28th Annual Event Recognizes 100 Dedicated Volunteers, Groups

Madison, WI (May 2, 2018) – Today, 100 nominees were recognized for what often goes unrecognized – exemplary service in volunteerism. They were honored at the 2018 United Way Community Volunteer Awards: Together in Hope, held at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club with more than 500 people in attendance. Eleven awards were presented to individuals, groups, businesses and organizations for having the greatest impact in volunteerism in our community.

The Community Volunteer Awards take the opportunity to highlight the enormous benefits volunteers bring to Dane County. Leading by example, the nominees and award recipients encourage everyone to engage in their community through volunteerism.

“Today we are celebrating the unsung heroes of our community…100 groups and individuals who are, in their own ways, fighting for the education, financial stability and health of everyone in Dane County,” said Renee Moe, President and CEO of United Way of Dane County. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community. We’re so grateful for their passion and energy that helps create meaningful change and strengthen families.”

“It’s so inspiring to learn about all the different ways people are engaged with our community,” said Nolan Brown, today’s event host and Co-Chair of United Way’s Capacity Building Team. “These volunteers lead by example, sharing their exciting, innovative ideas, which I know will make Dane County a better place.”

Keynote Speaker Jill Peterson, Corporate Social Responsibility Engagement Manager at Zendesk, added “Volunteering is so important because it connects the dots between people seeking to make a difference, and agencies and businesses who are working together to create change in a strategic way.”

In 2017, the 100 Community Volunteer Award nominees gave nearly 74,312 hours, which is an equivalent wage value of $1,713,643. That does not include the other 11,000 volunteers who provided an additional 328,000 hours of service to United Way partner agencies in support of United Way’s focus areas of Education, Financial Stability and Health. Winners received $250 to $1,000 to be given to the nonprofit at which they volunteer.

The Community Volunteer Awards would not be possible without the generous support from our presenting sponsor CUNA Mutual Group, supporting sponsor WPS Health Solutions and community sponsor Kwik Trip. Our 2018 media sponsors include WKOW TV and WORT 89.9 FM. We are also very thankful for our award sponsors: Business Volunteer Network, Dane County Administrators of Volunteer Services, and the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Fund in the United Way of Dane County Foundation. We are also thankful to Total Awards & Promotions, Inc., Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, Ascentives, Inc., Goodman’s Jewelers, Live Well Social Videos and Celebrations Entertainment for their in-kind support.

To find a volunteer project that is perfect for you, your family or company, visit VolunteerYourTime.org.

2018 Award Winners:

Goodman Gemstone Youth Award ($1,000 donation and $1,000 scholarship):
Isabella “Izzy” Zahn is a 5th grader from Cottage Grove who uses her photography talents to fulfill the wishes of critically ill children. She sells books that she’s created, of her photography, to raise money for Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. Izzy Zahn spends all her free time organizing fundraisers and selling her photography books at local stores or public events. In the past two years, she has raised more than $13,000 to sponsor two full wishes, including for one of her classmates who lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy to travel to Disney World. Izzy was nominated by 2 separate nominators – one of them says Izzy “has a drive and energy that is unmatched by most kids her age.”

Mike McKinney Award ($1,000 donation) (named for a longtime Madison newscaster, volunteer, mentor and Community Volunteer Award emcee, who passed away in 2006):
Mary Fulton has provided over 4,000 hours over the past 19 years advocating for and supporting families affected by the criminal justice system. Mary has been volunteering with Madison-area Urban Ministry since 1999, and was one of MUM’s first volunteers in the Family and Reading Connections program. She regularly travels to a local prison, taking children who have a mom incarcerated there to visit. Mary also helps incarcerated mothers record videos of themselves reading books, which she then shares with the kids back home. That’s not all. Mary has served on the MUM Board for the last nine years, as well as on numerous other committees. Mary’s work with MUM crosses every program area, from children who have an incarcerated parent, men and women returning from prison helping them rebuild their lives, and community advocacy. Her nominator says “In her quiet and consistent way Mary is changing lives and changing the conversation about how we care for and about people impacted by the criminal justice system.”

Community Volunteer Business Award ($1,000 donation):
Old National Bank is deeply committed to strengthening the community by putting values into action. Last year alone, 106 associates recorded over 2,400 volunteer hours across Dane County. Old National Bank provides up to 24 hours of paid time each year for employees to volunteer at a nonprofit during work hours. In addition to volunteerism, Old National Bank teaches financial empowerment courses that offer free trainings to individuals and organizations. In Dane County, Old National Bank is focused on the racial equity gap and disrupting the cycles of poverty. They work closely with 100 Black Men of Madison to support their core programs, such as Project SOAR, Christmas for Children with Responsibilities and First Day of School Greeters.

