After growing up in an abusive household in Portsmouth, England, Fred Smith committed to a life of service helping children, the elderly and others facing challenges.
The decades he has spent volunteering will be recognized this month with a 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Award. Smith will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at a luncheon April 24 in Salem.
“I was a little bit amazed that the government had picked me for this award,” Smith said Tuesday in an interview at his home in Roseburg.
Smith will be among 22 individuals or duos and 10 programs to be honored by the Oregon Volunteers Commission for Voluntary Action and Service. Recipients were selected by other volunteers from across the state.
Smith was nominated by Evelyn Badger-Nores, executive director of Douglas C.A.R.E.S (Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services). Smith is a founding and current board member of the organization.
Badger-Nores said “amazing” half a dozen times when asked to describe Smith.
“When he actually retired from Roseburg (Forest Products), he just went from one job to another. He finished a paying job and then took an un-paying job, and he just never stopped working,” she said. “He’s spent nearly every day of his retired life volunteering in one way or another.”
Smith, who will celebrate his 87th birthday next month, is involved with CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocates who represent abused and neglected children, and with a group that works to end elder abuse.
He has served with the Douglas County Child Fatality Review Team, the Learning Child Committee at the Mercy Foundation, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the county mental health advisory board. Smith also is involved with Special Olympics and the Umpqua Gleaners.
Another gleaner, Carl Mason of Roseburg, has picked fruit next to Smith for 10 years.
“He is very active and is interested in getting food to people that need it. But we try to keep him off the ladders,” Mason chuckled. “He’s a great guy. He’s friendly and so helpful. I really enjoy him.”
Accolades of Smith’s service, including Roseburg First Citizen in 1997, are seen throughout the home he shares with his wife, Pam, another longtime volunteer. Awards sit on a large bookshelf in the living room. Others hang on the walls.
“And there’s a lot in boxes downstairs,” Pam Smith giggled.
But Fred Smith doesn’t volunteer to be praised. He gives his time to represent in the court system the 7-month-old baby girl affected by heroin at birth or to encourage the Special Olympian crossing the finish line. He does it so low-income families have fresh fruit at the dinner table. Anyway he can help a child, Smith will.
“I came from a home where there was domestic violence,” he said. “I hate the thought of kids going through what I had gone through.”
Smith joined the British Army at age 15 to escape home. He and his wife came to the states in 1951. They made their home in Roseburg in 1953 and have been here ever since. He worked at Roseburg Forest Products for 37 years before retiring in May 1989.
“I would like to express on behalf of C.A.R.E.S. how grateful we are for Fred, not only as a board member for C.A.R.E.S., but all that he has given to children throughout the years in Douglas County,” Badger-Nores said.
The Oregon Volunteers Commission for Voluntary Action and Service received a record 114 nominations this year, a 46 percent increase over 2013. Wells Fargo sponsors the awards and will donate to a nonprofit organization selected by each winner.
“These volunteers represent the very best of Oregon,” Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement. “They have found and filled needs in their community, using common purpose, compassion, and ingenuity to make a huge and lasting difference.”
The Smiths and their family plan to attend the award luncheon. Fred Smith said he has no plans to stop volunteering.
“I will do it as long as I can and there is a need,” he said.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.