited Smith’s ability to find the open man as the reason for his offensive outburst before the end of the half.

“(Forest Grove) was really focused on guarding the post and Boston knew that and he did a really good job of kicking it out to us,” Meithof said. “That’s what really got us going on offense.”

While the McNary offense was quite impressive during spurts, their defense really carried the charge for most of the contest. 

With a suffocating full-court press and disciplined man-to-man defense in the half-court, the Celtics made life incredibly difficult for the seemingly unprepared Forest Grove team.

“Great players are going to score on you, but we made every single basket and every single point difficult on them,” Kirch said. “We still need to rebound a little better, but I thought we were really, really tough on the defensive end.”

It was the second time this season that McNary held a team under 40 points.

The Vikings tried to make it a game midway through the third quarter by cutting the lead to 10 at 39-29. But McNary responded by going on a 7-0 run thanks to a pair of hoops by Griffin Oliveira and a transition layup from Meithof. 

McNary travels to West Salem tonight for a 5:45 p.m. matchup with the Titans.  

Committee will examine city’s available land, potential uses

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

The City of Keizer embarks on yet another growth-related discussion when the Buildable Lands Supply and Housing Needs Analysis Advisory Committee meets for the first time on Monday, Jan. 14. 

Input from all residents is encouraged during the advisory committee meetings. The Jan. 14 meeting begins at 6 p.m. 

What Keizer can actually expect in terms of growth is currently a topic of some debate. Because Keizer shares its Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), past growth forecasts were issued for the entire area contained within the shared UGB.

Keizer is receiving additional funding from the state to look at the issues because Keizer is now labeled as a severely rent-burdened city. The designation means that more than a quarter of renter households are paying more than 50 percent of the household gross income on rent.

In the overall picture, Keizer is just over the line that triggered the designation, but the city is required to address the issue. City officials must convene a public meeting to discuss the causes and consequences of the of rent burdens, the barriers to reducing rent and possible solutions. 

The issues the advisory committee will examine hit a nerve for Keizer residents. Finding volunteers to serve in these types of advisory capacities is typically akin to pulling teeth, but more than 30 applications were received to serve. 

It led to the formation of an 11-person committee, up from the originally needed seven people. James Hutches, Danielle Bethell, Ron Bersin, Blaze Itzaina, Carol Doerfler, Felicia Squires, Nick Stephenson, Stefani Iverson, Rick Kuehn, David Dempster, and Mike Kerr are all expected to be part of the committee. 

Committee members will forward recommendations to the city council even though they will not have any direct authority to enact them. 

Housing needs

The current population for the combined cities is roughly 204,000 people. In 2032, the population is expected to swell to approximately 308,000. Until recently, there was no agreement as to how much of that growth Keizer would be expected to absorb. 

Now, Keizer and Salem have determined an amenable split, but it will still need approval from state officials. Given that Keizer comprises just 15.6 percent of the UGB, Keizer’s revised 2032 growth estimate is about 48,000 people. That is still about 10,000 more than residents than are currently in the city, and it will likely require a seismic shift in current approaches to housing. 

The state requires that every city have enough housing to absorb the residential growth, and Keizer is coming up short on almost every level. 

Buildable lands

The advisory committee will be reviewing Keizer’s housing lands as well as housing needs. That component includes vacant land, lands that are likely to be redeveloped during the planning period, land ready for construction within a year of receiving a building permit, and lands with other constraints such as wetlands and environmental sensitivity. 

According to a 2011 report provided by the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Keizer’s current boundaries included only about 60 acres of vacant land, most of which is zoned for commercial or industrial use. Slightly less than 12 acres is zoned for mixed use. Some of those spaces have since been turned into low- or medium-density developments.

Pair sought in Boucher’s theft

Police and the Boucher family are seeking help in the identification and arrest of a man who shoplifted an undisclosed number of items from Boucher’s Jewelers on Dec. 22. 

The suspect, described as an Afican American male in his 20s or 30s and more than 6 feet tall, was chased from the store to a waiting sedan on Churchdale Avenue about 5 p.m. 

He wore black sweatpants that had three white stripes on the back of the right calf, white shoes, black hoodie sweatshirt with a dark green Carhartt beanie on under his hood. He had a gold watch and a black glove on only one hand. He carried a light grey and black backpack during the theft. 

