Celebrating Door County’s Golden Hearts

The parking lot was jammed in front of Stone Harbor in Sturgeon Bay on April 19, and inside, some 255 people enjoyed dinner and socializing before learning who among Door County’s many dedicated volunteers would receive the high honor of Volunteer of the Year within their category. 

The occasion was the 21st annual Golden Heart Awards celebration, sponsored by Wisconsin Public Service and coordinated by United Way of Door County. 

“It was a great turnout, and everyone seemed to have a great time,” said Kelly Hellmann, United Way’s director of operations. 

The awards celebrate volunteerism, raise awareness of local nonprofit voluntary programs, and honor volunteer opportunities and volunteers of all ages who have made a positive impact in and on Door County.

The Golden Hearts Awards committee members – Julie LaLuzerne, Lori Vorpahl, Tonya Felhofer and Kristin Jeanquart – evaluated the nominees on need, activity, initiative, achievement, impact and challenges. 

Here are this year’s Volunteer of the Year honorees in the different award categories:

Rebecca DenHollander: Adult Volunteer

Rebecca DenHollander. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

A Unity Hospice volunteer who is committed to making the community better by helping people in need at a very emotional and delicate time in their lives.

Also nominated: Bev Blietz, Jenny Brandenburg, Stephen Cox, Fred and Barb Frey, Roy Jilburg, John Koski, Bryan Mazur, Josephine McCarty, Bill Mundy, Bruce Shewchuk, Stephanie Skiba, Denise Stillman, Thomas Syme and Melissa Wolfe

The Northern Sky Tuesday Crew: Arts & Culture Volunteer 

The Northern Sky Tuesday Crew. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

The theater’s Tuesday Crew is a diverse group of volunteers with a wide range of talents and tools at their disposal to do whatever needs to be done around the theater, according to the nomination biography. The crew meets weekly year-round, contributing 1,200 volunteer hours per volunteer annually.

Also nominated: Kathy Rauch, Carrie and Peter Sherrill, and Chris Weidenbacher

Art Lutzke: Environmental Stewardship Award

Art Lutzke is presented the Environmental Stewardship Award. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

A Crossroads at Big Creek volunteer who is “always willing to help, happy to share his knowledge and serves as a fabulous role model for the young people who have the privilege of working with him.”

Also nominated: William Bauernfeind and Dave Zuhlke

Door County Housing Partnership Board of Directors: Group Volunteer

Housing Partnership Board. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

“The Door County Housing Partnership board of directors has donated thousands of hours of time to create a steady supply of permanently affordable housing for year-round residents.” 

The directors, not all shown and not in order, are president Jim Hong, Scott Bader, Amy Demain, Marissa Downs, Mariah Goode, Steve Kase and Sean Linnan.

Also nominated: Ann Smejkal and Mary Ellen Smith, Lakeshore CAP food-pantry volunteers, and Tug John Purves docents

Bethany Paye, Simone Sandoval and Elsa Schoeneman: Youth Volunteer Award Scholarship

Bethany Paye is a senior at Southern Door High School who has completed more than 250 volunteer hours during high school. She has volunteered with her church and for her school’s pit orchestra, sung Christmas carols at local nursing homes, and assisted with youth volleyball camps, math meets, craft fairs and school dances. 

Simone Sandoval is a senior at Sevastopol High School who has been inspired to pay it forward ever since she was 10 years old and her family received support from a local food pantry. She organized Parents’ Night Out, is a strong advocate for the Hispanic community and serves as a youth apprentice at United Way of Door County.

Elsa Schoeneman, a senior at Sturgeon Bay High School, believes that “volunteers are essential to the well-being of society.” She volunteers at Door-Tran each morning before school, assists with the Door Community Child Development Center’s winter fundraiser, and regularly volunteers with her church and for a Milwaukee nonprofit that assists youth in poverty. She’s also an assistant coach for One Wisconsin Volleyball Door County, a member of Future Business Leaders of America, secretary of the Key Club and a volunteer with the Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity’s annual Pi Day 5K.

Also nominated: Jaden Diller and Victoria Marchant

Gerald E. Richter: Lifetime of Service Award (The Karl May Award)

Gerald Richter passed away in December 2022, after being nominated for the award. Here, family members accept the award on his behalf. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Gerald E. Richter was a lifelong volunteer “who used his talents to help everyone he met,” and for particular organizations such as the Door County Maritime Museum, he had recently received a Lifetime Volunteer Award signed by President Biden in honor of his more than 5,000 hours of service to the museum. Richter’s volunteer work included painting murals, giving tours, organizing the Boathouse Sale, painting for fundraisers, singing in the church choir and preparing rooms for seasonal actors at Peninsula Players.

Also nominated: Tom Beerntsen, Laurie Chapman and Grace Fellner

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