Kennewick honors two of city's best

Kennewick's Man and Woman of the Year for 2009 share a love of Kennewick, generous spirits and the ability to get things done.

Cathy Merrill Holle, the Woman of the Year, will probably have mixed feelings about her honor for years to come.

It was only a couple of years ago that the agency she heads, the Volunteer Center, was abruptly dropped from funding by United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties.

There ensued a scramble to keep alive an agency on which thousands of Tri-Citians depend for all kinds of help. (And which many energetic volunteers look to for guidance in where to direct their talents and skills.)

Cathy thanks a lot of people in the community for the survival of the Volunteer Center, but most of them credit her for pulling it off.

Certainly, 2009 was the toughest year ever for her. Her husband, Doug Holle, suffered an abrupt illness followed closely by his death.

Interestingly, two things that Holle says she is most proud of were not mentioned in her nomination letter: Serving on the fundraising committee for the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and putting forth the idea to provide all newborns at Kennewick General Hospital with books and gift bags, a program that continues to this day. (Cathy was at one time director of the KGH Foundation.)

She was honored for her service to a wide variety of civic groups, including the Downtown Kennewick & Columbia Drive Association (now Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership), Kiwanis Club of Kennewick, the Kiwanis Foundation, East Benton County Historical Society and Our Babies Can't Wait Initiative.

She volunteers in various programs to benefit Kennewick students and their families, including New Year's Tri-Cities and as master of ceremonies at numerous local community events. She is past president of the state organization for hospital volunteer directors and was the key organizer for the first community Volunteer Jam with Steve Haberman.

Fourteen-year incumbent city council member Paul Parrish was chosen as Kennewick Man of the Year for 2009.

Those who nominated Parrish called him a "sterling example of a volunteer" whose donations of energy, time and personal resources have "made Kennewick a better place to live, work, play, visit and invest."

Parrish joked that if Bill Lampson knew how much of his equipment Parrish had loaned out free to worthy groups, he might have fired him.

Lampson was in the audience and enjoyed the joke as well as anyone.

Benton County Commissioner Jim Beaver noted in the recommendation for the award that, "From the shores of the Columbia River to Jump Off Joe, (Parrish) has done amazing things for this community. So if it is the Water Follies, the Playground of Dreams, or simply doing what it takes to make Kennewick a cleaner place to live, Paul can be found leading the charge.

"Some people improve their community by leading civic organizations, by making generous financial contributions to worthy causes or by picking up a rake, shovel or hammer. Paul Parish does all these things and more," said the nomination.

Parrish has been involved for years in the Tri-Cities Water Follies (he's chairman of the pit crew), he volunteers time and money for the Kennewick Police Advisory Team. He contributed to replace an aging K-9 police dog and helped provide local training for motorcycle officers so they could compete in North American Motor Officers' Association training. He also volunteers for many veterans activities.

The Kennewick Man and Woman of the Year honors have old and venerable roots.

It's good to say they are also in tune with the vibrancy of today.