Good Life

Meet the Centre County volunteers honored for their service at annual Rose Cologne dinner

Teams work to create structures from canned food to fight local hunger

The second-annual Canstruction began April 5, 2018 at the Nittany Mall. Teams worked together to build structures out of canned food, after which the food went to the State College Food Bank.
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The second-annual Canstruction began April 5, 2018 at the Nittany Mall. Teams worked together to build structures out of canned food, after which the food went to the State College Food Bank.

Thirty Centre County agencies honored their volunteers of the year during the 47th annual Rose Cologne Volunteer Dinner Tuesday at The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center. Named in honor of the first recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award, the dinner is hosted annually by the Centre County Council for Human Services and pays tribute to those in the community who work to further the mission of CCCHS’ member agencies.

Robert Griffin

Agency: Central PA SCORE

Length of service: Nine years

Roles: Chairman, vice chairman, assistant regional director, instructor

Why he volunteers: “Volunteering for SCORE has been exhilarating, fun and interesting experiences. The clients he has worked with have presented challenges that little in his business or educational careers prepared him for. His fellow SCORE volunteers have become trusted colleagues. He hopes that people starting or expanding businesses who want counseling or direction will continue to let SCORE provide some of the answers; and he looks forward to continuing to help them.”

Angie Hay

Agency: AAUW State College Branch

Length of service: 20 years

Roles: Sorting incoming books for the annual Used Book Sale

Why I volunteer: “My father lost his job when I graduated from high school. I could attend Queens College because the tuition was free. By donating my time to AAUW for our Used Book Sale I am helping ambitious women achieve their dreams of continuing their educations.”

Marie Lingle

Agency: Interfaith Human Services

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: She answers the phone in the front office, connecting people in need to our staff and resources in the county. She also teaches energy conservation classes so people can fulfill the requirements to receive emergency home heating assistance from the Centre County Fuel Bank.

Why I volunteer: “We are only on this earth a small time, so it is important to spread joy when we are able. I have been richly blessed by God and it is an honor to help others.”


Agency: Mount Nittany Health

“We know our people are what make Mount Nittany Health a special place. Our 651 active volunteers are no exception. Last year, alone, our volunteers gave 51,550 hours of service to help our patients, providers and staff. To our volunteers: Thank you for your dedication and the outstanding work that you do. Our community can rely on us for exceptional care, and each of you plays a vital role in fulfilling that promise.”

Marggie Kozak

Agency: Park Forest Preschool

Length of service: Six years

Roles: As a volunteer at Park Forest Preschool, Marggie works with the children in the 3-year-old class where she helps implement the curriculum that the teachers are working on as well as playing and reading to the children. She is there with a listening ear and loving hugs. Marggie will help clean up after activities and helps to keep the environment safe for the children.

Why I volunteer: “Teaching and caring for children has been my life’s work. Volunteering has allowed me to interact with children at ages I especially enjoy. I observe what a great difference these teachers make in the lives of each student and their families.”

Jennifer Yost-Lee

Agency: The Arc of Centre County PA Inc.

Length of service: 30 years

Roles: Jennifer Yost-Lee has dedicated her life to advocating for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Jenny has championed The Arc of Centre County’s mission in various capacities as a volunteer and also by serving on The Arc’s Board of Directors, including multiple terms as board president, since 1988.

Why I volunteer: “I volunteer for a higher quality of life for my friends who, by their grace, have shaped my life and transformed it forever. I believe all lives are extraordinary, and if each of us released ourselves into that realization, the world would be a better place.”

Kellie Vogt

Agency: The Village at Penn State

Length of service: 7 .5 years

Roles: For residents of VPS, organizes & chairs committees to provide tech support (iPads, PC’s, printers, cellphones, etc. by fellow residents and Penn State student volunteers; founding committee member for creation of Village resident arts & craft display wall; arranges for arts & craft lessons provided by the community, PSU students & VPS residents; selects & shows monthly movies.

