The not-for-profit world boasts some of the most amazing individuals that grace this community. These individuals don't make a dime off the vital services they provide. We call them, "volunteers" but to the agencies they serve, they're so much more. These volunteers are tireless warriors who are on-call at a moment's notice. They put service into action, by putting the needs of the community ahead of their own. Ultimately, they realize that in order for positive change to take place in our community, individuals must be willing to speak out and reach out. A select group of volunteers have been identified by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County and its partner agencies for recognition of their dedicated service throughout the past year.
Allegheny Highlands Council BSA is honoring Eric Johnson for seven years of service, two as Cub Master of Pack 173 in Falconer. For the last five years, Eric has taken boys to scout camp, during which time the number of boys attending has doubled.
"Sometimes it's hard to get boys' attention at meetings. Early on, Eric found a whistle he used while he was working with youth in wrestling as a way of getting the boys' attention," said Wayne Schuver, senior district executive. "This fall his recruitment was almost 35 new boys. The signup night was buzzing with excitement and he turned to me and said, 'I guess it's time to bring my whistle back to meetings.' Eric demonstrates outstanding leadership qualities and his ability to organize is equally impressive."
Sue Shearer, Red Cross
Sue Shearer quietly shoulders a heavy load on a regular basis as a member of the Disaster Action Team for the American Red Cross. As the Chautauqua County Coordinator of Disaster Volunteers, Sue also coordinates volunteer deployments to both local and national disasters, maintains the county's volunteer information roster, and updates the availability of individual volunteers into the National American Red Cross DSHR database.
"Sue is the consummate volunteer and our organization is both lucky and grateful to benefit from her service," said Bill Tucker, chapter executive. "She makes a difficult set of responsibilities seem effortless."
If you're a Red Cross disaster volunteer in Chautauqua County, Sue's phone number is no stranger to your caller ID. She's in frequent contact with every disaster volunteer across the county, and for that reason, Sue Shearer is the agency's Volunteer of the Year.
For several years, Veronica Mistretta has organized the annual pancake breakfast fundraiser at the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown. Veronica also helps out at Christmas with the club's "Gingerbread Tree" donations. Dianne Woleen, program director, said helping out is just in Veronica's blood.
"Veronica enjoys swimming so much at the Club that she gives back more than she gets," she said. "She helps to make sure our members have all they need and she's constantly seeking donations for us."
Volunteering is also a "family affair" in the Mistretta household. Veronica enjoys it so much she often brings her family along to help out. Together they do everything from fundraising to cooking up pancakes and eggs.
Over the last three years, Susan Helwig has brought her talents, expertise, and caring attitude to the Chautauqua Adult Day Care Centers. Whether it's coming up with craft projects at the Taft Center or gathering nice gifts for the seniors in the program, Susan's patient and caring attitude is what sets her apart as Volunteer of the Year.
"Sue is a silent volunteer who really enjoys helping others and working with the older adults," said Frank Bercik, executive director.
Susan is someone who goes out of her way for others and never once expects anything in return outside of a smiling face.
"Knowing that many people who attend the Taft Center may have few resources and limited abilities, Sue wanted to do something special for the Easter holiday," Bercik said. "She was able to get enough stuffed animals to give to everyone at the site for Easter."
The smiles on everyone's faces truly showed how much Susan Helwig means to them.
Jeanne Anderson was selected by the Chautauqua Blind Association as their Volunteer of the Year because of her efforts to create the organization's first Fund Development Committee. Jeanne has also helped the agency with its annual "Dining in the Dark" and "Staycation" fundraising activities. Over her 13 years of service at the Chautauqua Blind Association, Jeanne has helped organize the agency's golf tournament and plan the annual meeting.
"Jeanne is a one-of-a-kind volunteer who is always there when you need her," said Lisa Goodell, executive director. "She has a 100-watt smile on her face."
Jeanne also teaches the blind through BOCES, traveling throughout the county providing help to those who have vision problems.
The Chautauqua County Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Volunteer of the Year is Mary Moore. Project Coordinator Brenda Weiler described Mary as someone who exemplifies what it means to be a volunteer.
"As a thrift store attendant, Mary is warm and friendly and quietly goes about serving others," Weiler said. "She has the necessary ability to work with diverse populations, and is an accurate cashier who possesses wonderful organizational skills."
Mary does a myriad of tasks - sorting, straightening, customer service, pricing, bagging and cashiering. But her most valued talent is her ability to greet each customer coming through the doors with a smile - lending them a hand while shopping - and always kindly thanking them for their purchases. Mary takes great pride knowing that she is able to help.
Spencer Drake is Chautauqua Striders Volunteer of the Year. Spencer loves hanging out and tossing a ball, or strumming a guitar with his mentee Aaron. Together they represent what mentoring is all about. By building a positive relationship with each other, they not only better themselves, they better the entire community.
"Aaron looks forward to the time he spends with Spencer," Aaron's mother said. "He gets to have a buddy to play baseball with and go sledding."
Both Aaron and Spencer have a love of music and play the guitar together. Aaron said his favorite hobby though is sledding, and he can't wait until it snows again so he and Spencer can race down another hill together.
