Volunteers Are the Brightest Stars

Written by Workhorse Marketing

A sea of gold stars speckled the room, from the ceiling to the walls to the red carpet—but they were no match for the incredible stars we honored for National Volunteer Week. And, oh boy, did we go big, or did we go big? (Hint: we went big.) How could we not? Our volunteers are the brightest stars in the galaxy.

We didn’t hold back for the Volunteer Celebration Party. Our celebrities walked in the door to immediately receive their gift bags filled with a free Eastside Yoga class pass, a keychain and a stylin’ notebook repping the SafePlace logo. And, of course, their raffle ticket for the door prizes.

Many went straight to the photo booth, where our professional paparazzo was waiting with boas, sparkly glasses, tiaras and top hats. It didn’t take long for the conversations to flow and the laughs to be heard, and, most importantly, for the food line to grow.

Sure, the volunteers were the stars of the show, but the food was the supporting actor that deserved that Academy Award. The guests had their choice from stuffed endives (an umami explosion), vegan kabobs, pulled pork tacos with an avocado cream sauce, and grilled cheese with dijon and cranberry chutney from Walton’s Fancy & Staple. Chuy’s provided the great chips, salsa and spicy jalapeno queso. And what is a buffet without dessert? There were cupcakes as far as the eye could see. Geraldine’s, Skull and Bones and Sugar Mama’s all generously donated delectable desserts. Sway Water made a much anticipated encore with their naturally flavored water.

But on with the show!

National Volunteer Week Celebration participants. Celebrating because we know that our volunteers are the brightest stars

Langa, SafePlace Volunteer Services Manager welcomed the guests of honor, their plus ones and the SafePlace staff. Each Volunteer Supervisor had their chance to praise their Frankie Fowler Volunteer of the Year Nominee:

  • Langa had glowing words of appreciation for Professional Volunteer Abbey Maedgen, curriculum designer and spoke of Abbey’s talents and tireless efforts, creating lasting changes for future volunteers and staff in the redesign of the Core Advocate Training.
  • Peer support specialist Lisa Pous awakened the room with her enthusiasm for Peer Support Volunteer Maria Patterson, who was invited to share the floor with Lisa and the two stood side by side warmly with their arms resting on each other’s shoulders, as true peers.
  • Lauren Zurbrugg, SAFE Development Director, gushed over the human being that is Ryan Coover. You may know him as a Professional and Development Volunteer, but he’s also an entrepreneur who spends much of his time supporting organizations like SafePlace with his company, Coover Caramels.
  • Sexual Assault Advocacy Manager Ixa Morrison tried to recognize Sexual Assault Advocate Meredith Sullivan. But in traditional volunteer fashion, she turned the tables and thanked Ixa for all the hard work that she does for the program.
  • SafePlace Executive Director Melinda Cantu and Volunteer Supervisors Stacy Swenson and Pam Rutledge couldn’t keep it together for two minutes when they recognized Frankie Fowler Volunteer of the Year Winner Larry Justice, a Child Development Center/Charter School Volunteer. All three women sang their praises with tears in their eyes for the volunteer who gives so much of his time to the organization that employees didn’t even realize he’s not staff. He came in to help when his sister was injured and now he’s a part of this great family.

We couldn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate Frankie Fowler as she reached her 35th year—yes, her 35th year—as a volunteer.

“Langa’s been telling me since Thursday that this award is heavy,” Frankie began, holding the oblong glass award encasing a glass red ribbon. “That is just a reminder of the heavy work that we volunteers do.”

Melinda Cantu presents the Frankie Fowler award. Boy, our volunteers are the brightest stars.

Frankie explained that sometimes you have to take a step back from this hard work and take care of yourself—after all, that’s how she’s made it for this long. The work, however, is incredibly rewarding. She spoke of a time when she was educating school children about SafePlace and a boy said he needed to keep his girl in check. After her presentation, she read his evaluation and he had changed his tune, writing, “I learned I don’t need to keep my girl in check, I need to trust her.”

It’s hard not to be in awe when Frankie Fowler speaks, let alone shares the same room as you. As her listeners laughed, she said, “I don’t know if I have 35 more years, but what I do have, I pledge I will give.”

Melinda gave her keynote, praising the dedicated volunteers and noting that there’s no way SafePlace could be around without their time and commitment.

Next came the eating, drinking, and making merry. Cupcakes were consumed. Pictures were taken. People bonded and celebrated the hard work they do without complaint. Then came the door prizes, filling three cocktail tables in colorful bags and wrapping paper—more than enough for each attendee.

With that, the show ended, the credits rolled, and our A-listers went on to graciously serve their community. Melinda said it best: “You are stars. You are rock stars. You are shining stars.”

–Katie Grimmer
Volunteer Leadership Committee member/Sexual Assault Advocate/Guest Blogger