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Four Awards Presented at the 32nd Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism Ceremony

Published April 24, 2018

Augusta, ME -- On Monday, April 23 Joyce Oreskovich, Director of the Bureau of Human Resources, presented the 32nd annual Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism in the Hall of Flags at the Maine Capitol Building.

Every year during or near National Volunteer Appreciation Week the Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism celebrate and recognize the exemplary work of Maine's most dedicated organizations, businesses, and citizens.   At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of those recognized. The winners are selected because their efforts and leadership have made a significant difference in the quality of life for Maine residents.

 

Howard Bliss received the Volunteer of the Year award. 35 years ago Howard started what is now the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in the basement of his church. 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 87, 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.

 

Ruthie Gusler was recognized as this year's Youth Volunteer of the Year. Ruthie, of Phillips, shows a tremendous amount of care and didcation 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.

 

Alex Schin was selected for the Outstanding National Service Volunteer award. 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.

 

Freeport Community Services received the Outstanding Nonprofit Volunteer Program award. FCS 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.


 

Additionally, Exemplary Service Awards were given to recognize the hard work and talents of 2 individuals and 1 organziation. These included Exemplary Volunteer of the Year Sharon Dube for her work at Camp Sunshine; Exemplary Outstanding National Service Volunteer, Colin Korlesky for his service to Goodwill NNE's Multilingual Leadership Corps; and Exemplary Nonprofit Volunteer Program Girls Scouts of Maine for their dedication to mentoring and coaching thousands of girls every year to be the next generation's leaders.

 

Also at the ceremony, the names of 457 individuals that were inducted to the 2018 Volunteer Roll of Honor were on display.  During the past year, each of these individuals contributed 500 hours or more to programs scattered from Caribou to Farmington to York. To view the full list click here: 2018 Volunteer Roll of Honor.

Many thanks to our sponsors Unum, Bangor Daily News, Portland Sea Dogs, and Bangor Letter Shop for helping make the event not only possible, but also a success!

The Maine Commission for Community Service (MCCS) manages the Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism on behalf of the Office of the Governor. MCCS builds capacity and sustainability in Maine's volunteer and service communities by funding programs, developing managers of volunteers, fostering adoption of high quality volunteer management practices, raising awareness of sector issues, and promoting service as a strategy.

Click HERE to view photos from the event!

For more information contact:
Cecily Cook
Planning and Research Associate
Maine Commission for Community Service
cecily.cook@maine.gov
207-624-7803