Why I volunteer: “I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at The Village. It’s an opportunity to share my skills in areas that have provided me with years of immense satisfaction and joy. The bonus is that I feel like an engaged member of my community, forming lifelong friendships along the way.”

Ron Filippelli

Agency: State College Community Land Trust

Length of service: Six years

Roles: SCCLT Board of Director member since 2014. In addition to the Board of Directors, Ron has served on the following SCCLT committees: Finance, GreenBuild, Personnel, Strategic Planning

Why I volunteer: “Service on Borough Council taught me that the financial and community health of State College depends on increasing the number of residents who live and pay taxes in the Borough. A major difficulty in achieving that goal is the lack of affordable housing. The Land Trust addresses these problems.”

Lisa Hayes

Agency: State College Food Bank

Length of service: Four years

Roles: Lisa founded the State College chapter of CANstruction, a charitable competition in which teams build structures with canned and other nonperishable goods to a specific theme. The structures are judged for award and bragging rights and all food is donated to the State College Food Bank. Lisa has been the chairperson of this event and organization for the past 3 years.

Why I volunteer: “Hunger, especially childhood hunger, is something I care deeply about preventing. I know what it feels like to be uncertain about your ability to provide for your family; we are all only a few unfortunate events away from that uncertainty. Support, donations, and educational outreach are critical to the cause.”

Tonya Talone

Agency: State College Meals on Wheels

Length of service: 12 years

Roles: Tonya started on the food pack line, and after 2 years there took over for the retiring baker. She comes in once a week to bake enough treats for 130-150 people.

Why I volunteer: “I love working for Meals on Wheels because it perfectly marries my love of baking and serving people. When people see dessert, their eyes light up and smile and that brings me a lot of joy. Plus it saves my husband some calories!”

David Panko

Agency: State College Area School District Community Education

Length of service: 32 years

Roles: Chaired a Fundraising Committee for our department’s endowment with Centre Foundation; donated time, resources and more for an annual fundraiser which benefited the endowment; continues to assist at our annual Summer Youth Fair; created a scholarship for our former GED program which he presented annually to a financially disadvantaged student upon graduation from the program; Chair of our Advisory Committee for a number of years. This list can’t come close to truly summarizing David’s contributions to Community Education!

Why I volunteer: “I volunteer as the chair of the SCASD Community Education Advisory Committee because it has provided learning enrichment opportunities for adults and children in our community for many years and it significantly enhances our quality of life.”

Colleen Ott

Agency: Centre Safe

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: Answers the 24/7 crisis hotline; responds in person to Mount Nittany Medical Center to provide support during sexual assault exams; facilitates emergency Protection From Abuse orders on behalf of clients with MDJs

Why I volunteer: “I chose to be a volunteer with Centre Safe because I wanted to help and possibly have some impact with women who need help or support. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all of the staff at Centre Safe and have felt rewarded in my role as advocate.”

Meredith Wideman

Agency: Bridge of Hope Centre County

Length of service: Four years

Roles: Meredith has been on the Board of Directors for 4 years. During that time, she has served as Vice President/Secretary and Treasurer. She has also served on the Program Committee supporting our case manager, the fundraising committee, and worked with recruiting new board members and cultivating awareness of Bridge of Hope Centre County within local organizations and churches. She has a heart for helping others who are in need and works tirelessly for Bridge of Hope and other organizations to make a difference in the lives of others.

Why I volunteer: “I volunteer with Bridge of Hope Centre County because the organization’s ‘neighborhood’ model and mission to serve single mothers and their children who are homeless resonate with me as a Christian and a mother, and it works for long-term stability for families which is life-changing for the women and children.”

Lori Lapp

Agency: Foxdale Village

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: Working with residents individually to enjoy leisure pursuits – gardening, sewing, quilting, crafts, baking, reading aloud. Assisting residents on outings in the community. Helping residents during leisure programs such as dances, special events, birthday parties, craft programs. Organizing/inventorying program supplies.

