By: John Paul

I grew up in Longview, graduated from R. A. Long High School and attended Lower Columbia College. It’s safe to say I’m a local, but I left in 1995 for other career opportunities in the radio industry. This detour took my wife and I through Indianapolis, Buffalo, Portland and finally to Denver. It was here that I found myself working for a company that saw me as just another number. In that moment, nothing felt right.

That’s when my wife and I decided to return home. It was important for us to raise our kids around parents and cousins in an area with a strong sense of community. But we soon realized that, in the 20 years we were gone, the area had declined. Jobs had dwindled and poverty, addiction and homelessness had visibly taken over. Because I grew up here and always kept ties to the area, this part of southwest Washington always held a special place in the heart. My mom grew up in Kelso and my dad and his siblings have lived here for decades. My roots run deep in Cowlitz County, which made it even harder to see the decline of the area.

I felt a growing responsibly to help. And thankfully my experience and my job put me in a position to lend a hand. I instantly made connections with local nonprofits, events and organizations. To me, this is the best way to make the change we want to see in our community.

With such a broad set of needs, it made sense to touch as many charities, people and causes as possible. This is why I got involved in Rotary and The United Way. I also see education as a key factors to improving the area. By sitting on the Lower Columbia College Foundation, I hope to improve access to the opportunities I received locally. I also volunteer on the Go 4th Festival board, because events and festivals are a great way to foster the sense of community I want to bring back to Longview.

I’ve been lucky to live in some great cities. Yet, no other area I’ve lived has the same spirit of giving and helping that is present here in southwest Washington. This gives me hope for our future, because—while one person probably can’t make a huge immediate impact—many people working towards the same goal can accomplish wonderful things. And, to me, there isn’t a more wonderful goal than to make this part of southwest Washington a better place to live, work and play.

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