RSVP: Outstanding Volunteers Recognized
From backpack meals to dogs helping with reading, from community theater to building homes, from repairing hospital equipment to delivering medications, from special events to mentoring, from driving patients to appointments or helping run a volunteer office, an RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) volunteer can be found lending a helping hand in Moore County.
Their tasks are as varied as the people and are tailored to the needs of those they serve. Each year RSVP honors a selection of volunteers nominated by their supervisors or peers. This year, 20 individuals and groups have been nominated for the 28th annual NC Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
From the 20 nominations, five have been chosen as recipients and will be honored by the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service and the Office of the Governor.
Locally, RSVP will recognize all nominees and awardees at a breakfast on Thursday, Oct. 19, 8:30 a.m., at the Country Club of Whispering Pines.
This year's theme is "Breakfast of Champions." Col. Bob Adams from the WIOZ 550 AM will emcee the program. Musical guests from Sandhills Teen Challenge will perform for those attending.
"The volunteers who are being recognized at the 'Breakfast of Champions' are from all walks of life and represent the best of the best when it comes to giving from the heart," says RuthAnne Murphy, RSVP director.
This year's nominees include:
-- Ellen Airs -- Airs is no stranger to Moore County residents. She uses her considerable talents to assist Habitat for Humanity in addition to several community groups where she and her husband, Lee, are often silent supporters for a variety of causes. "She is the heart and soul of volunteerism," says Elizabeth Cox in her nomination.
-- Nita Brunner -- Brunner has served the Moore County Literacy Council as a tutor, workshop presenter, bookkeeper, board member and chairperson of the annual Spelling Bee. "Nita has given unselfishly of her time and talents to help eradicate illiteracy in Moore County," Connie Landis says in her nomination statement.
-- Robert and Carol Dillman -- The Dillmans are a team who answer the call to help in emergencies for the American Red Cross. When they aren't assisting hurricane victims, they can be found helping with local Red Cross events. They have organized a Community Spanish class at Sandhills Community College for Red Cross workers to enable them to assist the Hispanic community, both in Moore County and during national disasters.
"We are proud to call them Red Cross volunteers," says Joan Poole, former director of the local chapter.
-- Marc Gratton -- Although Marc Gratton is wheelchair-bound, during the last 10 years he has given 3,087 hours of his time to FirstHealth Moore Regional hospital in a variety of services. He works two shifts a week. Cindy Strother nominated Gratton for his determination and support.
-- Judi Hewitt -- Hewitt is a multi-talented, multi-tasking volunteer. She does graphic design for the ads used in the playbills, does the posters, fields calls from the public, sells tickets and is generally a one-woman force for the Sandhills Theatre Company.
She also works fulltime for Whistle Stop Press. "Judi is a most unassuming and very modest individual who quietly goes about her business helping the community in a big way," Ellen Airs says in her nomination letter.
-- Jim Juett -- Juett began his volunteer service at FirstHealth in 1995. He has filled several roles during those 11 years, including wheelchair repair, mail room, patient escort, and driving the shuttle van. He covers a seven-county region for FirstHealth response to install and troubleshoot response units.
Jean Clark sees Jim as "the personification of the Greatest Generation."
-- William G. Kirk -- "Buck" Kirk is patient coordinator for District 7 Oasis Shrine Club of North Carolina, which includes seven counties. He acts as liaison between patients needing help and the Shrine Children's Hospitals. He covers a lot of territory helping others at his own expense.
"Our world would be a far better place if there were a few more men like Buck Kirk," says Douglas Smith.
-- Linda Piechota -- If something needs attention at the Moore County Extension and Community Association, Linda Piechota is the person to call. Her various roles during her 18 years with the association are so numerous that two pages of her nomination form were needed to list them. "Linda Piechota has provided exceptional leadership in Moore County," Carolyn Register says.
-- Daniel William Pieroni -- Pieroni provides various support services for patients and families of FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care. He visits patients and families, provides respite time for caregivers, provides transportation and runs errands.
While this is impressive, when his six months in Alaska is factored in, the amount of time, compassion and effort that Pieroni gives to hospice families is even more impressive. "We are truly blessed to have Dan as a volunteer," says Susanne Tyndall Martinez.
-- Lottie Rhoads -- Rhoads serves as an emergency room communicator at FirstHealth. She does everything from comforting families to keeping the unit organized.
