Senior advocates: Lee Hazelwood’s legacy of service honored in awards

January, 2017 Posted in Community, People

By Mary Owen

NorthWest Senior and Disability Services advisory councils will present the first Lee Hazelwood Advocacy Award to two Salem residents this month: Charles Richards and Ruth McEwen.

The award will be presented to Richards by Rep. David Gomberg (D-Dist. 10) and McEwen by Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) at a ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 15, 12:30 p.m. at the Oregon State Capitol Rotunda.

“We are honored to present The Lee Hazelwood Advocacy Award in remembrance of Lee’s lifelong legacy to the programs and mission of NorthWest Senior and Disability Services,” Zaira Flores-Delgado, council and volunteer coordinator for NWSDS, said.

The award commemorates community members, who, like Lee Hazelwood in his time, devote their time and effort advocating for seniors and people with disabilities.

For more than 30 years, Hazelwood devoted time at the Oregon Capitol as an unpaid lobbyist for seniors and people with disabilities. The longtime Stayton resident passed away in December, 2015.

Hazelwood started advocating for the establishment of Oregon Project Independence and fought for its funding. He served numerous terms on the NWSDS Senior Advisory Council as well as on the Governor’s Commission on Aging, the Stayton City Council, and the Silver Haired Congress in Washington D.C.

“Lee left a permanent footmark on the lives of many people,” Flores-Delgado said. “He advocated for OPI day in and day out and became known as the ‘OPI guy’ by government officials and his community. His unstoppable advocating efforts were critical in raising awareness and funding for OPI and many other programs.”

Flores-Delgado said Richards and McEwen both emulate Hazelwood’s “inspiring devotion.”

“Charles was chosen to be this year’s recipient because of his commitment to always be present in the capitol in representation of seniors,” Flores-Delgado said. “He has been a leader amongst our agency’s advisory council and is a leader in the capitol advocating for senior programs.”

Richards said he feels very humbled by this recognition. “The award was named for a man who was actually a god in the legislature for advocating for seniors,” said Richards, a U.S. Navy veteran with a degree in communications from the University of California, San Diego. “I feel pretty small in those kind of shoes.”

Richards retired at age 62 from G.I. Joe’s and went to work at the capitol to “pay back my community,” he said.

“I tried to find a slot, and I refused to give up,” he said. “I think they got so used to seeing me, they finally found a place for me.”

The highlight of his advocacy work is people, Richards said. “I’ve never taken a dime for any of this work because I love the people and I love the job,” he said.

McEwen was chosen for the award because of her 36-plus years of advocacy for seniors and people with disabilities. She has served on the NWSDS Advisory Council, served on the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services, and is the chair for the Home Care Commission.

“She has also served on numerous other committees and boards related to seniors and people with disabilities,” Flores-Delgado said.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” McEwen said. “I had worked with Lee Hazelwood for over 30 years.”

For information or to RSVP for the award ceremony, call Flores-Delgado at
503-304-3451 or e-mail her at

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