The driver of the sedan is a person of interest and was described as an Indian woman with a distinct accent, 20s or 30s, heavier set with dark hair pulled back into a low bun, 5-foot-6 or shorter, wearing black Seattle University shirt, black leggings, and black slides for shoes, with large black purse.

Basketball program brightens holidays for local family

By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

For most high school basketball teams, the day after a big Friday night victory is spent with rest and maybe some film-watching in preparation for the next game.

But the McNary boys basketball program does things a little bit differently.

After defeating David Douglas 65-55 in the Newberg Boys Basketball Tournament on Dec. 21, the McNary boys spent the following day buying and wrapping Christmas presents for a family in Keizer.

During each holiday season, as a part of the senior leadership project, the Celtics will find a local family in the community with young kids that are in need — the family is usually selected through churches or schools. 

The McNary basketball program has been doing this for nearly a decade.

“Regardless of wins and losses and the success you have on the floor, our responsibility as coaches is not only to develop the player, but more importantly the person,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said. “(The project) gives us the opportunity to give back to a community that does a lot to support us. It really has become a staple of our program.”

The team bought the gifts with money that they fundraised through helping out at youth basketball tournaments that are hosted at the high school and getting sponsors through their annual free-throw-a-thon. 

Kirch reached out to the family the week prior to make sure everything was situated, but it’s up to the players to figure out how to break up the fundraising money and how to handle shopping and gift-wrapping duties.

“It’s actually a lot of fun being able to do something that’s not for you and give to other people,” McNary senior Alfredo Villareal said. “That’s honestly the best part of Christmas and this time of year.”

“It was a really good team bonding activity because we all had to work together to manage the money we had and buy the stuff that we thought the kids would like.”

McNary senior Noah Hudkins echoed those same sentiments.

“It’s amazing to have this opportunity to provide a Christmas for someone else,” Hudkins said.

This year, the lucky recipients were Ashley Beltran’s three daughters — Jasmine (age 6), Jade (age 7) and Lily (age 8).

Beltran, whose kids attend Keizer Elementary, filled out a form from the school asking for help for the holidays. 

Due to an unforeseen emergency, Beltran felt that she would have a hard time providing presents for her children this Christmas. But her fears were alleviated when Kirch informed her that his team was going to step up for her and her kids.

“I was so relieved,” Beltran said when Kirch notified her that the basketball team would be providing gifts for her daughters. “My girls were so excited to meet the players.”

After buying a myriad of gifts on the morning of Dec. 22, the Celtics squad made their deliveries to the Beltran girls later that afternoon. 

Jasmine, Jade and Lilly received multiple presents, such as, winter coats, LOL Dolls and Pikmi Pops — which are large lollipops stuffed with other toys inside.

The three girls were ecstatic about receiving the surprise presents from the players, and  they were even more excited when they got to open the numerous packages on Christmas Day.

“(The players) went over the top. It was so cool,” Beltran said. “I feel so blessed that they did that for my kids.”

Church missionaries stationed far & wide

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sent out a record number of missionaries in 2018.

Dan Kohler, spokesperson for the church, said it’s more than he can remember at any time. 

Young men in the church serve for two years and young women serve 18-month missions in which they spread the word of their faith by visiting other communities near and far. All of the missionaries pay their own way during their travels.

Here are the some of the Keizer Stake missionaries, where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. 

Brock Neddo, Utah Orem Mission

Neddo has been sharing the gospel in the area around Orem, Utah, since January of 2018 and taking part in a variety of community service projects. 

Abby Johnson, Italy Milan Mission

Johnson left in June 2017 and was expected home this month. She’s been in Prodenone, Bergamo, Modena and Alessandria since departing. She was also selected to become a trainer, helping newer missionaries to learn the culture and how to be an effective missionary.

Parker Dean, Chile Santiago West Mission

Dean reports access to a a bounty of fresh bread that would be a problem if not for all the walking he’s done as part of his mission. 

The dedication to patriotism and parties has caught his attention on more than one occasion. He said Chilean flags fly from every available space. 

“They take parties and music to a different level here! I was at the coast and just in like two days the whole country came to the beach to start the celebration week,” Dean said. 

Elizabeth RussellMexico City Northwest Mission

Russell departed in September and has been teaching English to children in Guanajuato.When she’s completed her mission, she will return to Brigham Young University (BYU), but she’s not sure where her studies will lead. 

