As the COVID-19 pandemic entered its third year and case numbers began to wane, there was optimism 2022 would be the start of good things to come. But the year brought new challenges, from weather to rising prices to a spike in other viruses.
Still, 2022 also brought hope.
It came in the form of donations to a longtime restaurant owner struggling with cancer and a dishonest business partner.
It came in the form of increased access to health care services for communities of color.
It came in the form of a light to illuminate our favorite gold statue after being told it would have to go dark for a years-long construction project, and the revival of holiday lights and a parade after hundreds responded to a Statesman Journal survey about downtown.
And it came in the form of funds to repair a high school athletic field after it was destroyed by vandals so young athletes could continue to compete.
The relentless and misguided attacks on a free press continue, as does the spread of misinformation when access to truth and accuracy have never been more vital.
The most important thing we do at the Statesman Journal is help make the Mid-Valley better, in large ways and small ones, by producing truthful, revelatory and unique journalism. We measure our impact in the difference we’ve made in the communities where we also live, work, raise our families and play.
Here are some of the stories we produced in 2022 that resulted in real change.
Funds for Court Street Dairy Lunch owner
Salem business owner Steve Outslay led an effort to raise more than $3,600 for Marlene Blanchard, the former owner of Court Street Dairy Lunch, after the Statesman Journal investigated and wrote an article detailing how Blanchard was betrayed by someone she thought was a friend while she underwent cancer treatment.
The Statesman Journal investigation revealed the restaurant under Bruce Taylor’s management racked up $20,000 in back lease payments and thousands more in unpaid utilities and other bills from July 2020 through August 2021. For months, Taylor also publicly and inaccurately represented himself as the new owner.
Blanchard was left with a mountain of debt and forced to sell the restaurant. She died shortly after the funds were raised for her.
The return of holiday lights, parade
The long-absent holiday parade and tree lighting returned to downtown this year.
Salem Main Street Association president Jim Vu said the effort was part of a push to promote tourism and local businesses, and inspired by the results of a Statesman Journal survey asking readers their thoughts on downtown.
Nearly 700 people submitted their critiques and praises of downtown in the survey. On many of their wishlists: holiday lights, decorations and festivities downtown during the holidays.
Three now-grown artists were reunited with ceramic tiles they painted as children for a Salem Nordstrom remodel in 1996 thanks to Dalke Construction and the Statesman Journal.
The project for Dalke evolved in June 2022 after a conversation during a tour of the Nordstrom building demolition, which the Statesman was part of. The Statesman mentioned the tiles in a story about the demo, then followed up with another to report two tiles had been returned to the artists and spread the word.
Even parents of children whose tiles weren’t among those salvaged during the demo said they were thankful for the coverage because it brought back treasured memories.
Shining a light on the Gold Man
The Statesman Journal in August broke the news that the iconic Gold Man statue atop the Oregon State Capitol would be left in the dark for the next couple of years while construction crews work on the Capitol building.
Shortly after the article came out, officials announced a change of plans. Construction crews had found a way to power that section of the building at night to turn the lights back on the Gold Man.
Increased access to early cancer detection genetic testing
Soon after the Statesman Journal published a story about free genetic testing for early cancer detection at Oregon Health & Science University, the Healthy Oregon Project, also referred to as HOP, saw a spike in kit requests.
“Word is getting out!” HOP’s community outreach director Vanessa Serrato said.
Participants who join the study to better understand the causes and ways to prevent cancer receive free genetic screening and counseling.
Bringing awareness of a unique counseling center
Phone, email and text messages “started to blow up” after the Statesman Journal published an article on OYEN Emotional Wellness Center in Woodburn, the only fully bilingual and bicultural mental health clinic in Oregon.
All therapists at the center are members of the Latino community who are trained to provide culturally responsive care.
“We had community members come to our office yesterday asking about and needing our services,” Anthony Veliz, co-founder of OYEN, said.
Help after Saxons’ field destroyed
After the Statesman Journal broke the news of the vandalism of South Salem High School’s Gilmore Field, South Salem Saxon Baseball Foundation president Dan Farrington set up a GoFundMe account at bit.ly/3uCh3wS to raise money to purchase additional security for the field.
“To be clear, this is NOT to fix the damage, but to raise funds for security measures to help prevent the constant string of vandalism,” Saxons baseball coach Max Price tweeted.
The site so far has raised $2,950.
Alia Beard Rau is the senior news editor at the Salem Statesman Journal. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.