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Friends of Library honor Lifelong Learners at first in-person event in two years

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City of Homer
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This years event was held April 8, and recognized Donna Rae Faulkner and Don McNamara, Neviya Reed, and Olivia Glasman.

Friends of the Homer Library hosted their annual awards celebration last weekend. The event recognized local individuals passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge with the community.

Live music greeted an in-person audience of around 30 people in the Homer Public Library’s Fireplace Lounge. The Celebration of Lifelong Learning honored several community members April 8, 2022, for their commitment to “acquiring new skills and sharing their knowledge with others.” It has been an annual event since 2009, when Daisy Lee Bitter was honored with the award. However, for the last two years the event has been online. KBBI broadcast those ceremonies live to radio listeners.

This year’s event honored lifelong learners Donna Rae Faulkner and Don McNamara. They own and operate Oceanside Farms. You might know them from their roadside food stand along East End Road. Or perhaps you have noticed their 10 high tunnels or fields of giant rhubarb with rows of delphiniums.  Farming fuels the couple’s pursuit of knowledge. After learning that potatoes produced commercially can contain over 10 different types of pesticides, they devoted themselves to growing Alaskan-certified seed potatoes using organic methods.

“You start learning those kinds of things and you care about people. You want to make a change and a positive difference in the world,” said Faulkner. “That's how we feel.”

They also are passionate about sharing knowledge. For the last seven years the couple has worked with tribal councils and villages on Kodiak Island to teach gardening techniques to rural residents. After the pandemic limited travel to the villages, Faulkner and McNamara taught themselves how to produce YouTube videos. Then they encouraged other local farmers to share gardening methods on their channel. They still wanted to teach and connect with the villages even if it was impossible in person. Their current passion is Korean natural farming methods. McNamara will give a presentation on the subject to the Homer Garden Club at the end of April.

Homer High School senior Neviya Reed was also honored at the ceremony. She is this year’s Youth Learner. She is passionate about teaching other students about the Alaska Legislature and state government. She is the only student representative for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board. In this role, Neviya and a few other students advocated for recycling resolution at school board meetings. KPBSD has now implemented their program in all 42 schools within the district.

She said a Lifelong Learner should have two qualities,“They need to be ambitious. And they need to know how to deal with rejection or loss.” 

Not present at the ceremony was Neviya’s classman, senior Olivia Glasman. She was traveling out of state visiting prospective colleges. This year, Olivia received the first-ever Library Spirit Award for her work promoting library programs. Her mother Claudia Haines is a former librarian and Olivia has been an active volunteer for the library since she was in elementary school. Most recently she developed summer and afterschool programs for teenage girls interested in technology and science called ‘Girls Get It’. She was also recognized this year by the Haven House as their Young Woman of Distinction.

“Olivia Glassman has brought so much of herself to this library as she pursues her passions in college and beyond,” said Friends of the Homer Library Coordinator, Mercedes Harness. “Her presence will be missed here. However, as a young person, she has created both a legacy and an expectation of excellent youth programs.”

Fundraising supports many of the library's youth programs, including their summer reading program. Friends of the Homer Library is offering custom stickers for a donation of 25 dollars, available on the Friends website and at the library. Their annual Book and Plant Sale will be at the end of this month opening on Friday, April 29, for members and Saturday, April 30, for the general public.

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