OCEANSIDE — Colleen O’Harra was named this year’s recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award at a ceremony hosted by the North San Diego County NAACP on Jan. 12. The award is given annually to an Oceanside resident who has made significant contributions to the betterment of the community through volunteer work.
“She’s a great member of the community,” John Lundblad, manager of the community grant and block grant program, said. “For every group or organization in Oceanside, she’s touched them in one way or another.”
O’Harra served on the City Council from 1992 to 2000 and before that was a member of the Planning Commission.
She has also been a long-term volunteer on more than a dozen committees and boards.
“She is a constant, positive commitment to the betterment of Oceanside and assuring all residents they have access to the same resources people in the rest of the county do,” Lundblad said.
O’Harra served as chair of the successful 2008 Oceanside Unified School District bond campaign that funded $195 million for districtwide campus improvements and technology upgrades.
She is one of the architects of the popular Harbor Days event that brings thousands of people annually to Oceanside Harbor. She worked as the event co-chair from 1986 to 1992 and again from 2001 to 2009.
O’Harra is also the co-founder and chair of the Oceanside Charitable Foundation that provides annual grants to groups and individuals who make sustainable improvements to the community.
She has volunteered her services as an attorney in numerous legal capacities including working as a Conservator of the Person and Estate and protecting the finances of elderly individuals who live away from their families.
“She shares without expecting anything in return,” Lundblad said.
Perhaps one of her most notable accomplishments is founding the Women’s Resource Center in 1974, where she continues to serve on the board of directors. The center has grown to become a recognized leader in providing services for victims of rape and domestic violence.
Under her leadership, the center opened Casa de Amparo to serve and shelter abused children.