Toraj and Irene Khavari have been selected as the 2019 Tigard Shining Stars “From the Heart” Volunteer of the Year, named in honor of Jim Hartman. Jim Hartman set the standard for this award by his example of giving from the heart to his community, and the “From the Heart” award honors a person who has dedicated their time and energy to a specific cause in the Tigard community. This person gives willingly, energetically and consistently; they might be well known or might be a “quiet” volunteer, unrecognized until now, but always gives “from the heart”! This person may have worked on the same project for many years.
Friends of Bull Mountain – A park is born
You know that wooded area behind your house that looks like a scary jungle of prickly blackberry bushes, overgrown weeds and mosquitos? But when you get up close you start to notice the canopy of oak trees offering shade to blooming Trilliums, unruly ferns and wild mushrooms. As you stand there, you start to hear Song Sparrows chirping warnings of your presence to each other and the flutter of underbrush lending cover to a critter…then a vision starts to form.
That’s sort of what happened for Toraj & Irene Khavari and their neighbors living adjacent to undeveloped property on Bull Mountain. Armed with relentless energy, enthusiasm and optimism for what “could be”, Toraj & Irene brought a community together and turned a wild, wooded lot into a neighborhood jewel accessible to all Tigard residents.
It wasn’t easy. They worked tirelessly to fundraise and recruit hundreds of volunteers to help with tasks like ivy pulling, path clearing, planting, planning and more. It took monumental commitment, more than 2,000 hours of sweat equity, ingenious ideas to raise money, many visits to the Tigard City Council meetings and a monthly vigil at the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meetings to lobby for funds from Tigard’s Parks and Open Spaces Bond Measure to purchase the property.
In 2018, the Friends of Bull Mountain Park earned the Oregon Parks and Recreation Association’s highest honor with the Oregon Parks & Recreation Volunteer Service Award. The city, Metro and the State of Oregon celebrated Toraj and Irene’s herculean efforts and vision for the park. Representatives from the group accepted the award and I’m sure they knew it was about much more than recognition. It was about lifelong friendships formed while cutting trails, sowing native plants, building benches and a natural playground from re-purposed trees. It was about love for nature, community and for future generations who would enjoy the park and the picnic shelter – including a paved loop that provides inclusive access for trails and users with mobility challenges.
Toraj achieved another monumental task – he learned what those government acronyms mean!
He forged partnerships with neighbors, community groups, Metro, the city, the state, park designers, business owners, naturalists, grant writers and I bet that he even has the Tigard Library Reference Desk on speed dial!
But those efforts paid off. Now Toraj, Irene and city residents have a stunning place to gather on warm summer evenings for picnics and music, a quiet place to hike and enjoy nature and a place for giggling children to leap on logs and wait for a passing critter to come into view. What was once an overgrown labyrinth of trees, blackberries and shrubs is now a neighborhood park. This is truly a great example of what a community can do when it comes together!
To learn more about how Toraj, Irene and the Friends of Bull Mountain turned their vision into a reality watch A Park is Born (https://vimeo.com/294689595 ).
Please join us in congratulating Toraj and Irene and thanking them for their service to our Tigard community. Their award will be formally presented with other Tigard volunteer and business awards at Tigard’s 2019 Shining Stars Community Awards Celebration. The event will be held on Friday, May 3rd from 5:30-9 p.m. at Embassy Suites – Washington Square, our event location host. With a theme of “Travel”, this elegant themed dinner event includes dinner, silent auction, dessert dash, awards, and more. Tickets are $60/person. Dress your best and join us to celebrate Tigard!