By Pat Caldwell
VALE – Janeille Bennett learned about helping when she was a child. Bennett often joined her mother in visits to local nursing homes or elderly community members.
They brought food or cleaned or just sat and chatted.
Both of her parents led by example and the example they set was that it was important to help your neighbors.
“I spent my whole youth with my mom taking care of other people,” said Bennett.
Bennett’s devotion to her town continued through her life and that compassion is being recognized with her selection at Citizen of the Year by the Vale Chamber of Commerce.
She will be honored the chamber awards banquet set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Vale High School. Tickets for the event are $25 and available at Vale City Hall, Nails by Jenn, Vale Bookkeeping and Malheur Drug.
“It is a privilege to be connected to a community like this,” said Bennett.
Bennett, 55, found out about her nomination while she was – typically – volunteering.
Bennett was teaching a seminary class at the Vale Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when chamber board member Karleen Keller and treasurer Tambra Vines-Anderson walked in with a bouquet of flowers.
“The class started clapping and cheering. It was really nice and pretty special,” said Vines-Anderson.
A Vale native, Bennett left the county after high school and attended college at the Brigham Young University campuses in Hawaii and Idaho before she traveled to Virginia for a church mission. After her mission she graduated from BYU with a degree in advertising and then went into business with her brother.
“We decided to buy a franchise for a video store in Jackson, Mississippi. We opened up 10 video stores before we sold them to a bigger cable company,” said Bennett.
Bennett next worked in the promotion department for Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. in Los Angeles. There, she worked on projects that included creating the promotional posters for movies.
“It was fun. But then I decided it was time to settle down,” said Bennett
She married Rick Bennett and moved to Orlando, Florida, where Rick worked as a construction contractor.
In Orlando, Bennett indulged in her other great passion: foster care.
“We decided that we wanted to make a difference,” said Bennett.
Bennett’s zeal to be foster parent continued when she and her family moved back to Vale in 2012.
“It got to the point where I didn’t want to give up my teaching and I didn’t want to give up work with foster kids,” said Bennett.
Bennett served as the Vale librarian for five years before she decided to step down to focus more on her foster parenting.
Bennett said that effort been her most rewarding venture. She is president of the local non-profit Foster and Adopted Parents Association and has been a foster parent off and on for more than a decade. Now she and Rick are foster parents to two boys, 2 and 11.
Bennett said growing up in a small town like Vale taught her about helping people.
“It gave me a sense of caring about your community. It gives you a feeling of comfort and security being in a community. In Los Angeles or Orlando, you never have that kind of hometown feeling,” said Bennett.
While her parents set the standard, Bennett said other people throughout her life also showed her that giving back to the community was important.
“I have seen so many kind and giving people here. To me that is very motivating to follow their example,” said Bennett.
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