National Volunteer Week

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 2, 2008

Organizations show appreciation to their biggest helpers

Since 1974, when National Volunteer Week was established by President Richard Nixon, organizations all over the country have used the time to honor and appreciate those who do so much for them throughout the year.

This week, at least two area groups made a special effort to say thanks to the volunteers who give back to the community by giving their time: the Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and volunteers for Gaineswood.

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Dr. DeMel Coleman of Tombigbee Geriatric Health perhaps put it best when speaking to the Auxiliary at their volunteer appreciation luncheon this week.

For many people, the term volunteerism means to give of oneself, whether it is time energy or expertise, to others. But for many volunteers it is just a way of life, or a certain character attribute that drives them to service.

The Auxiliary, for example, is 62 members strong, which is their largest volunteer group ever. Just this year they had 14 new members join.

But special recognition came when 47 of the members qualified for different levels of the President&8217;s Volunteer Service Award, an honor started in 2003 by the President&8217;s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Auxiliary members who had between 100-249 hours of volunteer service in the year were presented with a bronze award, which 31 members received.

Volunteers who had between 250-499 hours of service during the year were presented with a silver award, which 14 members received. Gold award winners, for 500 or more hours of volunteer service, were Alice Boggs and Kate Mutschler.

Boggs was also recognized with the President&8217;s Call To Service Award and lifetime achievement award for having more than 4,000 hours &8212; or two solid years &8212; of service. For extended dedication to the group, she was also named Volunteer of the Year.

At Gaineswood, volunteers were honored this week with an ice cream social, where the top volunteer of the year was Becky Willis with 248 hours of service.

According to Eleanor Cunningham, site director, the past year was a critical time for the site with the changeover in staff. To fill the void, volunteers had to step up to the plate, a task she said they all handled wonderfully.

In addition to countless hours running tours and helping to facilitate events at the site, the volunteers bring a very special dynamic to Gaineswood, which is an Alabama Historical Commission site, said Bruce Lipscombe, director of collections and interpretations.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at