Good Life

Centre County is full of volunteers who make a difference. Here's 30 being recognized

Volunteers organize thousands of books for the 2017 AAUW book sale.
Volunteers organize thousands of books for the 2017 AAUW book sale. Centre Daily Times, file

Centre County has no shortage of dedicated volunteers, and the annual Rose Cologne Volunteer Recognition Dinner is proof.

On Monday, 30 volunteers from local agencies will be honored at this year's event, held at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Named in honor of the first recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award, the dinner is hosted by the Centre County Council for Human Services and will pay tribute to those in the community who work to further the mission of CCCHS' member agencies. This year's event also marks the 50th anniversary of CCHS.

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Eleanor Bird
Eleanor Bird

Agency: Centre Volunteers in Medicine

Length of service: 9 years

Roles: Volunteer pharmacist

Why I volunteer: "As a pharmacist, I have been fortunate to have a career that is rewarding and flexible. Volunteering at CVIM was a natural fit. I can help people by using the skills that have supported me for the past 34 years."

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Erik Bakken
Erik Bakken

Agency: Housing Transitions

Length of service: 2 years

Roles: Answers phones; assists with building maintenance; helps move furniture across town for apartment programs; organizes food pantry and linen closet; regularly donates funds and supplies; and has recently taken on the responsibility of weekly grocery shopper for Centre House shelter.

Why I volunteer: “I think HT does amazing work for the people of Centre County, especially those that have fallen through the holes of the safety net and have nowhere else to turn. The staff works really hard for their clients but more help is needed, so volunteers are a necessary part of HT.”

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Jennifer Karch,
Jennifer Karch

Agency: AAUW — State College branch

Length of service: 5 years

Roles: Oversight for marketing the 2016 centennial celebration; co-vice president for programs.

Why I volunteer: "I joined AAUW State College because I wanted to be a part of an organization with a powerful voice, one that could effect change leading to a positive impact for women and girls within my community."

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Nancy Babcock
Nancy Babcock

Agency: SCORE Central Pa. Chapter

Length of service: 4 years

Roles: Certified business mentor who also handled social media activities.

Nancy died Feb. 9, and the award is being presented posthumously.

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Rocky Landers
Rocky Landers

Agency: Park Forest Preschool

Length of service: 5 years

Roles: Volunteers in the 4-year-old classroom, where she keeps busy working with children to help build many skills. She often is found reading to the children, working on developmental skills and helping them with self-regulation through social and emotional development. She helps the teachers with planned activities in her classroom as well as in other rooms.

Why I volunteer: "When working as an occupational therapist, I occasionally supported children at Park Forest Preschool. I learned about this wonderful community preschool with a caring, supportive staff. After retiring, I started volunteering there because of their dedication to providing quality education to a diverse group of young children and their families."

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Katy Rommel
Katy Rommel

Agency: Foxdale Village

Length of service: 1 year

Roles: Assists with recreation programming and spends time visiting residents. Helps several departments with tasks such as preparing craft supplies, making photocopies, folding linen napkins for the dining rooms, assembling packets of materials, making flower arrangements and working on community service projects.

Why I volunteer: "I love volunteering at Foxdale. I love spending time with the residents, talking with them, taking walks, playing games, baking and doing puzzles with them. I enjoy doing crafts and helping at the special events. I like helping with community service projects."

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Marianne VanTilburg
Marianne Van Tilburg

Agency: Centre Crest

Length of service: 5 years

Roles: Fundraising committee chair; community bash chairwoman; she has planned food and yard sales; handles the Small Games of Chance Program; worked in the beauty shop and at the Resident Christmas Store and more.

Why I volunteer: She has been a volunteer from the moment she retired from Centre Crest in 2013. Her focus has been to “simply make a difference in the lives of the residents.”

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Mary Beth Spang
Mary Beth Spang

Agency: Centre County Women’s Resource Center

Length of service: 3 years

Why I volunteer: "I feel so lucky to work with the CCWRC. The staff and volunteers there help me to fulfill my goal of helping others, while also giving me a community, mentors, an education and a set of skills that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. "

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Brook Fisher
Brooke Fisher

Agency: FaithCentre

Length of service: 6 years

Roles: "Best boxer of clothing" who sorts donations, folds them and boxes them for later seasons.

Why I volunteer: "I like volunteering at the FaithCentre because everyone here is really nice. Everyone here loves each other and they all work really hard."

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Gail Alberini
Gail Alberini

Agency: Centre Helps

Length of service: 11 years

Roles: Active volunteer, working an average of four hours of volunteer time on the hotline a week. Over her 11 years she has accumulated more than 1,000 hours.