In addition to her regular volunteer duties, Rhoads serves as an emergency room on-call volunteer to be available in case of a community disaster.
Kris Owens calls her "an asset to our department."
-- Esther Robinson -- Robinson has provided her special caring touch for five years for patients and families of FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care. She has accepted multiple assignments over the years.
Susan Tyndall Martinez notes that Esther's "unfailing and unwavering support and belief in our mission" have contributed greatly to the success of the program.
-- Ellen Roesler -- Roesler has been a math tutor for 12 years for the Moore County Literacy Council. She has assisted students who fear math in becoming more confident. She also assists those with a gift for numbers to reach new heights.
"She has a genuine interest in each of the pupils and has established a wonderful rapport with even the most troubled students," observes Pam Giambelluca.
-- Stanley Snyder -- Snyder serves as a guardian ad litem volunteer 10 to 15 hours a week. His training provides him with the information needed to advocate for the best interest of a child in the court system. He also speaks on the program to community groups.
Snyder's willingness to take on as many as 10 children at a time, to travel across the state as needed were highlighted by April Faircloth, supervisor.
-- Rebecca Vassallo and Luther Diablo Vassallo -- Rebecca and her dog, Luther, spend about 30 hours a week visiting schools encouraging both literacy and responsible pet ownership. They are a big hit with the classes they visit.
Linda Hubbard is enthusiastic in her praise of Rebecca and Luther: "Every visit the dynamic duo make is preceded by careful preparation to ensure a meaningful and memorable experience for the children."
-- Sister Mary Zeno -- Sister Zeno has served as volunteer at the St. Joseph of the Pines Health Center for 21 years. She is a patient companion in the rehabilitation unit, coffee hour hostess, and coordinates the Sunday Chapel/Mass services.
"Sister remains as committed to the care and wellbeing of the residents here as she was 21 years ago," adds Jeralie Andrews.
-- BackPack Pals -- BackPack Pals is new to Moore County. The program provides weekend meals for students in need by giving them a backpack to take home on Friday and return on Monday.
A legion of volunteers has joined Linda Hubbard, volunteer coordinator for Moore County Schools, and Tina Kissell, Administrator for Student Services, in stocking the backpacks as well as delivering and retrieving them. Teachers report a marked improvement in students receiving these backpacks.
Aberdeen Elementary was the first school to participate and when this school year began, all elementary schools are receiving backpacks.
"This new program and its team of volunteers are extremely worthy of recognition," notes Ann Robson.
-- Seven area builders participated in a Builders' Blitz June 2-11 to build 10 homes for Habitat for Humanity.
For a year before they began to build, each builder planned and organized support for the effort.
Participating builders were: Kevin Bartlett, Bartlett Construction LLC; Danny and Traci Adams, Daniel Adams Construction; Dennis Dunagan, Dunagan Builders; Pat Falvey, Falvey Homes, Inc; Steven and Mitchell Harris, Harris and Son Construction Co. Inc; Bill Hyman and Toby Johnson, Hyman and Johnson Construction, LLP; Wayne Haddock, Pinehurst Homes, Inc.
-- "Generations" volunteers at Sandhills Community College have been active since 1998. Volunteers help students in a number of academic areas. A typical semester will see more than 40 volunteers devoting an average of 35 hours a week to help 100 students.
Since the program began, 167 volunteers have helped 1387 students gain the knowledge to be a successful student at Sandhills.
-- The Gingerbread People is a group of volunteers who help needy students at Vass Elementary School. When they began, they concentrated on special occasions, but have grown to offer constant support to those who can benefit most.
Volunteers are frequently found on campus working with students and participating in community meetings assisting the school in its annual goals and priorities.
"There is one other very special nominee who will be announced at the 'Breakfast of Champions' on October 19th," says Murphy. "You'll have to wait until then to find out who our secret volunteer is."
Moore County RSVP is committed to supporting volunteerism in Moore County. It assists more than 30 non-profit agencies with recruiting, training, and recognizing their valuable volunteers. It also helps adults, age 55 or better, find ways to invest their time and energy in enjoyable, meaningful activities that not only benefit the community, but keep then active and productive citizens.
For more information on how you can put your skills to work to make a difference in Moore County, contact Murphy at 910-947-6395 or rmurphy@moore countync.gov.
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