Volunteer Awards

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The Barry County United Way & Volunteer Center held its 2014 Volunteer Awards on Thursday, April 10 honoring residents within Barry County who have given so generously of their time and talent for the benefit of the community.

Volunteers truly impact our community in a powerful way. Without volunteers, many of the programs and services offered to the residents of Barry County would not continue. In the past year alone, over 2,100 volunteers donated their time throughout Barry County. According to the Independent Sector, one hour of volunteer service equals $22.14. That means that in 2013 Barry County residents donated over $162,729.00 to our community through volunteerism. The Barry County United Way & Volunteer Center plays an important role in encouraging, promoting, and providing the connecting link for individuals who desire to engage in volunteerism in our community.

The theme of this year’s event was based on Dr. Suess’ The Lorax. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” Morgan Johnson, Volunteer Center Director, quoted from the popular book. She went on to say “You hold the power to make a difference in our community; you have chosen to commit yourself to doing good in Barry County; you are we are recognizing; and you are who will now have the opportunity to create positive change.”

Johnson acknowledged the great work that all of the nominees were doing in our community and thanked them for their service. The night recognized 9 volunteers, or groups, who are caring a whole awful lot for this in Barry County.

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The Volunteer of the Year award honors an individual who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to community involvement and volunteer service. This year’s Volunteer of the Year award went to Courtney Ziny for her ongoing work with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. She assists in the tax preparation, educated residents about the Earned income Tax Credit and talks to them about financial stability. This year alone, she and her sister have worked with over 150 Barry County residents. She is truly creating positive change right here in our community.

The Volunteer Center realizes the impact that youth have on our community and the Youth Volunteer of the Year award recognizes a youth, or group of youth, under 18 years old who are taking action to make our community a better place. This year’s Youth Volunteer of the Year is Melia Timm who has chosen to give her time to helping Historic Charlton Park run smoothly through her work with many different office tasks, events, and preservation efforts. Through her work, she is allowing the staff at Charlton Park to focus more on their own work as they know that Melia has things handled.

The Outstanding Mentor Award honors an individual who has made a significant impact in someone’s life by being a mentor, giving of themselves personally month after month, year after year. This year’s Mentor of the Year is Randall Bertrand who was recognized for his commitment to helping youth at the Hastings Skate Park. For the past 8 years he has connected with youth and helped talk them through real life issues like filling out a job application, getting a job, helping youth go back to school and just taken the time to sit down a listen to them. Johnson said, “Randall is a great asset to our community and I know that he will continue his amazing work for many more years to come.”

In each organization there is typically one person who has been volunteering their time and energy year after year. The Continuing Service Award recognizes the long-term volunteer who has made an impact in an organization for at least five years. This year the award went to Callie Courtright who is a part of the sisterly team which helps to provide free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Over the past 7 years, she has personally donated over 1,000 hours and assisted nearly 500 clients with their tax returns.

The Community Health Award is designed to honor those who volunteer to help make our community a healthier place for all. This year’s winner was Lorrie Blair who volunteers her time in so many different ways at Thornapple Manor. She is often seen helping with BINGO, taking residents to listen to music, making baby sweaters for the gift shop, planning fundraisers and so much more. Johnson said, “We cannot even begin to list all of the amazing things that Lorrie is doing at Thornapple Manor; we would get out of breath very fast!”

The Volunteer Center recognizes that groups are a powerful tool in volunteering and often go the extra mile for those in Barry County. A group can make a large impact when all working together toward a shared goal in their community. The group that was honored is a collaboration of individuals who have answered the call in assisting our residents when their day has turned bad. The Barry County Victim’s Services Unit helps whenever highly traumatic incidents occur. They are there to comfort and support, provide a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean against. They were honored for being the ones who are there when someone in our community needs a little extra support during a rough time.

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Going along with this year’s theme, there were a few extra awards that the Volunteer Center presented.

Johnson reminded the group “Don’t forget – Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” She went on to say that the “Unless Someone Like You” award recognized Tom & Judy Borgman for their long time work with the Meals on Wheels program at the Commission on Aging. They are committed to their volunteer work and always go above the call of duty to make sure that our seniors are taken care of.

The last award was the “Keeper of the Truffula Seeds” award which went to Dave Reynolds who volunteers his time at Thornapple Manor. He was honored for the compassion and care that he gives to all of the residents at the facility. He helps wherever needed and often takes it upon himself to find different ways to help out. Johnson added that “Dave is caring for a seed so precious – he is taking care of every last seed at Thornapple Manor.”

Johnson wishes to thank all who were nominated for their amazing work in Barry County through volunteer service. You are truly an amazing group with the power to make a difference in the lives of those in our community. A special thank you to all of the organizations who nominated the volunteers, to those businesses who sponsored the event, and to the Walldorff for helping put together a great event.