Rarely is Maureen Ernst speechless.
She developed a serious case of tongue tied when she was presented with the Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 First Citizen award.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I looked at the list of all the people who have received this award and I am not in their category. People who know me know I volunteer because I like doing stuff behind the scenes and I like making other people look good.”
Ernst attributes her volunteerism to her great grandparents, grandparents and parents.
“I am the fourth generation in my family to carry on the tradition of volunteering and my children are the fifth generation,” Ernst said.
Her parents are the late Hub and Marguerite Merten Drescher.
“Growing up, my parents taught me volunteering was what we had to do to make the event successful,” Ernst said. “My dad used to say if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it. My mom always said you are going to feel so much better by volunteering.”
First Citizen Banquet
Monday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m.
St. Mary Parish Center,
575 E. College St., Mount Angel
Tickets: $25, available at
West Coast and Wells Fargo banks.
Tickets must be purchased by Feb. 21.
Table reservations: 503-845-9440
More importantly, Ernst said, her parents led by example.
Mount Angel residents Ed McKenney, Tom Ewing and Jerry Lauzon nominated Ernst for the First Citizen award.
They listed Ernst’s community involvement including the Mount Angel Lions Club, Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce, St. Paul Mission Historical Society, Oregon Telecommunications Association and city of Mount Angel’s communication committee.
She’s plans meetings for a computer club, organizes community events for Mount Angel Telephone, raises money with the Lion’s Club for high school scholarships, helps with food drives and meets monthly with citizens of Mount Angel Towers.
“Maureen Ernst is one of those citizens who work quietly behind the scenes without wishing to attract attention to herself but without whom great things cannot happen,” reads the letter written by McKenney, Ewing and Lauzon. “It is because she does not seek public attention that our description of her services is likely incomplete.”
McKenney said he’s not sure even Ernst can list all the things she’s done behind the scenes for her community.
“She is deserving of this award for all she does including solving problems,” he said. “The first step in solving a problem is getting it out in the sunlight. Maureen has found a way to be diplomatic in getting things fixed.”
Lauzon describes Ernst as one of the stalwarts of Mount Angel.
“If there is a job to be done, Maureen is either pitching in to get it done or finding people who will help,” Lauzon said, adding she is truly deserving of the award.
The mother of Angela Capps, 42; Ben Ernst, 39; and Madeline Tanner, 34, Ernst said she was a single mother from the time her children were young. Angela played basketball at Oregon State and Madeline volleyball at the University of Oregon. A sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, Ben served in Desert Storm and Afghanistan. Her daughters are teachers in Redmond. Ernst spends a great deal of time with her six grandchildren, ranging in age from 4 to 16 years old.
“When Margo was six months old, she was in a backpack while her mom Angela worked at the St. Paul Fourth of July barbecue,” Ernst said. “Now Margo who is 16 and her sister McKaylie work in the chamber’s Oktoberfest booth and they also help with Mount Angel Telephone’s Customer Appreciation Day.”
The marketing and sales manager for Mount Angel Telephone, Ernst said she’s fortunate to work for a company that embraces all its employees volunteering in their community.
Many people have asked Ernst how she finds time to volunteer.
“I tell people all it takes to help out their community is an hour a week,” she said. “Everybody has an hour a week to do something.”
And when people try to declare they don’t have time, Ernst shares with them that she knows what it is like to be a young, single parent having not one job, but two jobs.
“I still found time to give an hour a week,” she said.
Ernst, 61, is a founding board of director for the St. Paul Mission Historical Society. She has written more than $65,000 in grants for the association and writes the society’s publications.
Her chamber volunteer tasks include organizing the First Citizen banquet, the Oktoberfest booth and the downtown flower baskets. For the Lion’s Club, she is the chair for the annual tulip sale that provides two $1,000 scholarships for JFK students.
Lately, she said, she’s learned to say no to taking on more volunteer tasks.
“If I agree to volunteer, I give 110 percent,” she said. “I tell people if I am in, I am in all the way.”
Known for her sense of humor and organization skills, Ernst said she’s also known for telling it like it is.
“Sometimes I am blunt and sometimes it may hurt people’s feelings,” she said. “If your feelings get hurt, you don’t belong in the kitchen. I think that comes from my dad who said what was exactly on his mind.”
Her intent isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings. Rather, it’s to protect them before they step on center stage, she said.
Because that’s why she does things behind the scenes. To make others look good.