FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Five volunteers were honored by the Council of Churches of the Ozarks and City of Springfield as Volunteers of the Year at the annual Gift of Time Awards Luncheon today at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. Twenty-two others – including a dog – were recognized at the luncheon.
Nominated by various nonprofit, public, and service organizations, the five Volunteers of the Year included Joe Hills, Carolyn Holdren, Mark Priebe, John Willis and Yolanda Taylor. Honorees were selected from a pool of nominations based on their unique volunteer efforts and time donated. Of these nominees, Joe Hills was drawn as the recipient of a $1,000 donation to benefit the charity of his choice. All nominations were judged by an impartial team of business and civic leaders.
Since 1991, the City of Springfield and the Council of Churches have partnered to recognize exemplary volunteers. All nominees are invited to attend, with the Volunteers of the Year award recipients’ names announced at the luncheon.
In addition to being honored, Volunteers of the Year are awarded handmade blown-glass awards from Springfield Hot Glass and have their portraits on display in the Rosanna Bradshaw Memorial Wall of Fame at the Busch Municipal Building – a wall specifically created for Gift of Time Volunteer of the Year Award recipients.
The 2017 Volunteers of the Year and their nominating organizations are:
Joe Hills, nominated by Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation
Hills dedicates his time to working on dropout prevention with area elementary youth, educates people in poverty about their legal rights as a tenant, thereby preventing countless evictions and episodes of homelessness and cares for all in the community wanting success for every person regardless of age or economic status. For nine years, he has partnered with Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC).
During the 2016-2017 school year, he assisted 458 children through interactive curriculum giving them exposure to career awareness to increase their school achievement and reduce dropout rates. The children walk away excited after Hill works with them, and we are excited too.
Carolyn Holdren, nominated by Campbell United Methodist Church
Holdren has made an impact with her community service work through a variety of volunteer positions from Bill’s Place, Rare Breed Youth Outreach Center, and Campbell United Methodist Church. Through her passion to provide food and supplies to Rare Breed, she has been able to get her congregation connected to the cause allowing her outreach to expand. She thinks of others first, offering her selfless service with no other expectation of compensation or recognition. When she sees a need, she does all she can to meet that need. Her energy is contagious and she creates a culture of compassion everywhere she goes!
Mark Priebe, nominated by Springfield-Greene-County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications
Priebe is an officer of the Springfield Police Department and has given selflessly of his time to Special Olympics Missouri since 2008. He continues to give his own time to further the initiative for those with disabilities. He has impacted so many athletes’ lives with his constant willingness to always give of himself for them. He seeks donations and corporate sponsors year-round to help our athletes and provide them every opportunity available. The athletes love him, and he loves what the athletes bring to him in return: sense of pride and a smile. This volunteer not only makes a difference in our community, but in the lives of all the athletes across Missouri! In 2016, he gave over an estimated 520 hours of his time to assist our region.
John Willis, nominated by Isabel’s House
Willis has made an immense impact on the children and the entire team at Isabel’s House over the past year, not only with his gift of time, but also with his gifts of compassion, encouragement, positivity, and flexibility. He has logged over 250 hours of service with Isabel’s House since starting in March 2016, and has become increasingly involved as his love of Isabel’s mission has flourished. In fact, of the 939 volunteer hours given by 40-plus active volunteers so far in 2017, this nominee accounts for 118 of them, all while also serving as president of the MSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity and carrying a full 18-hour class load!
Willis has willingly taken on the volunteer coordinator role at Isabel’s House largest annual fund raiser and assists the leadership team to improve the organization’s volunteer training and logging processes. Everything he does is done with creativity and zeal, a testament to his aspirations to a career in the nonprofit sector.
Yolanda Taylor, nominated by Grant Beach Neighborhood Association
Over the last eight years, Taylor has served as a coach, an official, an organizer and most of all, a mentor to over 800 kids a year through the Grant Beach Sports League, which offers an opportunity for kids ages 3-12 to play baseball and soccer for a very low cost. Her willingness to step up and take responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the league has been a godsend to this totally volunteer ran organization.
She is the coach that once kids have her, they never want to play for anyone else. She is awesome at coaching kids of all ages and communicates well with the parents. Everyone sees her as fair and a great mentor for the kids and parents as well as other coaches. She first became involved with the sports program when her kids were playing and even though they have all aged out she has stayed involved because she recognizes the importance of team sports not only from her kids’ experience but from the perspective that we always need to provide low-cost opportunities for kids who might not otherwise be able to participate in organized sports. Her dedication to this program has been outstanding!
Of these nominees, Joe Hills was drawn as the recipient of a $1,000 donation to benefit the charity of his choice.
The other 22 nominees for the 2017 Gift of Time Awards are:
- Chris Barnhart, nominated by Friends of the Garden and The Springfield Botanical Gardens
- John and Sandy Betts, nominated by Cheri Meyer
- Marci Bowling, nominated by Junior League of Springfield
- Irwin Cohen, nominated by Rotary Club of Southeast Springfield
- Janis Creek, nominated by Elise Crain
- Judy Denney, nominated by Convoy of Hope
- Carolyn Farrar, nominated by United Way of the Ozarks
- Demita Gookin, nominated by Becky Volz
- Glenn Green, nominated by Habitat for Humanity
- Vreni Jones, nominated by OTC-Adult Education and and Literacy
- Lauren Kleemann, nominated by Rachel Kleemann
- Norm Knowlton III and Lucy, nominated by Cox Health
- Sue Krebs, nominated by The Victim Center
- Anita Kuhns, nominated by Katie Webb and Kathy Lutz
- Terry Lawrence, nominated by Victory Mission
- Sundy Muse, nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks
- Curtis Norman, nominated by Mercy Hospital
- Steven Ratliff, nominated by Cox Health
- Lisa Slattery, nominated by Fred Schlegel
- Alexandra Smalley, nominated by Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield.
All the nominees, Volunteer of the Year recipients or not, are true examples of what it means to be a citizen that selflessly gives their time and energy to help those around them.
For more information, please contact: The Rev. Mark Struckhoff, executive director, Council of Churches of the Ozarks at 862-3586 ext. 223 or [email protected].org.