St. Vinnie’s Gienia Baines Is County’s Outstanding Citizen
Date: Tuesday, February 21 2017
Mobile Park Specialist Garners Two Standing Ovations
St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County employee Gienia Baines was honored Feb. 18 as Lane County’s “Outstanding Citizen” for her transformational work in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park and for what Oakridge Mayor Jim Coey called her “tireless work on behalf of the disenfranchised.”
Photo: Gienia Baines on the job at Oakridge Mobile Home Park.
Baines received two standing ovations from an audience of more than 150 elected and appointed government officials, business and community members and public employees attending the Lane Council of Governments’ (LCOG) 37th annual Member Appreciation Dinner at Lane Community College.
Coey noted Baines’ pivotal role in the revitalization of a mobile home park that three years ago was in a deplorable state of disrepair and so plagued by crime that tenants were fearful of leaving their homes. Thanks in large part to Baine’s dogged efforts, a park that once prompted three or four calls to police a day now prompts just three or four calls a month.
With help from community volunteers recruited by Baines, more than 300 cubic yards of debris was removed from the park, Coey noted. More than a dozen of the park’s oldest and most deteriorated trailers have been removed and replaced by new manufactured homes. A laundry faciliity was rebuilt, and an aging home where Baines once lived as a single teen-age mother has been remodeled into a community center called Legacy House.
“Gienia Baines has been the sparkplug behind all of this,” Coey said.
St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) acquired the Oakridge park in 2014 as part of its ongoing efforts to preserve the region’s declining stock of mobile home parks. The nonprofit agency, which owns more than 1,400 affordable housing units, has acquired five mobile home parks in recent years and is in the process of adding more to its inventory.
In addition to serving as St. Vincent de Paul’s social services director in Oakridge, Baines also spends part of each week in northeast Portland working at the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park, which SVDP is in the process of acquiring and that has problems similar to those Baines encountered at the Oakridge park three years ago.
LCOG’s annual award for Outstanding Elected Official was presented to South Lane School Board and Lane ESD Board member Sherry Duerst-Higgins, who has served on the school board for over 29 years and on the Lane ESD Board since 1994. Becky Taylor, senior transportation planner at Lane County, was recognized as the Outstanding Public Employee.
LCOG Board Chairman John Simpson presented the award for Outstanding Intergovernmental Team to the Downtown Fiber Pilot Project team for its innovative work to install fiber optic cable in the existing electrical system infrastructure in downtown Eugene. LCOG employee Milo Mecham was given special recognition for his long career in providing telecommunications and broadband assistance to LCOG’s regional partners. Also recognized was Travel Lane County’s President Kari Westlund who received the Regional Award of Merit for Economic Enhancement.
The evening’s awards ended with Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz presenting the award for Outstanding Public Career to former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, whose public service spans more than half a century and began in 1964 when she traveled to Ethiopia as a Peace Corps’ volunteer.