Why I volunteer: "I’m a Baha’i and in that faith the highest form of worship is service to others. This agency gives me the opportunity to provide that to my community. As a retired person, Centre Helps affords me opportunities to serve others, utilize life experience and mingle with younger people. I like to feel useful."

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Harry Richner
Harry Richner

Agency: CentrePeace

Length of service: 12-15 years

Roles: His self-designated role is ‘'provider of food and refreshments." He has been brewing and bottling iced tea for the staff, volunteers and trainees at CentrePeace for well more than a decade, as well as supplying home-canned goods and freshly baked bread.

Why I volunteer: “I’ve always made tea over the years. Everybody works so hard at CentrePeace; it’s nice to have a cool drink.”

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Nancy and Carl Miller
Nancy and Carl Miller

Agency: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County

Length of service: 11 years

Roles: They have cleaned, priced, organized and displayed thousands of small items like hardware and tools to raise proceeds for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County. They are unofficial ReStore greeters and Habitat spokespeople and volunteer recruiters. They are also donors and have helped beautify the facility by planting flowers and trees.

Why we volunteer: "We have long supported Habitat. Carl helped with an early housing project in Bellefonte. As environmentalists, we appreciate Habitat for Humanity ReStore's repurposing, reusing, recycling programs."

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Christine Good
Christine Good

Agency: Centre County Youth Service Bureau

Length of service: 4 years

Roles: Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program; active member of the YSB's Golf and Auction committees; member of the YSB governing board.

Why I volunteer: “After seeing all the great things YSB did for some of the students I worked with at the high school, I knew this was an organization I wanted to be a part of. I currently serve on the board and on several committees and am a Big Sister to a wonderful 15-year-old girl.”

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Jessica Stetson
Jessica Stetson

Agency: Juniper Village at Brookline Senior Living

Length of service: 2 years

Roles: Delivers newsletters to 120 residents of Juniper Village's independent and personal care living communities weekly at lunch time. She also assists and participates in afternoon games, crafts and baking groups with personal care home residents.

Why I volunteer: “Jess shares her enthusiasm weekly with our residents and associates and always has a smile on her face. We are so lucky she chooses to spend her time nurturing the spirit of life in our residents.” — Jill McKenrick, connections director

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Karen Witherite
Karen Witherite

Agency: Pregnancy Resource Clinic

Length of service: 8 years

Roles: Board member

Why I volunteer: "I serve Pregnancy Resource Clinic as a board member because I desire to see God heal our community of emotional and sexual brokenness, and PRC is one place where stories of hope and healing are written."

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Marie Cameron
Marie Cameron

Agency: Interfaith Human Services

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: Coordinates volunteers to answer phones and help around the office every week. She also serves on the executive committee of the board of directors and enters data for IHS' Free Furniture and Recycling Appliance Program on a weekly basis.

Why I volunteer: “I belong to Interfaith Human Services because I believe in acts of loving kindness and that is what IHS does.”

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Pam and Todd Arbogast
Pam and Todd Arbogast

Agency: The Food Bank of the State College Area

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: The Arbogasts are a married couple who volunteer together. They come in regularly on Monday mornings and fill in elsewhere as needed. Pam’s primary role is receiving and sorting donated product. Todd’s primary role is as a van driver, doing donation pickups and drop-offs. They are also instrumental volunteers during the food bank’s major food drives. They put in many extra hours helping to sort and organize thousands of pounds of food.

Why we volunteer: "This is a very rewarding organization to be involved with. The staff and other volunteers are great to work with. We appreciate that the State College Food Bank helps locally and throughout Centre County by sharing surplus donations among other local agencies and organizations."

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Susan Venegoni
Susan Venegoni

Agency: State College Community Land Trust

Length of service: 7 years

Roles: President of the board; vice president of the board; volunteer on finance, real estate and rehab, strategic planning and development and outreach committees; community housing, homeownership and neighborhood advocate.

Why I volunteer: "The preponderance of student housing and vacation rentals has lessened the available supply of borough housing options, and for working households who would love to live in the borough, too many find the cost of living here beyond their reach. The benefits of homeownership are well-documented, not only for homeowners and their families, but for employers and for the continued health and diversity of the borough. SCCLT homes are scattered throughout the borough, and we just welcomed our 62nd homeowner. I am proud to be part of this organization. "

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Wanda Decker
Wanda Decker

Agency: Penn State Extension Centre County

Length of service: 35 years

Roles: She is an alumna of Centre County 4-H where she participated from age 9 to 16. As an adult she served as leader of the 4-H Beef Club then, for 35 years, she supported the 4-H youth entering projects in the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair. She brought her professional skills to the fair, helping with the transition to computers. She has been responsible for the entire process of inputting fair entries, producing show catalogs and reporting show and sale results. She has processed thousands of fair entries, recorded results and cheered on many generations of 4-H youth as they competed for ribbons and championships.