Community Volunteer Award ($1,000 donation):
Michelle Tong and Oona-Ife Olaiya, creators of C.A.M.P. Bayview, have spent the past year and a half developing a college and career advancement mentoring program that has been so successful, it will continue indefinitely. C.A.M.P. Bayview provides high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with tools to achieve academic and personal success. C.A.M.P. stands for “College/Career Advancement Mentorship Program.” Michelle and Oona-Ife, both students at UW-Madison, developed the program while volunteering as tutors at the Bayview Foundation. After tutoring for awhile they noticed that students would come in with various work or college applications asking for help on how to fill them out…so they developed a curriculum that helps students write resumes and talk about themselves in a professional way. Their nominator says “Since its inception, C.A.M.P. Bayview has helped students get started at Madison College. Most of these high school students had not considered college to be an option before meeting Michelle and Oona-Ife and attending this program.” Both are graduating and moving on soon, but C.A.M.P. Bayview will live on through a partnership with the Badgers Volunteer Program.

Community Volunteer Award (Lifetime Achievement) ($1,000 donation):
Linda Leggett has been described more than once and by more than one person as an angel.
In her nearly 40 years of service, she has enhanced the quality of life of countless Agrace HospiceCare patients and families. Linda is the longest-standing volunteer at Agrace HospiceCare. She has been volunteering there for 37 years, has officially logged over 1,000 hours, and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. She provides companionship and support to patients and families who are living with a life-limiting illness. She helps with housekeeping, provides transportation, and spends time with patients listening to music, reading, going on walks, playing games, and most importantly, listening. Her nominator tells us “I have personally seen Linda interact with our patients and each time she is gentle, patient and kind.”

Community Volunteer Youth Award ($500 donation and $500 scholarship):
7-year old Weston Hannan is fighting food insecurity in Dane County, particularly in his hometown of Sun Prairie. He is learning to be a farmer and growing crops to feed Dane County’s most in-need families – without actually living on a farm. Weston developed a love of farming while riding his bike through his family’s neighborhood. He would often stop and watch the farmers in a nearby field, and eventually formed a friendship with a local farmer. With support from the farmer and his parents, Weston learned to ride a tractor and grew as much corn as he possibly could. He then gave half the corn to local food pantries, and sold the other half, raising over $10,000 for charity. Sunshine Place in Sun Prairie received some of those funds and worked with Weston to create 1,000 “kindness bags” of healthy snacks that were given to kids in need. His nominator describes him as a “true emblem of a selfless youth who is pursuing his dream of feeding the world.”

Distinguished Service Nonprofit Award ($250 donation):
Friends of the State Street Family is a group of dedicated volunteers seeking to provide short term and long term solutions to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the Madison area, especially near the Capitol. Last year alone, their outreach teams went out to provide services to homeless individuals on 224 different nights. Friends of the State Street Family has more than 150 volunteers. Their mission is giving HELP and HOPE to Madison’s homeless. They partner with The Beacon and other agencies in order to connect vulnerable individuals and families to the services they need, while simultaneously raising awareness and advocacy for programs to alleviate homelessness in the first place.

Distinguished Service Award ($250 donation):
Diana Luethje was recognized for her volunteerism at Pregnancy Helpline Inc. Diana volunteers at Pregnancy Helpline’s Sharing Center three times per week, totaling around 30 hours per month. The Sharing Center is a pregnancy resource center where families can shop for free once a month for baby supplies. Diana works behind the scenes to help sort donations, get the center organized, pick up donations and so much more. Though she may not directly have contact with the clients they serve, she has made it possible for the center to provide resources for upward of 300 individuals a month.

Distinguished Service Award ($250 donation):
Ruth Robarts has been volunteering with Literacy Network since she retired from the UW School of Law in 2009. She has spent nearly 2,000 hours helping adult learners accomplish their goals to find better work, support their children in school and earn their U.S. citizenship. She has built a welcoming, supporting classroom environment for her students, and is the lead teacher for the U.S. Citizenship test preparation class. Her nominator says “her students adore her friendly and direct classroom management style. She plans appropriate and engaging experiential lessons.” She cares deeply about her students and their families and is making Madison a better place every day.

Distinguished Service Award ($250 donation):
Bus Buddy Coordinators of RSVP of Dane County, Inc. is a group of four volunteers who give 120 hours per month helping people get where they need to go. If you’ve never taken the Madison Metro Bus before, it can feel overwhelming and intimidating, especially if you’re an older or disabled adult. The Bus Buddy Coordinators give participants the tools and confidence they need to navigate the bus system and engage in our community. They have organized and trained groups from each side of town to take the buses together to various destinations where all the groups meet to enjoy museums, libraries, senior centers, gardens and lunches together.

Distinguished Service Award ($250 donation):
Marlene and Ray Salas have been volunteering with the Catholic Multicultural Center since 1996. Marlene and Ray are currently the lead volunteers for the Catholic Multicultural Center’s Thursday food pantry. They help distribute food to as many as 25 families per week. They help keep the pantry stocked and organized, and chat with guests as they go through the pantry. Another big thing they do is package boxes of food and distribute to people in rural areas where food pantries are not as accessible. Their nominator says “Marlene and Ray have a combination of longevity and dedication that is unmatched by almost any other CMC volunteer.”


About United Way of Dane County:

United Way of Dane County fights for the education, financial stability, and health of everyone in Dane County. Through strategic partnerships and collaborative work, United Way brings the many voices of Dane County together to find common ground, develop a strategic architecture for change, and make measurable progress, while engaging organizations and individuals with the opportunity to give, advocate and volunteer to change lives in Dane County.