For six years Anne Kohl has dedicated herself to helping children. Her diligence, dedication, tenacity and energy make her the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer of the Year. In addition to working with CASA, Anne is active in a number of local organizations, inspiring people around her to act and take charge of their community.
"Not everyone can face the ugly side of their community in an effort to help provide a safe and secure future for its most vulnerable people," said Kathy Park, program director. "Not everyone can dedicate themselves so fully to a cause. But Anne can. Her heart is large, her love is genuine, and she has met and exceeded every expectation that comes with being a CASA volunteer."
As chief financial officer of the American Red Cross, Kathy Burch may have the shortest trip to her volunteer assignment: right across the street. Family Service of the Chautauqua Region has chosen Kathy for her financial tidbits of wisdom in both good times and bad.
"As treasurer for the past four years, Kathy has helped the organization develop needed internal control, investment and purchasing policies," said Donna Vanstrom, executive director.
Kathy has also helped develop a process of selecting an auditor every three years and chairs the agency's finance committee. Kathy has volunteered at Family Service for six years during which time she has helped organize the agency's annual fundraising event and as a Notary, has helped provide that service to the agency as well.
Paula Pickett's extensive contributions to the Girl Scouts of Western New York as service unit manager, camp manager and service unit product sales manager, are some of the reasons she is recognized as their Volunteer of the Year.
"Paula has served on almost every committee possible and still remains very active holding several volunteer positions today," said Denise Beeles-Johnson, membership manager. Paula has selflessly given of her time and talents for 25 years for the Girl Scouts and in the process has helped steer the lives of countless young girls.
Joint Neighborhood Project (JNP) has chosen to honor Richard Selden as Volunteer of the Year for his tireless work at nurturing and maintaining the vegetable gardens and plantings at JNP. Richard helped plant the gardens and weeded and watered them on a daily basis. He worked with the local Master Gardeners to help JNP's day campers plant bucket gardens of vegetable plants, and also helped the kids harvest the raised bed gardens.
"Richard exudes a selfless attitude and lots of joyful, positive energy," said Barb Hungerford, executive director. "If you express amazement to him about all of his activities, he smiles with a twinkle in his eye and simply says, 'God is good.' That's Richard."
Richard received a kidney transplant three years ago, and the new life he received from his transplant is full and rich with service.
Kim Johnson came to Meals on Wheels in the summer of 2007, as a new member of the board of directors, with an attitude of offering her volunteer assistance wherever needed. Meals on Wheels found out quickly that Kim is usually one of the first volunteers to sign up to help at an event, and often stays later than her assigned time. She also stepped in less than a year into her tenure at Meals on Wheels to serve as secretary of the board of directors - a position she still holds today. Barrie Yochim, executive director, said Kim truly has a servant's heart.
"She works at Cummins and has helped organize an effort to get her fellow employees to wash our delivery vehicles each fall," he said. "This will be her fifth year washing our vehicles."
Kim's tireless efforts to serve meals and clean vehicles are just some of the reasons she has been named Meals on Wheels Volunteer of the Year.
Nicknamed "the checker" because of her tenacious attention to detail, Blanche Robbins is this year's YWCA Volunteer of the Year. Blanche's job involves maintaining files, processing incoming mail, and continuously checking information and cross referencing for accuracy in the YWCA's Child & Adult Care Food Program.
"Blanche has a meticulous eye for detail. She's worked hard to learn procedures of the program to become a valuable team player," said Nancy Pfeiffer, program director. "She's dedicated and consistent with program issues."
Blanche's daughter Pam also helps out from time to time. Both are considered a blessing to the program and to the staff who work there.
Holly Hannon was chosen by the Jamestown Area YMCA as its Volunteer of the Year because of her reliability and dedication. For two years Holly has taught cycling classes and has been a team leader for the Partner with Youth Campaign.
"Holly is known for her bubbly, effervescent personality. Always in a good mood, people are drawn to her like moths to a flame," said Meg Pickard, wellness director. "She wears something pink every day and her hair (usually in pigtails) is also accessorized in pink bands, bows and/or clips."
Holly consistently goes above and beyond the requirements of assigned duties to create well-structured, engaging classes with a friendly and inviting atmosphere. She has an excellent rapport with members and is well-liked and respected by the entire Y staff.
The United Way utilizes and mobilizes several valuable volunteers throughout the course of a year, but Carl Scarpino and Ron Kohl stood out above the rest in 2011. As co-chairs of the Retirees and Special Giving Team during the last couple campaigns, Carl and Ron have been instrumental in helping the United Way exceed its fundraising goals. Always armed with new ideas and an infectious smile, Carl and Ron brought a sense of charm and grace to the tireless task of fundraising.
"You could always tell when Carl and Ron walked into the building because the mood lifted dramatically," said Tori Irgang, United Way executive director. "These two not only lend their support to our fundraising efforts, they bring their friends to help with mailings and make hundreds of follow-up phone calls to donors. They have fun and work hard for the community. They are truly two-of-a-kind."