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DHS news release

Oct. 11, 2007

Media contact: Ann Snyder, 503-945-5922
Program contact: Marc Overbeck, 503-947-1109

Oregonians to be honored as Everyday Heroes for helping victims of elder abuse

(Editors: This year's honorees are from the cities of Beaverton, Colton, Glide, Gresham, Grants Pass, Medford, Oregon City, Portland, Reedsport, Roseburg, Sutherlin, The Dalles, Tillamook, Winston, and from Lincoln County. Details of what they did to earn the award are at the end of this release. For honoree contact information, call Marilyn Hinds, Chair of the Oregon Everyday Heroes campaign, at 541-929-7136.)

Eleven Oregonians -- employees of two local social service agencies and a financial institution -- will be honored Oct. 18 as "Everyday Heroes" for their selflessness in coming to the aid of victims of elder financial and physical abuse and neglect.

The event will coincide with a proclamation by Gov. Ted Kulongoski declaring Oct. 18, 2006, "Everyday Heroes Working to End Elder Abuse Day." The proclamation states, "All residents of the State of Oregon deserve to live with dignity, respect and security."

The winners will be honored at the Third Annual Oregon Everyday Heroes Recognition Luncheon at noon Oct. 18 at the Keizer Renaissance Inn (formerly the Wittenberg Inn) at 5188 Wittenberg Lane North in Keizer. The individuals being honored are:

  • Dina Eyer of Beaverton
  • Gary Hedeen of Colton
  • Kathy Saunders of Grants Pass
  • Sue Campbell of Medford
  • Linda Fridell Paul of Oregon City
  • Michael Wolff of Portland
  • Jack Bishop of Portland
  • Marleen Burke and Robert Wheeler of Portland
  • Susan Peachey of The Dalles
  • Marni Tegner of Lincoln County

The employees of local social service agencies are:

  • Marilyn Burke of Sutherlin Senior Center, Jeannie Wright of Glide Community Center, Donna Clifford Winston Community Center, Therese Stauffer of Reedsport Senior Center of Douglas County Senior Services, and
  • Claire and Donald McVay of Tillamook County Meals on Wheels.

The financial institution is:

  • MBank in Gresham, Tom Perrick, President, and H. Rex Brittle, CEO

Financial and physical abuse of the elderly is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Reports of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation increased 19.6 percent from 2000 to 2004 with nearly half of those reports being substantiated. While some studies estimate that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the elderly population have been abused, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates there may be as many as 5 million victims every year.

The Governor's Commission on Senior Services created the Oregon Everyday Heroes campaign in an effort to raise awareness of elder abuse, increase reporting, reduce tolerance of elder abuse, and find ways of connecting individuals and families with community resources.

"We appreciate the efforts of every individual who makes a difference in the life of a senior citizen, but we also want to recognize the efforts of a few who have allowed us to share their stories," said John Helm of Scappoose, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Senior Services, a co-sponsor of the Oregon Everyday Heroes campaign.

The honorees and the services they performed follow.

MBank in Gresham, Tom Perrick, President, and H. Rex Brittle, CEO

MBank has developed a comprehensive training program to teach all staff how to recognize signs of elder financial exploitation, particularly front line tellers who are in regular contact with bank customers. Each year, all bankers receive training in "red flag" warning signs of suspected elder financial abuse. Twice a year, tellers and new account representatives receive additional training on how to identify suspected elder financial exploitation, including how to recognize suspicious account transactions. MBank also has developed outreach programs, and sends its staff to residential retirement centers for mobile branching, and conducts annual training seminars for the senior residents at those sites. The sessions include information on current scams that target the elderly, and discussion is held on what kinds of e-mails and phone calls these seniors are receiving.

Meals on Wheels, Tillamook County

Claire and Donald McVay have been Meals on Wheels volunteers in Tillamook County for five years, providing not only meals to the elderly, but also compassion and an access to dignity. In the case of an isolated and frail older man who was reluctant to have any contact with anyone, the McVays brought him hot meals three times a week and frozen meals the other days. While he declined all other assistance from neighbors, friends, Senior Services or the community, he became connected to the McVays. One day the McVays found him locked out of his home, lying on the floor of his porch. They called 911 and the gentleman was taken to the hospital, and later placed in a care facility where he lived until he passed away some months later.

Dina Eyer of Beaverton

Dina is a Bank of America teller who intervened in a case of financial exploitation and fraud. She stepped in to protect an elderly customer's assets from family members who were depleting the victim's bank accounts to buy drugs, food and alcohol. Dina contacted the ElderSafe Program in Washington County to find out what could be done to help, and subsequently reported the situation to authorities.

Michael Wolff of Portland

Michael, manager of a New Seasons Market, came across a 92-year-old man who became disoriented while shopping and, while he could remember his address, couldn't remember how to get home. Michael drove the man home and then contacted the Adult Protective Services' after-hours program to follow up. As a result of Michael's efforts, protective services workers made sure the man was well and that his home was stocked with basic supplies such as food.

