Ashland has much to be proud of, and Monday's annual State of the City celebration took note of accomplishments, while Mayor John Stromberg, who delivered the State of the City address, also mentioned the work that remains to be done on the pressing and interrelated issues of homelessness and affordable housing. Given the attention the city has paid to those problems, it was fitting that the event honored two people who have contributed more than anyone else to efforts to serve Ashland's homeless community.
Jason and Vanessa Houk, named recipients of this year's James M. Ragland Volunteer Spirit Award, embody that spirit as much as anyone in town. They have long been leaders in organizing weekly meals, and they serve as hosts of the Sunday night shelter in Pioneer Hall, part of the city's response to people living on the streets.
The Ragland award, started in 1994, is named in memory of a longtime City Council member and planning commissioner known for his volunteer service to the community.
City Councilor Stefani Seffinger, in presenting the award to the Houks Monday, said "I know there will be souls out there tonight who wouldn't be alive without Vanessa and Jason."
In accepting the honor, Vanessa Houk stressed that "doing the right thing isn't doing extraordinary things," and called for more community action. She's right. The more people who get involved in helping, the less the burden falls on any one or two people. The Houks inspire us all to do more.