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Youth ministry leader honored for community service

For his work to provide safety, hope and encouragement to young people, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners honored Bud Amundsen with the 2020 Annual Chairman’s Award on Wednesday.

Amundsen has been the executive director of Youth 71Five Ministries, formerly known as Rogue Valley Youth for Christ, since 2009. But he’s been with the organization since 1991, when he left his career as an investment broker so he could help young people.

Youth 71Five offers youth centers, summer camps, vocational training and mentors to help youth make positive choices in their lives.

The chair of the board of commissioners picks the winner for Jackson County’s highest community service award each year.

“With all of the significant events that we’ve had in 2020 in Jackson County, the field was rich with amazing people and contenders for this award,” said Colleen Roberts, chairwoman of the board this year.

She said Amundsen shines in a crowded field of people who deserve recognition for what they’ve done for the community.

With Jackson County hard-hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and September wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes, individuals and groups have stepped up like never before to help those in need.

In addition to its other programs, Youth 71Five offers coordinated services and mentors for high-risk youth involved in the local juvenile justice system. The support continues after youth leave the justice system.

Joe Ferguson, deputy director of the Jackson County Juvenile Department, said his department and 71Five Ministries both believe kids need hope.

He said the vocational programs help young people learn valuable skills like welding and construction.

Ferguson said 71Five Ministries is remodeling a fire station in West Medford to create a youth and family community center that will help prevent young people from entering the justice system. He said the community needs this group that works with kids into young adulthood.

“I can’t think of a better person than Bud to get this award,” Ferguson said.

Brad Bennington, executive director of Builders Association Southern Oregon, said the local building industry is short of young people who can work in construction. Under Amundsen’s leadership, 71Five Ministries has developed vocational training opportunities and is providing exceptional service to the community, he said.

In 2019, the local building industry was running at full throttle and built 400 new housing units, Bennington said.

The Almeda fire wiped out nearly 2,500 homes and more than 170 business buildings, according to Jackson County figures.

Bennington said rebuilding from the historic loss is a multi-year effort that presents tremendous challenges, but he praised the community and Jackson County for their efforts.

He said Amundsen is very deserving of the 2020 Annual Chairman’s Award.

Several other community members and staff of 71Five Ministries also spoke in praise of Amundsen on Wednesday during a meeting held via teleconference due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“It’s like being recognized by your heroes,” Amundsen said.

He said he is standing on the shoulders of previous leaders of the organization, and gets support from others who pray, donate and serve as volunteers, staff and board members for 71Five Ministries.

“It’s easy to be successful when you have a couple thousand people in your community working hard to make you look good,” he said.

Amundsen said he is thankful to have his life’s work recognized.

“I’m so grateful. I don’t think I could get a better award and feel more appreciated because it’s coming from people that I truly respect. I’m grateful for their work in the community,” he said.

For more information about 71Five Ministries, including services and volunteer opportunities, visit 71five.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Bud Amundsen