Gary Hedeen of Colton

Gary is a retired middle school teacher who reached out to an 83-year-old neighbor who had quit driving because of poor vision. Gary started out making sure she had fuel for her wood stove, but eventually began getting groceries for her and taking her to pick up her prescriptions and to medical appointments. He called several times each day and went to her home to make sure she was eating and taking her medications. Recently, with Gary's assistance, the woman has moved to a facility where she can receive 24-hour assistance.

Linda Fridell Paul of Oregon City

For 17 years Linda has been an advocate for the rights of the elderly. She has helped many older adults obtain restraining orders against abusers, and has linked them to needed services and guided them through the court system. She is a sought-after trainer and has provided training locally on elder abuse to other victim advocates as well as the general public.

Susan Peachey of The Dalles

When a customer came in and reported that her daughter had physically abused her and had bruises on her arms and elsewhere, Susan helped the customer close their joint bank accounts and open new accounts in just her name. She helped the customer contact credit card companies to close all accounts on which the daughter was a co-signer and to obtain new cards. She also helped the client find an accountant and an attorney to protect and manage her assets. Susan then persuaded the customer to contact Adult Protective Services, see her doctor, report the incident to the police and obtain a restraining order. The daughter eventually was indicted by a grand jury for Criminal Mistreatment 1 and has been arraigned.

Marni Tegner of Lincoln County

Marni Tegner, owner of Hair Smiles, noticed that an elderly and frail customer of 17 years did not show for her normal weekly hair appointment. Concerned, Marni called her home, but didn't get an answer. Concerned that something was wrong, she went to the home and saw the customer in a chair and unable to answer the door. Marni called 911. When the EMTs arrived they found that her husband, who helped her dress, fixed her meals and drove to her appointments, had passed away, leaving his wife alone and unable to help herself. Thanks to Marni's diligence, the woman received needed assistance and a conservator is going to be appointed to help look after her affairs.

Marleen Burke and Robert Wheeler of Portland

Marleen and Robert are neighbors who live next door to an 82-year-old widower with a history of falling down. While on a trip away from the area Marleen became concerned about the man and contacted the Adult Protective Services' after-hours program to request that someone check on him. With the help of Portland police, APS staff discovered the man on the floor of his home and transported him to a nearby Emergency Department, where he was treated and released temporarily to a care center before being able to return home.

Sue Campbell of Medford


Sue is a Medford Police Department detective who has been a peace officer for the past 22 years. Sue has gone above and beyond the regular call of her professional duty by regularly using her own time to help elder abuse victims in her community. She has helped abuse victims recover by taking them on outings, walking their dogs, baking them special desserts, celebrating holidays with them, and occasionally finding them other living situations, to make sure they do not become victims again. Sue also has been a strong advocate at the District Attorney's office for prosecution of abuse cases when they arise.

Marilyn Burke of Sutherlin Senior Center, Jeannie Wright of Glide Community Center, Donna Clifford Winston Community Center, and Therese Stauffer Reedsport Senior Center

Marilyn, Jeannie, Donna and Therese are the eyes and ears of the Douglas County Senior Abuse Program, regularly referring many seniors to the Fraud and Abuse Team in Douglas County. Going beyond their regular duties as managers of meal sites and the Meals-On-Wheels programs in their communities, they have helped obtain information necessary to protect many seniors in Douglas County from abuse and financial exploitation.

Kathy Saunders of Grants Pass

Kathy, coordinator of the AARP Tax Aide Program in Grants Pass, and her staff of volunteers have actively reported incidents of elders at risk of financial abuse or neglect. Due to their efforts they found that an elderly woman had been personally paying her granddaughter for care while she was already being paid by the state as her caregiver. The case was turned over to Adult Protective Services for further action. In another case, Kathy and her team stopped a plan to exploit the resources of an elderly relative.

Jack Bishop of Portland

Jack has been a volunteer advocate for more than eight years with Elders in Action, assisting more than 40 individual victims of crime navigate the justice system. One of the people helped by Jack was a very independent and capable older woman who, in good faith, signed a $50,000 contract with a remodeling contractor to do some work on her home. Throughout the course of the work the contractor kept finding additional work needing to be done at, of course, added cost. The woman trustingly paid for the work. At the point she had invested $115,000, the contractor walked off the job. Much of the completed work was of poor quality and wouldn't pass inspection; part of the project was incomplete. Jack, along with Elders in Action staff, intervened and helped the woman contact the Contractor's Board, go through an inspection and ultimately recover some of the money she had lost. Last year alone, Jack and other personal advocate volunteers for Elders in Action recovered more than $276,000 for elderly victims of fraud, ID theft and wrongful billing.