Leslie Sipp. Photo: City of Banks

The city of Banks announced that long-time Banks resident, citizen, and community activist, Leslee Sipp, is the winner of the Banks 2020 Citizen of the Year award.

Banks began honoring outstanding citizens in 2012 who show excellence in volunteer community service and who stand out as a citizen who puts the needs and well-being of Banks' 2,070 residents, families, and children in need of assistance, especially those who find themselves at risk of falling through the cracks of modern society's social safety nets.

“Being given this honor came as a very big surprise for me,” Sipp said. “I honestly thought that (Banks resident, volunteer community activist, and friend of Sipp’s now for 35 years) Dalice Sawyer was going to get the award. I mean, every time I or someone else asks for her help in doing something she does it — she's always right there.”

The city of Banks, which incidentally ranks as the 119th largest city in Oregon, created a page on its website that congratulates Sipp and provides more information regarding why she was chosen as the Banks Citizen of the Year.

“She greets everyone with a warm, welcoming smile (a sentiment echoed by Sawyer), a special glimmer in her eye, and (she) is affectionately referred to as ‘Mrs. Banks’ due to her vast knowledge of the Banks community and its history,” the city's webpage says. “She has given so much to the youth of our community through her work as a kindergarten teacher and (as a) teacher’s aide. 

“(She’s) a driving force behind the (Banks School District) Family Resource Center at Banks Elementary School, (and) she always went above and beyond to help local families in times of need,” the webpage continued. “More often than not she was the go-to person when anyone was in need of assistance with her extensive network of contacts and resources, and if she was not able to help she always knew someone who could. She tirelessly and selflessly put the needs of others before her own, making sure that everyone’s needs are met.”

Sawyer, along with Banks resident Sally Smith, nominated Sipp for the accolade. Sawyer said she submitted Sipp’s name for recognition as Banks’ outstanding citizen for 2020 — a year in which the novel COVID-19 virus made it difficult at best for she and all volunteer workers to continue with their missions unabated. 

“In the 35 years I’ve known her, she does a lot,” Sawyer said. “She’s very involved in the (Banks Community United Methodist Church) and the food bank, and she’s coordinated several food drives. At Banks elementary, she organized a food drive competition between the classes to see which one could bring in the most food. I’m not sure of the final (tally), but they raised hundreds if not more than 1,000 pounds of food. 

“She’s always happy, never negative, loves the kids and the kids at school love her,” Sawyer continued. "She has two daughters, grandchildren, her husband, Ed, who she’s been married to for about 40 years, and she is very positively involved in their life. She’s just a very giving positive person — very helpful.”

Sipp often can be found organizing, assisting, and attending school board meetings, school facility planning meetings, extracurricular events at the schools, Banks Historical Society meetings and events, (Banks Public Library) fundraisers, events sponsored by the city of Banks, as well as those by the Banks Chamber of Commerce, the Sisters of the Heart ladies’ social group, and Banks Country Garden Club meetings and events.

She also works on putting together “Christmas boxes,” which include food for holiday dinners and toys for children whose families cannot afford either holiday tradition.

Sipp, too, works on providing many Banks’ senior citizens with free lunches.

As the city’s webpage notes, her aforementioned deeds are “just to name a few” of the organizations, events, activities, and meetings in which Sipp is involved and attends. 

Sipp can’t recall exactly when the family resource centers around the state stopped receiving funding but said it happened when former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber still was in office; money was re-routed from family resource programs to provide more revenue for elementary schools across the state, she said. 

But that didn’t stop Sipp from continuing to find a way to keep the Banks School District Family Resource Center operating for those families who counted on its assistance, especially those with children of any age in need, from ever going to bed hungry. 

“(The family) resource center didn’t exist anymore but I kept doing the same things as a volunteer to make sure our families (in the Banks School District) had access to information they might need, and to give seniors citizens access to information letting them know what’s available for transportation and food,” Sipp said. 

Sipp is the 11th recipient of the honor — twice Banks named co-winners) in the eight years since the inception of the Banks Citizen of the Year award. Last year’s winner, Banks resident David Duyck, was selected for his volunteer time assisting the Banks Future Farmers Association, Banks Sunset Park, and his church, among other accomplishments.

The previous winners are, in chronological order, Jim Hough (2012), Kathie Jackson and Jim Lucas were co-winners in 2013, Ray Deeth (2014), Mark Ward (2015), Marion Steinbach (2016), Mel and Becky Clark also were named co-recipients in 2017, Shirley Javorsky (2018), Duyck (2019), and of course current recipient Leslee Sipp in 2020.  

“If families have trouble paying for basic necessities, I know families willing to help out,” Sipp said. “I just do whatever our community needs to give it a boost. That’s just kind of what I do.”