Program recognizes volunteer contributions

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By Cheryl Jacob

County officials turned out Thursday to honor hundreds of volunteers who contribute their time and enthusiasm to keep their community running smoothly, to the tune of more than $2.5 million.

The annual recognition celebration of Nature Coast Volunteer Center and Retired & Senior Volunteer Program carried the theme “Volunteers: Exceptional People, Extraordinary Hearts,” with heart-shaped confetti and chocolates adorning the tables of Central Ridge Community Center.

Laurie Diestler, NCVC supervisor and RSVP project coordinator, introduced officials in attendance: Citrus County Commissioners Joe Meek, J.J. Kenney and Rebecca Bays; County Attorney Richard Wesch; County Administrator Brad Thorpe; and Assistant County Administrators Cathy Pearson and Ken Frink.

“It’s because of individuals like yourselves and many more that we are able to get through the difficult times,” Meek said as he thanked attendees.

Following a presentation of colors by VFW Post 10087 and invocation by Meek, pianist Victoria Suhr entertained the crowd during lunch. Members of the NCVC staff circulated among the tables gathering initials of the attendees on heart-shaped stickers, to add to the large poster board commemorating the annual event.

Boards from prior years hang on the walls at Citrus County Resource Center near Beverly Hills, displaying the names and initials of volunteers who attended each luncheon. Established in 2000, NCVC is supported through grants by the Corporation for National & Community Service, so no county funds were used to provide the food or the goodie bags given to attendees.

 “On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, we appreciate your volunteerism,” Thorpe said. “That’s what makes this community a great place to live, because we know each other, we care about each other.” 

Scott Marcus, director of the Senior Companions program with the Department of Elder Affairs in Tallahassee, gave special recognition to his volunteers. Since July 1, 2012, he said, 13 volunteers in Citrus County provided more than 8,000 hours of service as companions to elderly residents.

The program offers transportation to medical appointments, shopping assistance, meal preparation and advocacy, as well as respite to caregivers of frail elders.

Three of those 13 were honored with certificates of appreciation and gift bags at Thursday’s luncheon for each providing more than 10 years of service: Hugh Gragen, Carol Lunsford and Gail Durand.

More than 50 members of Nature Coast Volunteer Center received recognition and pins for their years of service at Thursday’s annual luncheon.

After battling a feedback-laden PA system, commissioner Kenney drew on his military background to call out the names of the five-year and 10-year pin recipients present.

Commissioner Bays joined Kenney to announce four NCVC members with 15 years of service, and two with 20 years.

Chairman Meek presented certificates to seven NCVC volunteers achieving the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a program begun in 2002 to “thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.” 

These awards go to volunteers who have given at least 4,000 hours in service during their lifetimes. NCVC’s Diestler told the history of each honoree when called up to the front:

* Ruth Bacon.

* Shirley Dube.

* David Frost.

* Linda Harnage.

* Particia Price.

* George Scalzi.

* Nancy Wessel.

Heidi Blanchette, operations manager for Citrus County Housing Services and president of Friends of The Nature Coast Volunteer Center of Citrus County Inc., spoke about the Friends group that supports the volunteer center.

“All of you here today serve one central commitment,” she said, “improving lives.”

To learn more about NCVC and RSVP, call 352-249-1275, email ncvc@bocc.citrus.fl.us or visit www.naturecoastvolunteercenter.org.

The group also hosts a monthly “Opportunity Links” program at the Citrus County Resource Center to spotlight some of the 100 organizations it supports.

* 706 volunteers.
* 117,563 hours.
* Valued at $2,561,694.

More than 50 members of Nature Coast Volunteer Center received recognition and pins for their years of service at Thursday’s annual luncheon.
* Five years
> Ann Bricker
> Robert Bricker
> Sylvia Decker
> Joseph Dube
> Arlyce Duffield
> Robert Duffield
> Raymond Finnerty
> Steffi Finnerty
> Ellen Frank
> Rebecca Gibson
> Brian Lampe
> John Marshall Jr.
> Sue McCollough
> Paulette Meigs
> Paulette Noel
> Sharon Paup
> Alan Peterson
> Patricia Price
> Mary Jane Romano
> George Scalzi
> Thomas Six
> Jean Van Valin
> Eunice Vitale
> Joanne Wassell
* Ten years
> Rose Bryan
> Mildred Calzaretta
> Albert Carlson
> Shirley Crews
> Frank Delucia
> Mary Ann DeSimone
> Pete Dobbs
> Nina Farewell
> Paul Gadke
> Ann Gallina
> Barbara Harmon
> Harold Hayes
> Mary Hayes
> Barbara Klug
> William Klug
> Terry McMillan
> Robert Mott
> Norman Peterson
> Barbara Rezac
> Jan Squires
> Doris Weber
> Betty Whittle
* Fifteen years
> Grace Arman
> Joan Berardi
> Thomas Berardi
> Charles Cerase
* Twenty years
> Marcie Patton
> Robert Roberts