Celebrate volunteers!

Written by The SAFE Alliance

By: Katie Grimmer, SAFE Volunteer

It goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway), SAFE wouldn’t be what it is today without the volunteers!

In its second year after the merger, the SAFE Volunteer Celebration outdid itself in decorations, food, and especially awards by traveling around the world in two hours. Whoever said it takes 80 days never met the celebration committee’s decoration mastermind, Mary Champagne.

The team transformed the community room into a traveler’s paradise, complete with hot air balloons flying in the air as (paper) airplanes sliced through the clouds. Maps of the world lined the walls. Globes were hiding in the corners. A mini-suitcase set greeted the travelers at the door.

And in the back of the room was a photo booth ready to take your passport photos with an array of backgrounds for your traveling desires: Paris, London, New York, a graffiti wall from 1980s Los Angeles.

And the food!

Of course, there was the diverse culinary experience. Travelers could go to the Mediterranean for dulmas, hummus, and olives. Next, a stop in Vietnam for pork, chicken, or tofu bahn mi. With a hop, skip, and boat ride, they were in Mexico for tacos and churros dipped in chocolate.

Take a short trip to South America for the alfajores. Fly over to the Middle East for Yogurt Panna Cota with honey, dried figs, and black sesame brittle. And finally, complete the world trip with Matcha Financiers.

Steeping Room and Holy Roller provided the food and desserts, respectively. It wouldn’t be a volunteer celebration without the incredible donation from Sway Water.

Volunteer Celebration

And thus began the Seventh Annual SAFE Volunteer Celebration. Langa started the trip thanking everyone for coming and recognizing the committee members individually. Then co-pilot/MC extraordinaire David Horning took the wheel.

“Our theme is ‘Volunteers Make A World of Difference,'” David said. “We wanted the event to feel global and all-inclusive. We wanted to combine together in a world that is trying to separate things. We see volunteers as agents of social change, traveling with us on this journey, striving to create a better world.”

Our incredible volunteers are indeed succeeding at changing the world for the better. The nominees for this year’s Frankie Fowler Volunteer of the Year Awards went to Megan Kempf  — a Teen Parent Program Volunteer recognized by David Horning — and Ileana Aguilar — a Community Ed Volunteer recognized by Sandra Molinari.

“Volunteers are often our anchors and setting the direction or course, pushing for change in our community. It doesn’t matter where you’re going it’s who you have beside you.” — David Horning

SAFE Vice President Coni Stogner recognized Frankie Fowler Volunteer of the Year Winner Virginia Morgan. She is a clerical SAA Volunteer who said she does this work to give and never expected to receive anything and is very humbled by this experience.

Before introducing the newest categories, Langa recognized Olivia Hernandez for 15 years of service in the SAFE Donations Warehouse.

And with a new-ish merger comes new fancy awards. This year, SAFE introduced the Community Champion Award, supporting the amazing volunteers who work as a team. The nominees were Joann and John Taunton — recognized by Lindsay Contreras — and the Project Advisory Committee (Nancy Crowther, Renee Lopez, Susie Angel, and Dina Abramson) — recognized by Shell Schwartz.

The winner was the SAFE Legal Advocates, nominated by a very enthusiastic Reyna Wilson, who proudly gushed about how “freaking awesome” these people are.

Coni Stogner returned to the stage as the keynote speaker with a short but sweet message: volunteers are the social change — volunteers are creating the cultural shift.

Ending the trip with a positive message is always welcome. Ending the trip with raffle prizes is like successfully getting through customs without claiming the French unpasteurized cheese. The travelers walked away with amazing prizes from our incredible donors.

And with that, the tray tables were locked, the seats were in the upright positions, and our travelers were off on another adventure to make a difference.