Editor's Note: This is the first in a four-part series recognizing United Way's "Volunteers of the Year" as part of National Volunteer Week.
This week is National Volunteer Week, and the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County and its partner agencies are jointly recognizing the dedication of local residents to make the community a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Allegheny Highlands Council BSA is honoring Edward Schroeder for 10 years of service. A regular handyman, Schroeder helps the council with projects around the office. From putting together bookshelves, to fixing chairs - no task is too mundane for Schroeder to tackle.
Edward Schroder and grandson Andrew Jankowski, a Bear Cub in Depew.
Senior District Executive Wayne Schuver said, "Ed is the kind of person that you can count on any time. He's just a phone call away, if you need him, he'll be there."
A retired schoolteacher, Schroeder has been involved in scouting since his youth and has plenty of stories to share, when he's not busy fixing things.
Charlie Meder and his recently deceased wife Donna have been dedicated volunteers for more than 15 years at the American Red Cross. Whether it's driving the Emergency Response Vehicle to Louisiana, delivering the Red Cross supply trailer to local shelters, or responding to single-house fires at 2 a.m., Meder is committed to sharing his time and energy to those in need.
"Both Charlie and his late wife were recognized as our Chautauqua County Volunteers of the Year for the Red Cross," said Bill Tucker, executive director. "Their commitment and dedication were constantly on display, and they did whatever was asked of them without question."
For this reason and many more, Charlie and Donna Meder are this year's Volunteers of the Year for the American Red Cross.
For the past five years, Dan Maloney has volunteered to coach and referee at the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown. His level of commitment and flexibility is unmatched. Physical education instructor Mike Gerdy said Maloney has been the most dependable, professional and charismatic coach they've had the pleasure of working with at the club.
"Dan has a great understanding of how best to instruct our youth in a competitive atmosphere while appreciating that our focus is having fun, not simply winning," Gerdy said. "I know his patience and leadership have helped me in my first year of running the sports leagues."
Whether coaching from the sidelines or blowing the whistle from the court, Maloney exemplifies what youth athletics should be all about.
Joseph "Joe" Bender was selected by CBA Vision Rehab Services as their Volunteer of the Year because of his efforts with preschool vision screening. For the past four years, Joe has been a rock in volunteering his time to the program, said Priscilla Shoup, blindness prevention coordinator
"Whenever called upon, Joe is ready, willing, and able. I can tell he's enjoying being in the preschool classrooms around the young children and his assistance is very much appreciated," Shoup said.
Described as cheerful and never a complainer, Bender exemplifies self-sacrifice and truly embodies the volunteer spirit.
These volunteers and more were recently honored at the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County's Volunteers of the Year reception held at the Lillian V. Ney Renaissance Center. As part of this celebration, United Way was proud to announce a new web resource to help connect individuals with volunteer opportunities. The website, www.volunteerwny.org, is being launched in partnership with other local United Ways and The Service Collaborative of WNY Inc. Nonprofits are able to create organizational profiles and post volunteer opportunities at no cost. Individuals can then search for something that fits their schedule and fuels their passion for helping others.
"We are very excited about VolunteerWNY," said Tory Irgang, UWSCC executive director. "This site provides another option for those thinking about getting more involved in the community, but not sure where to start. We are looking forward to being able to reach more people with this resource and doing a better job of tracking the level of volunteerism in our community."
In conjunction with the New York state Volunteer Generation Program, New Yorkers Volunteer and the Corporation for National & Community Service, VolunteerWNY serves as the hub for volunteer activity for Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. VolunteerWNY is an initiative to promote volunteerism across the region.
According to recent census data, New York state ranks 51st out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in volunteer activity. Startled by this statistic, New York State's Commission on National and Community Service established a goal to strengthen our volunteer spirit. The objective of this initiative is to place one million people in meaningful roles as volunteers to address important needs in communities across the state.
To maximize the impact of volunteers, the state commission established a network of 10 volunteer connector agencies to serve as Regional Volunteer Centers, which provide critical training and resources to expand the capacity of local volunteer organizations.
For more information, visit volunteerwny.org.