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2018 Celebrations: Meet the Honorees

gsa program logoState Celebrations and Appreciations

Three statewide recognition programs recognize the contributions of volunteers to Maine communities.

  • The Young Maine Volunteer Roll of Honor members (ages 18 and under) will gather on May 6 for a theater recognition event at the J. Duke Performing Arts Center with Penobscot Theatre Co.'s improv team. This event is sponsored by Freemasons in Maine and the Maine Commission for Community Service.
  • The Maine Volunteer Roll of Honor was published in the Bangor Daily News on April 17. The list of members can be VIEWED HERE
    They also gathered on April 17 for the Portland Sea Dogs' Volunteer Appreciation game. 
  • The 32nd Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism took place April 23 in the Hall of Flags at the State House. The Director of the Bureau of Human Services, Joyce Oreskovich, presented the awards. See profiles of the recipients below. EVENT PHOTOS HERE.

Thanks to all for your sevice!

Outstanding Nonprofit Volunteer Program 
Freeport Community Services

“Recognizes a non-profit organization (501(c)3), municipality, or government program that has made significant changes and improvements in the condition of the community as a result of their volunteer service.”

Freeport Community Services logo

Freeport Community Services (FCS) Services is a crucial pillar of the Freeport community. Since the organization’s establishment in the 1970s, volunteers have been the key to its success. Currently, with just 12 paid staff, FCS deploys 624 volunteers that contribute well over 27,000 hours annually. Last year this represented a fiscal contribution of $597,268. 

Each year over 2,500 individuals receive services and there are over 150 daily visitors to the center, which equates to 46,000 visits annually. Monthly, the food pantry alone assists 444 people. After more than 40 years, FCS continues its mission to address emerging community needs and volunteers are critical to the success of making this mission a daily reality.

Yet FCS is not an organization that only promotes the health and well-being of citizens by providing critical services like food, fuel, referrals, and other emergency assistance programs. FCS represents the best qualities of the way life should be in Maine: caring neighbors, a strong sense of community, and a focus on quality of life; all of which would not be possible without the dedicated team of volunteers that make the organization thrive.

 Volunteer of the Year
Howard Bliss, Brunswick

“Recognizes an individual who has provided significant service to his/her community through volunteerism and serves as a role model to the people in his/her community.”

howard bliss

Howard, of Brunswick, helped start what is now the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in the basement of his church 35 years ago. As the program grew over the years, he volunteered in every facet of the operation. Now, MCHPP handles 14,000 pounds of food donations and serves 6,000 meals each week. Every month volunteers donate 2,400 hours so the agency can support 1,000 families who do not have the means to purchase food. The number of lives Howard has impacted is countless.

Now at 85, Howard’s primary volunteer effort is in the food pantry. There he meets with clients, conducts intake interviews to establish eligibility, and documents the service they receive. Those who serve with him are impressed by his compassion and the way he listens to each person’s story. It is his unique ability to provide each client hope that sets Howard apart. His actions encourage those around him to perceive others in a more positive light and promote a sense of community and interconnectedness.

Youth Volunteer of the Year
Ruthie Gusler, Phillips

“Recognizes an individual under the age of 20 who has contributed to the life of someone in his/her community or to the improvement of the community through volunteer efforts.”

youth volunteer of the year

Ruthie, of Phillips, shows a tremendous amount of care and dedication for her community and fellow citizens at the young age of 11. She contributes to numerous initiatives that support veterans, food pantries, the environment, and children with special needs, as well as other youth. Contributing more than 120 volunteer hours each year, Ruthie always goes above and beyond, never doing just the minimum. She continuously asks how she can help and takes initiative to lend a hand.

Most recently Ruthie spent time volunteering at Special Olympics. She helped to set up and serve over 700 people. She also dedicates time to other events that help raise funds to fight cancer and that support organizations that assist veterans, like the Travis Mills Foundation. Furthermore, she played an instrumental role in raising funds and food items for the Ronald McDonald House. 

In every volunteer endeavor she undertakes she brings perseverance, strength, and heart.

Outstanding National Service Volunteer
Alex Schin, Ellsworth

“Recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and service over and above the requirements of their routine service assignments as a Senior Corps, AmeriCorps State/National, or AmeriCorps VISTA participant.”

national service volunteer of the year

Alex is an AmeriCorps VISTA who, over the past two years, has devoted 4,800 hours to serving residents of Downeast Maine from the Ellsworth-based Health Equity Alliance (HEAL). When Alex signed on for a term in VISTA, he only expected to devote a single year to service in Maine. Although a transplanted New Yorker, he became so committed to his assignment, he stayed twice as long.

At HEAL, Alex created solutions to the healthcare challenges of local residents.  The new services HEAL now offers as a result of his service are numerous. For example, HEAL now has a health insurance enrollment program that lowers the barriers clients face when finding appropriate health care plans. Alex also established a mental health department at the organization by facilitating the program’s successful application for a State of Maine Mental Health Agency License so the organization can provide crucial counseling. This year Alex is focusing on establishing a sustainable Free Clinic at HEAL’s Bangor office. The clinic will be a low-barrier provider of preventative and ongoing medical care for clients.

Exemplary Service Awards

This year the selection committee identified several nominees whose contributions to community and civic life isexemplary.

Outstanding Nonprofit Volunteer Program  
Girl Scouts of Maine is a volunteer-based nonprofit with locations across the State of Maine. With approximately 3,000 adult volunteers serving 489,000 hours annually, this organization is able to impact the lives of nearly 8,000 young girls every year. Through the dedication of the Girl Scouts’ volunteers, the organization shapes the future female leaders of Maine, the United States, and the world. The goal of the organization is to develop leaders who understand and value collaboration in a global society. They give troop members opportunities to discover who they are, their values, and connections with others both inside and outside the organization. This far-reaching impact would not be possible without the army of volunteers coaching and mentoring the thousands of girls every year.

Volunteer of the Year  
Sharon Dube, of Gray, has dedicated 17 years of service to Camp Sunshine in Casco. She is the lead counselor for children ages 6-8 who are affected by cancer and for adults during bereavement retreats. Within her leadership role she oversees other volunteers at the Camp working with children setting a strong example of compassion, empathy, and inner strength. Having experienced the loss of her own child from cancer, she is all too familiar with what families are experiencing when they arrive at Camp Sunshine. Not only has Sharon become an invaluable resource to many parents and their children struggling with illness, but she does so in a way that makes them feel at ease and comforted.

Outstanding National Service Volunteer
Colin Korlesky, of Lewiston, is serving as an AmeriCorps member with Goodwill of Northern New England through their Multilingual Leadership Corps at Lewiston Housing Authority. Through his service and mentorship he has touched the lives of nearly 400 children. He maintains a consistent presence in the lives of 20 who are his primary charge. 

Colin routinely goes above the minimum requirements of the Check & Connect mentor program, facilitating extracurricular computer, cooking, and sewing classes. By spending this extra time with his students he cultivates deeper connections with them, allowing him to observe nuances in each youth’s personality, needs, and strengths. Additionally, Colin has created strong connections outside of the school environment with community organizations, parents, and other familiy members.