Why I volunteer: “I enjoy working with the kids and computers. I like to help kids complete their projects and watch as they get their awards and premiums. I like to watch my kids, friends’ kids and grandkids at ringside!”

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Hannah Ranalli
Hannah Ranalli

Agency: American Red Cross

Length of service: 2 years

Roles: PR director for the Penn State Student Red Cross Club; intern with the Mid Central Chapter of the American Red Cross in State College.

Why I volunteer: “I am thankful for the amazing connections I have been able to make through my involvement with the Red Cross and I am inspired by the unbelievable stories I hear on a daily basis.”

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Linda Morrow
Linda Morrow

Agency: Village at Penn State

Length of service: 13 years

Roles: Compiled a collection of printed resources for caregivers; elected member of Resident Council serving one term as president highlighted by changing bylaws for voting; chair of nominations and elections committee for Resident Council; co-founder and chair of Reaching Out Committee to welcome new residents (developing a resident and staff directory, local resource guide and procedure to welcome new residents); past member of Food Committee, initiating use of local produce for independent living residents.

Why I volunteer: “Helping people in my professional career and in my personal life has always given me satisfaction. I enjoy living at The Village and hope to help my neighbors feel as integrated into our retirement community as I do.”

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Margie Gaffron
Margie Gaffron

Agency: Mid-State Literacy Council

Length of service: 4 years

Roles: She has taught English as a second language classes to adult students from the community. She also organized a student dinner at the Literacy Council.

Why I volunteer: "My ESL classes offer a unique way to not only help non-English speakers learn English but also to reach out — to encourage and embrace a global community."

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Michael Grutzeck
Michael Grutzeck

Agency: State College Area Meals on Wheels

Length of service: 3 years

Roles: The chef's "right hand man" in kitchen prep; he cheerfully takes on any task in the kitchen and has been instrumental in getting meals prepared when the chef has been out.

Why I volunteer: "I was looking for something to do in retirement and feel I was called by God to serve in this way. I called up my courage, and volunteered. I am happy I can further the aims of Meals on Wheels. I feel God did right by me!"

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Bruce Mixer
Bruce Mixer

Agency: Penn State Career Pathways Program

Length of service: 2 years

Roles: Tutor and classroom assistant

Why I volunteer: "I volunteer because it provides an opportunity for those whom I work with to develop new skills and/or build on existing experience and knowledge. Every learner has an engaging story to tell, be it how they got to where they are or where they want to go. It’s always exciting when someone gets his/her GED or that new job, and I am honored to play a small part in that journey."

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Debbie Llewellyn
Debbie Llewellyn

Agency: Center for Alternatives in Community Justice

Length of service: 2 1/2 years

Roles: Mentor for many children enrolled in the Youth Aid Panel program. She connects with them once a week with a follow-up phone conversation and meets monthly with the full panel of monitors to hear the children's updates. She donates many hours a month of her time to help first-offender juveniles get through the program.

Why I volunteer: “I was inspired by the dedication of the panel members and the benefits offered to the children who were granted the opportunity to participate. As a monitor I have been rewarded by the progress made by 'my kids' as a result of the completion of their contracts, a coordinated effort of the entire panel. Every month brings new challenges and as well as satisfaction in the graduation of participants who leave us with tools for life and an improved sense of self to take forward in their future.”

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Dick Wolf
Dick Wolf

Agency: Office of Aging/RSVP

Length of service: 32 years

Roles: Served on the original RSVP Advisory Council as chair, helping with “special projects," helping to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, snack bar at Mount Nittany Medical Center, American Red Cross donor ambassador and writing letters to children for the RSVP Pen Pal Program.

Why I volunteer: "RSVP offers seniors a large variety of volunteer opportunities. I have been placed with organizations that provide valuable help to the needs of the community. Volunteering gives me an opportunity to stay in touch with old friends while making new friends. I look forward to helping RSVP with their mission."

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Abby Reese
Abby Reese

Agency: The Tides Program

Length of service: 3 years

Roles: Group facilitator for Tides' young children’s group for the past three years, providing a fun, caring and understanding ear for those most in need of support. She is always the first to volunteer for any event and helps in any way that's needed.

Why I volunteer: “I chose to volunteer for Tides because I wanted to support those who have been struck with the unimaginable circumstance of losing a loved one. I wanted to bring light into their darkness and let them know that they are never alone.”

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All volunteers

Agency: Mount Nittany Health

"As the trusted health care provider in the region, Mount Nittany Health knows that our mission to make people healthier would be much harder to achieve without the dedication of our volunteers. Our 669 active volunteers chose to dedicate an outstanding 63,583 hours of their time to the patients of Mount Nittany Health in 2017. So to our volunteers, we simply want to say: thanks. We couldn’t do it without you."

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