Volunteer of the Year George Virtue Gives High Schoolers an Inside Look at Careers in Forest Products

George, right, is promoted to Deputy Fire Chief at Sweet Home Fire District in October. 'Weyerhaeuser has been so supportive, both of my volunteering and of our natural resources program at Sweet Home,' he says. 'We’ve received two or three grants for things like purchasing boots and hard hats for the kids in the program. It tells me this company puts its money where its mouth is.'

George Virtue is always looking for opportunities to help others in his community of Sweet Home, Oregon. When he isn’t working, sleeping or spending time with his family, he’s volunteering with a number of local groups and programs.

George is the operations manager at our Santiam sawmill in Lebanon, Oregon. He’s also a volunteer firefighter, a member of the music ministry at his church and a leader for his kids’ school sports teams and clubs — including Sweet Home High School’s natural resources education program, a cause especially close to his heart.

The natural resources program offers forestry education to more than 250 students each year. George has served on the program’s advisory committee for the past three years, helping guide it to become the state leader in high school forestry education.

“George gives without expectations of being noticed,” says Blake Manley, president of the Oregon Natural Resources Educators Association, who nominated George for our Volunteer of the Year award. “He does it because it’s the right thing to do. People like him deserve the most attention because they seek it the least.”

As part of George’s Volunteer of the Year award recognition, he received a $5,000 TREE-mendous Matching Gifts reward. He plans to give half to the Sweet Home High School forestry and natural resources program and the other half to the Sweet Home Volunteer Firefighters association to support the purchase of a firefighter rehabilitation vehicle.

Image of George at the Sweet Home High School Homecoming bonefire with a fire truck for safety.

George attends the annual Sweet Home High School Homecoming bonfire with a fire truck for safety. 'I’ve been a volunteer firefighter with the Sweet Home Fire Department since 2000,' he says. 'And I started working in the music ministry at my church when I was in 3rd or 4th grade and was just learning to play an instrument. I still do that today at my current church.'


Tell us a bit about your day job.

I oversee all the mill’s daily operations to meet our production and performance goals. I’m responsible for keeping the operations team safe, and I oversee lumber quality, shipping, logyard and other production-related activities.

What did you think when you found out about the award?

I was shocked I was even nominated. I do volunteer a lot, but I don’t talk about it much; I prefer to be a little under the radar. I’m honored to know my work is seen and appreciated.

What motivates you to volunteer?

I feel like I’ve been called to volunteer and make the world a better place. Giving back feels right to me, so I look for every opportunity in causes that are meaningful to me.

Image of George with his family.

George with his family: Mackenzie, Alexis, Tiffany, and Samantha, and their two dogs, Milo and Daisy. 'Over the years, I’ve had stints volunteering for my kids’ school clubs — such as 4H and Future Farmers of America — and coaching their sports teams. In addition to my work with the Sweet Home High School natural resources education program, I volunteer for the Sweet Home Economic Development Group. We raise money for the community and hold a big fundraising event called the Oregon Jamboree each year.'

What made you choose the Sweet Home High School natural resources education program?

I love teaching young people about forestry. A lot of high school kids don’t know they have great career options that don’t always require a college degree. With the guidance we’re able to give them, they can graduate high school and launch an amazing, well-paying career just weeks later.

What are the community challenges you see that you’re trying to address with this work?

We want to see everyone get equal opportunities to excel in forestry, and we’re trying to find ways to be inclusive and boost girls’ participation. We really want to show all kids just how fun forestry can be and entice them to join the industry.

What’s your favorite part of your volunteer work?

Bringing a smile to someone’s face or joy to their heart. That’s going to make their day a little better. And maybe in turn the world gets a bit better, too. That’s what I aim for.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to give back but doesn’t know how or where?

There’s always someone in need. All you have to do is look around and ask. Start small and commit to just one day of volunteering, and you’ll see how great it feels. The hardest part is taking that first step.

Image of George leading a tour of the Santiam lumber mill in Lebanon, Oregon, for Sweet Home High School students.

George recently led a tour of our Santiam lumber mill in Lebanon, Oregon, for Sweet Home High School students. 'I love bringing kids on tours of our mill and demonstrating skills and processes, like how to break down a log,' he says. 'That allows the kids to see our enthusiasm for our careers firsthand, and just how fun it can be.'

What have you learned by volunteering? How have you benefited or been changed?

The more I volunteer and the more I serve, the kinder my heart gets. I see people’s successes and their struggles. While I can’t take credit for the times when someone my work supported recovers from a big setback, it feels great to know I might have helped a little.

What’s next in your volunteer plans for the year ahead?

We’re excited to grow our forestry program this year and focus more on career technology tools that will help students succeed. I’m also working on the spring career fair. I have a goal to help shepherd three of our students through our internal application process and get them started here at Weyerhaeuser in June.