MONTESANO — Corby Varness is this year’s recipient of the Margaret Downey Memorial Community Service Award. She was honored Tuesday at the W.H. Abel Memorial Timberland Library in Montesano.
The award was created by the Friends of Montesano’s W.H. Abel Memorial Timberland Library in 1996, shortly after the death of the award’s namesake. The recipients are recognized for their volunteer work, must have some ties to the library and also “reflect Margaret’s love of learning, strength of faith (and) respect for nature,” the award requirements states.
Varness was recognized Tuesday during a presentation by the Friends of the Library. With an audience filled with several past recipients of the award, friends and family members and local dignitaries, she was treated with the reading of tribute-filled nominating letters, a certificate and celebratory cake.
Varness was raised in Southern California and later moved to the suburbs of San Francisco and graduated with a degree in psychology from San Francisco State University. She and her family relocated to Montesano looking for a small town in which she could make a difference. Varness has lived here since 1995 with her husband, Kevin, the public services director for Grays Harbor County, and son, Jeffrey.
“You couldn’t make a dent in San Francisco, it’s such a huge town,” Varness said. “It takes being a Getty to make a difference there,” she added with a laugh. “I’m so lucky to live in Montesano, where there’s so much that a volunteer can do.”
Varness is lay preacher and tireless volunteer at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Montesano. She’s also the chairwoman of the Timberland Regional Library Board and the official appointee of the Grays Harbor County Commission. Her term expires in 2020. Besides her many volunteer duties with the Friends of the Library, she has also volunteered in local schools and was a mover in the project to open the food bank in Montesano. She has also served on the board of directors for Montesano Community Outreach.
She was appointed to the Timberland Regional Library Board of Trustees in 2012 and, after two senior appointees left at the end of last year, soon found herself as president of the group. Varness had input as the organization coped with budget issues and strategic plan issues and hired a new director.
“Corby has more than a passing interest in the library,” said Cathy Carter, Friends of the Library president. “She’s a real supporter in many ways,” including to help organize and run the group’s annual book sale.
“Corby embodies a strong and sincere passion for public libraries and how they can change people’s lives,” said Cheryl Heywood, director of the Timberland system, who was on hand for the award presentation. “She’s been involved in numerous library causes … and I personally appreciate her positive, passionate and inquisitive nature on the board of trustees.”
“I’m humbled. I’m truly humbled,” said Varness after the presentation. “I’m in the accompaniment of some amazing people. I feel like I’m being honored for having fun, because all the volunteer work I do here is so much fun.”