Linn Together Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers

By Alex Paul, Linn County Reporter. From April 2024 Linn County Reporter Newsletter.

ALBANY — The past year was a busy one for staff and volunteers with Linn Together — a coalition for healthy youth choices — but it was also a very rewarding one, individuals said during a volunteer recognition luncheon held on March 20 at the Old Armory.

Linn Together is a coalition of individuals and groups with the shared goal of helping young people make positive choices when it comes to marijuana, alcohol and drugs, gambling and tobacco use.

Long-time volunteer Dar Merrill said he has spent more than 20 years working at first with the Commission for Children and Families and now with Linn Together. He said that after he retired, he wanted to continue doing something meaningful that would help children. “We can provide parents with the tools they need to educate their children about these key issues,” Merrill said. He said that it can be difficult to determine if the outreach is working, but perhaps that outcome will best be known 20 or 30 years down the road.

Several volunteers were recognized with plaques and other gifts for their outstanding efforts last year.

Dani Crabtree of the Linn County Health Department has been a committed volunteer and has done everything from dressing up in costume for a Halloween promotional event at the mall to hugging llamas at another event.

Sarah Daniels said Linn Together volunteers participated in 24 events and made contact with 5,354 adults, youth and children. Events ranged from the Scio Lamb and Wool Fair to the Linn County Fair and other tabling events.

Julie Mercer was honored with her very own “press pass” for her work spreading the word about Linn Together on a new website, Instagram and list serv mailings. Mercer said the new website — — provides the group with a conduit to disseminate feature stories and news about events and programs. The efforts are paying off as Linn Together sees more response and questions from members of the general public, Mercer said. The website has had more than 17,000 visits.

Mercer said Linn Together’s bottle tagging program is going extremely well. Volunteers visit stores where alcohol is sold and put cardboard tags that remind people to not sell or provide alcohol to minors on beer and liquor bottles. “I’d say 90% of store owners/ managers are excited to participate,” Mercer said. “We also give recognition to the stores on our website.”

Michael Mattingly of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office provided an update about the marijuana poster and billboard programs that reach out to students in middle schools and high schools. He said there are currently four billboards — three in English and one in Spanish — throughout the county.

Rose Reader talked about the fentanyl task force work and called the fentanyl outbreak a “scourge” in the community. The task forced developed fentanyl information cards that can be easily distributed.

Shannon Snair said the Stand Youth Council has been successful countywide, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. She said young people meet monthly at various high schools. Volunteers have also had information booths at county-wide events such as the Central Linn Health Fair. The goal is to promote a positive social message.

Snair recognized Harrisburg High School health and physical education teacher Stephanie Sather, who has been a driving force for the program. “She is motivated to make a difference,” she said. Sather said this is her 17th year of teaching and said STAND is a huge part of her curriculum. “I enjoy seeing the students grow in their ability to speak in front of groups and to talk about positive issues,” Sather said. STAND participants also sign a contract to not use drugs or alcohol.

Danette Killinger praised Brandi Blethen for always “working behind the scenes” at events. She also recognized long-time Scio area resident Jean Wooten, noting that she has been dedicated to improving the lives of young people in many venues for decades. Among her many volunteer activities, Wooten spent 32 years on the Scio School Board. “She has a vested interest in youth and her community,” Killinger said.

In closing, Rose Reader said the diversity of the Linn Together volunteers provides a broad perspective as the group works together on numerous community issues. She encouraged the group to continue to invite new members. 

Photo Credit: Linn Together