May 17, 2001 11:00 pm
INTEGRAL VOLUNTEER: Boy Scout volunteer Mary Koza talks with Will Clark, left, and Mick Miller of Troop 514. Clark and Miller are both Eagle scout candidates. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
INTEGRAL VOLUNTEER: Boy Scout volunteer Mary Koza talks with Will Clark, left, and Mick Miller of Troop 514. Clark and Miller are both Eagle scout candidates. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Be prepared is the motto Boy Scouts have embraced for decades.

La Grande Boy Scout volunteer Mary Koza, however, was not prepared for the news she received.

Koza learned she will be presented one of the highest honors given adult volunteers by the Boy Scouts of America the Silver Beaver Award.

I am shocked. It is very humbling, Koza said. I am very appreciative.

Koza will receive the award Saturday in Kennewick, Wash. The Silver Beaver Award recognizes contributions made by volunteers to scouting and their local communities. Koza emphasized that there are numerous other local Boy Scout volunteers who deserve to be saluted.

There are volunteers who give many hours who are never recognized, she said.

Koza is completing her 13th year as a Boy Scout volunteer. She has been with La Grande Troop 514, which is sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church, for 11 years.

She is everywhere. Whenever you need her she is there, said Jerry Brookshire, Northeast Oregon region executive for the Boy Scouts.

If you want a job done, just ask Mary. She never drops the ball; she doesnt even bobble it.

Koza is one of 2,700 volunteers in the Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon region. Just five will be receiving Silver Beaver recognition.

Saturdays ceremony starts at 7 p.m. in the Tri Cities Coliseum following a dinner which begins at 6:30 p.m. Others receiving the Silver Beaver Award include Deon Strommer of Baker City. Strommer, co-owner of Eat and Run in La Grande, is scoutmaster for Baker City Troop 452.

Much of the work Koza has done for Troop 514 has been as an adviser for the communications merit badge.

She has a real passion for making sure that each boy performs to the highest standard possible, said Eric Valentine, the troops longtime scoutmaster.

Valentine added that Koza has a unique willingness to do those jobs which are not visible.

She has worked closely with about 25 boys who have gone on to become Eagle scouts.

Koza describes her work as immensely rewarding.

I love to watch kids grow up, mature and believe in themselves, she said.

Koza makes a point of requiring her scouts to make public presentations while earning their communications merit badge. The scouts must speak before a public service group and give a presentation on the small stage at the Union County Fair.

Among their topics, scouts share how to set up a tent or build a camp fire. Koza said that such public presentations can go a long way toward building confidence in the young participants.

Koza has two sons and a daughter. Her sons, Stephen and John, earned their Eagle awards. Stephen is now a dental student in Portland and John is a senior at Eastern Oregon University. Kozas daughter, Teresa, is a family court specialist with the Circuit Court in Union County.

Mary Koza works at Eastern Oregon University where she is assistant director of the distance education program.

As a volunteer, Koza had been involved in community service projects long before she became part of Troop 514. She worked with Central Elementary Schools Cub Scout pack for two years and was a 4-H leader for 10.

What motivates her?

I grew up in this community. I received so much moral support. My goal has always been to give back some of what was given to me, she said.

Brookshire said that people have so much respect for Koza that it is difficult for them to say no when she asks for assistance.

If Mary asks for help, the project must need more than three people. That is because she has the ability of three people, Brookshire said.

I am almost at a loss of words to describe her. She is definitely a person whose actions speak louder than words.