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Shining example

The largest charitable gift in state history will benefit this community

Just when the cynical pursuit of wealth for its own sake makes us despair for the human race, a quiet act of staggering generosity comes along to take our breath away and restore our faith in people.

Such a moment happened last week with the announcement of the largest charitable gift of its kind in Oregon history ' and Jackson County residents will be the beneficiaries.

Reed and Carolee Walker, a quiet couple who moved here from Idaho to grow roses, bequeathed &

36;29 million to the Oregon Community Foundation, with the stipulation that the money go only to Jackson County nonprofit organizations that help children, the poor and the needy. The money will provide &

36;1.4 million annually in grants, leaving the original bequest intact.

In addition to the &

36;29 million, the Walkers left &

36;500,000 to the local Salvation Army.

The gifts could not come at a better time.

With the state's economy yet to emerge from recession and the state budget suffering from declining tax revenue as a result, public agencies that meet social needs are being forced to cut services and programs. At the same time, private nonprofit organizations that serve the same needs are seeing increased demand while contributions to their efforts dwindle.

Foundation officials here hasten to point out that even such a large gift won't solve all the problems in the county. Of course it won't.

But it will go a long way toward filling some of the holes in funding, and in the process patch some of the frayed spots in the social fabric of Southern Oregon.

So, as we pause to remember that we are fortunate to live in the Rogue Valley, let us also give thanks that the beauty and livability of this area attracted people such as Reed and Carolee Walker.

Honoring peacemakers

With the nation on the brink of war, it's good to see local residents honored for their efforts to promote peace and resolve conflict in their own community.

Five Rogue Valley residents have been named recipients of the first-ever Imagine Awards for Community Peacemaking.

Mediation Works of Medford presented Retired Jackson Circuit Court Judge Ross Davis a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his work during more than 30 years as an elected official.

Ashland High School senior Meagan Lescher was named young peacemaker of the year for her persistence in establishing a peer mediation program at the high school.

Ashland rabbi David Zaslow was honored for his efforts to bring together Muslims and Jews in a spiritual community, Takelma elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim for her work with American Indian students at Southern Oregon University, and Hanby Middle School teacher Kim Elmer for her work to establish a peer mediation program and class at the middle school.

Mediation Works board member Anne Batzer said organizers hope the awards are the beginning of a new community tradition.

So do we. It's the sort of tradition that can help bring the increasingly diverse Rogue Valley community closer together.