A longtime Stillwater union activist, a Forest Lake day care helper and a Woodbury high school student have been recognized for their outstanding contributions as volunteers in Washington County.
Also receiving an award was an entire group, the Day Out! Volunteers at FamilyMeans in Stillwater. Volunteers provide respite for caregiving family members coping with chronic health problems, including early to mid-stage memory loss.
The collective volunteer services through Community Thread are valued at $3.7 million a year in the county, Valerie Jones, the organization's executive director, said during a recent presentation to the County Board.
"There's dollars and cents to this, but what's priceless is the passion and compassion," Commissioner Gary Kriesel said after the ceremony at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater.
• Receiving the Lifetime Volunteer Award was Jerry Serfling of Stillwater, a retired union organizer. He volunteered on the board of directors for the United Way of Washington County-East for 12 years. He coordinates the annual delivery of the United Way Homefronts to community locations each fall for the United Way campaign. He also helps coordinate the letter carriers food drive in May and assists the monthly Fare for All food program in Lakeland.
Serfling organized the Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Program for minority students from union families 26 years ago. He remains on the State University board of directors and is active with River Valley Action, a community based group that provides informational meetings that support progressive values that involve local or state issues. He also finds time to do what he refers to as "Grandpa care" with his grandchild by picking him up from school one day a week and helping him with his homework.
• The winner of this year's Outstanding Volunteer Award is Chelsie Moore of Forest Lake, who has volunteered with Solid Ground (formerly East Metro Women's Council) and providing day care assistance and tutoring help for children who live there.
Moore is studying microbiology and anatomy at Century College. She wants to become a physician's assistant or a recreational therapist. She tutors three days a week, then often stays longer to provide child care for Solid Ground's residents as they attend night classes. Moore also volunteers at her niece's school for special events including the science fair, movie nights, book fairs and picture day. Her favorite volunteer experience happened one day when a 4-year-old girl asked her to be her best friend.
• Shawn Ramberg of Woodbury received the Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award for his work as a Play Team Youth Leader at the Minnesota Children's Museum. He also has volunteered at the Community Youth Council of Washington County South, where he provided day care and kid-friendly activities.
His grandmother lives in Japan, and while he visits during the summer, he also volunteers as a camp counselor at the nature-oriented Japanese Youth Camp in Nagano.
• The Outstanding Group Award went to Day Out! volunteers at FamilyMeans. Day Out! began in July 2011. Nominated by their supervisor, volunteer coordinator Margaret Irwin, the Day Out! volunteers take turns planning the theme for each day, ranging from seasonal themes to a presidents' parade or Election Day theme. They prepare coffee and treats, set up board games, and coordinate craft activities. On any given Friday, about 12 volunteers assist "friends" who arrive to spend the day.
"Not only do the clients benefit from a change of scenery and routine, but Day Out! is a much-needed support service for the caregiver," said Lorrie Etter, one of the group's volunteers. "It allows them the opportunity to go to appointments, shopping or just be home taking a break from the caretaker role."
Community Thread is a nonprofit human service agency operating in Washington County and western Wisconsin. Community Thread programs include the Stillwater and Bayport senior centers, the Volunteer Center, Transportation, Medical Reserve Corps and the Holiday Bureau. For information on Community Thread programs, contact Valerie Jones at 651-439-7434.