The first thing I hear when we want to recognize volunteers is “Oh, no…not me. I really don’t do that much. I just help where I can.” That’s the thing about volunteers. They minimize their importance because they truly believe that they’re not doing enough! Volunteers volunteer because they care. They care about the people that they are serving and the agencies that are trying to make a difference. But as a community, we want to thank these people for the incredible work that they are doing and share their inspirational stories; we want to know more about them as individuals and thank them for their incredible service.
So, each April, the Golden Heart Volunteer Celebration is held to do just that. Hundreds of volunteers gather to be recognized, along with the agencies they serve, so that we can thank these caring souls for the countless hours that they give. The “Golden Heart” is awarded to individuals and groups that exemplify this caring and giving spirit, although every nominee is most worthy of the award.
Last year, 27 individuals and groups were nominated for the Golden Heart Award in five categories: Adult, Arts & Culture, Group, Youth and Lifetime of Service.
Gina Wautier, winner of the Adult Golden Heart, was honored for her volunteer management position with the Family Centers of Door County. Because of the financial burdens of the Family Centers, Gina chose to take on the director role as a volunteer, so that the family events that the center provides could continue. She attributes her passion for volunteering to her late parents who spent countless hours raising funds for community projects.
Steve Graf, winner of the Arts & Culture category, was actually nominated for his work with two organizations – Isadoora Theatre Company and the Third Avenue Playhouse. Steve is a “Jack of all trades” who volunteers to construct and design sets, sews costumes and even upholsters furniture.
The group award winner was Leadership Door County for their educational series designed to train and enhance the leadership skills of individuals in our community. Each LDC class takes on a “class project” intended to benefit our community for years to come. (The Volunteer Center was actually a class project back in 1992-93.)
Matthias Olson was awarded the Youth Golden Heart for his work with the Red Cross Blood Drives as well as his involvement with “God’s Global Barnyard,” a project that raises money to send farm animals to impoverished families in third world communities.
Gloria Dernbach was awarded the prestigious “Lifetime of Service” award for the hundreds of hours she has volunteered with Neighbor-to-Neighbor Volunteer Caregivers. From serving on the board of directors to being a peer companion to their clients, Gloria continues to see needs and finds a way to fill them. Gloria is an incredible example of a “Golden Heart” as her belief is “I’m already doing this for one person, what’s one more?”
This year, the Volunteer Center celebrates 20 years of service to the Door County community. Since 2003, 306 individuals and groups have been recognized as Golden Heart Nominees. Through the Golden Heart Award recipients, 46 Door County Agencies have been awarded $39,000 and $1,500 has been given in academic scholarships.