MONMOUTH-INDEPENDENCE -- The winners of the Monmouth-Independence Chamber awards all have one thing in common.
Eleanor Titus couldn't believe she was winning the Distinguished Service Award. "What?! But I haven't done anything!"
A lot of people disagree. More than a dozen of them wrote letters to nominate Titus.
Titus is the co-president of the Monmouth-Independence Community Arts Association, secretary of the Oregon Golf Course Owners Association and a board member of the Oregon Symphony Association.
She is an active member of the Oak Knoll Ladies Golf Club and served as its captain for six years. She is a regular part of the club's "Swing on Cancer" tournament which has raised thousands of dollars to find a cure for cancer.
Titus (or "E.T." to her friends) served on the Independence Merchants Tournament Committee. She also served as president of the Smith Fine Arts Series, Independence Junior Women's Club and Jay-C-Etts.
During her Jay-C-Etts days, she was a parade committee member for the Wagon Trail Celebration of the 1959 Centennial.
Such involvement is not hard in communities like Monmouth and Independence, she said.
"Our greatest resource is our many friends and both Independence and Monmouth. It's a wonderful place to live."
(Very Important Project)
Marilyn Morton thought about getting a "regular" job.
However, she quickly changed her mind. "It might interfere with the operation of the read-a-thon or compromise its quality."
Morton is one of the Moms-4-Reading, the group of mothers who have been organizing Independence Elementary School's read-a-thon for the past 11 years.
A big assembly kicks off the read-a-thon at the beginning of the school year. Teachers, staff members and volunteers from the community put on zany antics to get children fired up.
As the year progress, children earn "Reading Bucks" for the pages they have read. The bucks can be spent at the Read-a-Thon store which the moms have stacked with various toys and other enticing pieces of merchandise.
At the end of the read-a-thon, there is another assembly with prizes and more antics.
Children last year read more than one million pages. This year's students have already beaten that record. And there are still seven weeks to go.
Morton said there are a lot of reasons for the success of the read-a-thon. The first is staff support.
"Independence Elementary has a wonderful staff," Morton said.
"Great sports, ham actors, a caring administration -- the whole group of them gets into the spirit of the read-a-thon."
Wednesday is Read-a-Thon Day at the school. Staff members dress the part in read-a-thon T-shirts.
Every time students make their reading goal, Principal Tish Mendenhall does something particularly outrageous. Last year she did a campy rendition of "I've Got You, Babe" dressed as Cher.
Morton isn't saying what Mendenhall has planned this year. "We're all sworn to secrecy until the day of the assembly."
Another key to success, Morton said, is consistency.
"We have an established routine, a settled program time, a known place to operate within the school and an activity that fits well into existing curriculum."
Many classes use read-a-thon recording forms as homework sheets for students.
Last year, participation was up to 98 percent. This year, said Morton, every single student is involved.
"The most important reason the read-a-thon has been successful is our terrific kids who get so involved and the parents who support them," Morton said.
"We have one great group of students who encourage each other and share each others' successes. Plus they laugh at all our jokes -- a real asset."