Lori Vorpahl insists that she receives much more than she gives while carrying out her many volunteer duties for several area organizations. Last April, Vorpahl was on the receiving end of one very special thing that she didn’t expect to get: the Volunteer of the Year honor at the Volunteer Center of Door County’s annual Golden Heart Awards.
“I was so shocked because I certainly don’t think I deserve it,” she said. “There are plenty of people around [who] do amazing things.”
Carrie Tjernagel, then-executive director of the Volunteer Center, said that Vorpahl embodies the spirit of volunteerism. “I like to refer to Lori as a ‘professional volunteer,’” Tjernagel said. “She gives so much of her time to so many different organizations, and she is so passionate. I don’t think Door County would be the type of place that it is without volunteers like her who are so passionate and so giving of their time. Our volunteers make Door County a special place.”
Vorpahl discovered just how special the county is 10 years ago when she came to Sturgeon Bay from Florida. “Best thing I ever did,” she said. “I just love it here.” Vorpahl arrived in the area equipped with an unusual skill set: not only was she a trained dental hygienist, but she had also owned a construction company.
Vorpahl quickly put those skills to good use, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, HELP of Door County, Leadership Door County and the Boys and Girls Club of Door County.
In particular, it was at the Boys and Girls Club where Vorpahl’s special talents came together. “Lori does so many things for us, but her biggest role for me is that she is on our Facilities Committee,” said Julie Davis, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club. “She was a contractor in Florida, and with her building skills, it was great. We had a big building renovation going on and an addition to our lobby on the side, and she worked …. Our Facilities Committee probably did $150,000 work of physical work, and she was right there helping.”
Vorpahl also designed and refurbished the staff kitchen at the Boys and Girls Club, and she picked out the colors and did the color design for all of the rooms in the building. “She is awesome,” Davis said.
Vorpahl also puts her building background to use by participating in the Boys and Girls Club’s Tool Time. “The purpose is to help girls become interested [in] and comfortable with power tools and working with their hands,” Davis said. “Lori helped them build flower boxes and bird houses. A strong female role model using power tools, showing the girls that it’s good to get out there and that they can do it.”
Vorpahl also puts her dental-hygiene background to good use by providing dental-health programs at the Boys and Girls Club. “Our kids just love her,” Davis said. “She’s just the sweetest person in the world. And she does all of this while she is being a wonderful wife, a wonderful friend to all of us — and she’s also finishing up a college degree. She is an amazing, amazing woman. Just fun and humble and smart and sweet. She’s just the best!”
The always-humble Vorpahl demurs when told of that effusive praise, quickly shifting the accolades to her fellow volunteers instead. “The people [whom] I’ve met are amazing. Everybody that I’m friends with are volunteers,” she said. “I would say my heart is so full.”
As is her schedule. Vorpahl is in her last semester before graduating with a degree in human development. “I just love children so much,” she said. Now Vorpahl is trying to figure out whether she can spare the time to get a master’s degree, but one thing is clear: “I don’t want to give up my volunteering,” she said.
Although Vorpahl was shocked and “a little embarrassed” by receiving the Golden Heart Award, she was also very honored. “I am so lucky to volunteer …. It just feels so good,” she said. “It’s so amazing, and you see results, and you’re surrounded by amazing people. Volunteering is the greatest thing in the world.”