Between spending time in Germany and now Mexico, the lure of foreign places is enticing. 

Samuel Elder, Utah Provo Mission

Elder is currently a district leader in Springville Utah. Elder also had the opportunity to serve four months in the Asian wards of BYU and Utah Valley University. In the transfer, he was required to learn Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese.

Hyrum Kohler, Georgia Atlanta Mission

Kohler has been all over the outskirts of Atlanta and is now serving as a district leader. One of his recent service projects included helping move a goat pen and installing 650-feet of fence. It was an epic undertaking the group completed in 10 hours. 

He was also unofficially assigned to play the piano at church when the members found out that he had musical skills.

“My mission has been and will continue to be the most rewarding thing of my life. Though I’m in a new place with new people, the teachings and worship I love are the same. Seeing people changing their lives and overcoming addictions and bad habits are among a few of the greatest treasures I will carry with me throughout my life,” Kohler said. 

Jacob Grimmer, New York Utica Mission

“It’s great in New York. It’s nothing like you first think. No Broadway shows. No giant skyscrapers. No hustle and bustle. It’s actually a lot like Keizer. Oneonta is a college town full of students curious about God,” Grimmer said. 

Grimmer also recently completed his first baptism of a new convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Isaiah Holt, Bolivia Cochabamba Mission 

Holt has been in Bolivia for almost two years. 

“I have been able to become fluent in Spanish and also learn a little of the native Inca language of Quechua seeing as most people can speak both languages here. The people here are truly humble. Many live in poverty. However their happiness comes from their families and their generosity. It is very humbling to see people give so much when they have so little,” Holt said. 

His experiences have included helping rescue an elderly man when a fire broke out in his home. The family had tried using gasoline and matches to rid themselves of an ant problem, but it got out of hand.

“We ran up the stairs with buckets of water, not knowing the cause of the fire, and got to work smothering the fire. The lady then informed us that her father was still in the room so we went into the smoke filled room to pull out her father.”

I have a feeling the God was there with us that day fighting the fire with us,” Holt said. 

Abe Nelson, Arkansas Little Rock Mission

Nelson time in Arkansas is greatly informed by his time at McNary High School. 

“As a student of McNary, I would walk the halls surrounded by my peers and friends with the average ignorance most teenagers have toward their fellow classmates’ own struggles and questions.  I now learn how to share with more sincerity and enthusiasm the cure to all the struggles I once saw walking those halls, and more,” Nelson said. 

Kody Lewis, Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission

Lewis has had to learn a new language and new culture, but he reports that the immersion has helped him overcome his typical shyness. 

One of his most powerful experiences was witnessing an alcoholic man give up the bottle and begin sharing his experiences with the churh with friends and family. 

Adam Nelson, Argentina Salta Mission

Nelson’s has been in Argentina for about nine months and seen the good news change lives in awe-inspiring ways. 

“I have seen personally lives change from addiction and heartache to freedom and joy. I am so blessed to have seen these miracles in their lives and in mine due to this Church and the Gospel,” he said. 

Jameson Becktel, Belgium Netherlands Mission

Since leaving Keizer, Becktel has become fluent in the Dutch language after spending time in Zandaam, Maastrict, Ghent, and Enchede. He was most recently in  Alkmaar, a city about 40 miles north of Amsterdam. 

When he’s not spreading the gospel of the church, Becktel’s favorite activities have been visiting castles, windmills, museums and the Flanders battlefield. 

Lance Becktel Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission

Becktel is at the missionary training center in Provo, Utah, and will head overseas after the nine-week session. He is learning Russian before heading to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Becktel is hoping lessons from McNary’s two German teachers prove useful in picking up a new language. 

Brent Olson, Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission

Olson departed two weeks ago for the Mexico City Training Center where he will get a crash course in Spanish before heading to Oklahoma where he will focus on engaging the area’s Hispanic community. 

Cambrian Partridge, Utah Ogden Mission

Partridge is taking a break from her studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas beginning in January. She will be spending 18 months in the Ogden.

Pherson Shepherd, Texas Ft. Worth Mission 

Shepherd has been saving for his mission since he was small through babysitting gigs, his first job at McDonald’s and then at Windsor Rock Products. He will leave in March 2019.