VENETA — The Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce held its 54th Distinguished Service Awards April 14, and St. Catherine of Siena in Veneta had three parishioners honored for contributions to the well-being of those less fortunate.

Fern Ridge Advocates for the Unhoused presented an award to Dennis Maricle for his efforts in assisting those who are homeless. Maricle, who along with his wife Leona, has long been active in the local St. Vincent de Paul mission at St. Catherine, also helped establish the Veneta Warming Shelter, which operates out of the Fern Ridge Faith Center and offers lodging to those who are experiencing homelessness in the area on nights when the temperature is expected to drop to 28 degrees or below. Among Maricle’s duties is maintaining the website for the center to allow volunteers to sign up to donate time. Maricle also serves on the Veneta Homeless Advocates board where he employs a constructive style of governance to see that the needs of those who are struggling are met. Colleagues say they appreciate his selfless giving and his way of setting an example of what can be done to help those who are unable to help themselves.

Don Persyn also was feted with an award for his years of work serving those in the Fern Ridge population who are experiencing food insecurity. Persyn sits on the Fern Ridge Community Services Board. For the past year, he has ensured that Sunday dinners go to members of the public and has made sure the experience is positive for those who attend. Persyn also does much of the procuring of the food and enjoys visiting with the guests who in turn like his friendly banter. A large part of the dinners’ success is attributed to Persyn and his efforts, showing everyone how to interact with those down on their luck, always acknowledging their humanity. Persyn also consistently donates his time to the warming shelter.

Antonio Moreno is a longtime volunteer at the Fern Ridge Community dinner and is known for his steadfastness in doing whatever is needed. When not serving food or washing dishes, Moreno visits with the guests, making them feel at home with his easygoing manner and his willingness to recognize them as more than just someone in need. Often, Moreno makes an extra effort to clean the dining area after the meal has ended. Had it not been for Moreno and his unwavering devotion, the Sunday dinners would likely have stopped because of the drop in volunteers and the need for COVID-related restrictions. It was his dedication and commitment that garnered the Fern Ridge Community Service’s second award of the evening.

St. Catherine parishioners say they are proud of these peers who model what it is to live out the Gospel and in particular, Jesus’ words of “Whatsoever you do to the least of these.” The men show all are part of the same human family, and even those society considers outcasts deserve a warm smile, an ear to listen, and to know that someone cares. It’s really not that difficult.

Just ask Dennis, Don and Antonio.