Why I volunteer: “Volunteering at Foxdale allows me to do something I really enjoy - spend time with people. I love talking with residents and learning about their lives as well as helping them with things they like doing. In return, I have learned so much from my new friends. We’re building relationships and sharing life.”

Roy Adams

Agency: Centre Volunteers in Medicine

Length of service: 11 years

Roles: Roy has been the Chairperson of the Battle of the Minds Event Committee since its inception in 2008. He helped to develop and maintain the original website and now helps to support the new website. Roy is the person who sets up and maintains our fundraising pages. He and his wife, Fiona, generously volunteer their time at other special events when help is needed.

Why I volunteer: “CVIM provides care for the medically underserved in our community, which aligns with my belief that affordable medical care should be available for all persons. I have enjoyed being able to use my time in helping to organize CVIM’s primary fundraiser and to help with various website matters.”

Kay Sprout

Agency: FaithCentre

Length of service: 14 years

Roles: Kay takes care of the monthly food pantry distribution reports. She also participates in all of our food drives, checks donated food to ensure that it is not expired, and stocks shelves. Kay is a tireless volunteer that will help with anything that needs to be done. She is so dedicated we have to specifically tell her NOT to drive in during a snow storm!

Why I volunteer: “After retiring from Bell, I took care of my grandson. When he ‘outgrew’ me, I started helping at Faith United Methodist Church. Years ago, they had a food pantry and I always enjoyed giving food to people and helping them. When the FaithCentre took over the Food Bank operations for the greater Bellefonte community, it just seemed like a natural transition for me. I’ve been helping feed people in Bellefonte for almost two decades and it has been a wonderful journey!”

Cheryl DeCusati

Agency: Centre Crest

Length of service: Four years

Roles: Cheryl spent many hours visiting with our residents. Her love and support of the residents of Centre Crest will not be forgotten.

Why she volunteered: “Cheryl lived her faith. Her unassuming quiet presence at Centre Crest while visiting our residents brought light and love to their lives. She will forever be in our hearts and our memory and we honor her as our Volunteer of the Year.”

Note: Cheryl DeCusati died earlier this year. Her husband, Paul, planned to attend the dinner.

John Stone

Agency: CentrePeace Inc.

Length of service: Seven years

Roles: John sorts, cleans, prices and displays donated items in our store. He is very reliable, independent and fun to work with.

Why I volunteer: “I like the people I work with and enjoy the relationships. Also, I believe we serve a noble cause. The volunteers here get to interact with work-release inmates from the jail, and perhaps show them a new way to think about work, earning a living and enjoying it.”

Larry Campbell

Agency: Penn State Extension

Length of service: 12 years

Roles: Master Gardener 2008-present, Centre County Extension Advisory Council for multiple terms (one term as Vice-Chair), Chaired Master Gardener Garden Fair for 5 years, Board member for College of Ag Science Alumni Society for 15 years. Instrumental in starting the Armsby Honor Society, served on Master Gardener Program Advisory Committee. OLLI Committee Chair

Why I volunteer: “Three generations of my family have benefited from PSU Extension beginning with helping my grandfather get started in the poultry industry in 1923, just eight years after extension was established by the Smith-Lever Act. They helped my parents develop a top dairy herd and they helped me through 4-H and Master Gardeners.”

Edie Binkley

Agency: Housing Transitions

Length of service: Seven years

Roles: Edie has been a member of the Housing Transitions Board of Directors for seven years. As a member of the board, she has served on the Development and Community Relations Committee, including as the chair of the committee for a few years. She is also the current secretary, and regularly donates her time, goods and supplies, and funds, outside regular board time.

Why I volunteer: “Helping people had always been my passion.”

Dan Douthitt

Agency: Habitat for Humanity

Length of service: 16 years

Roles: Dan has served as a leading member of our Build Site “Friday Crew” since 2003. In slow build seasons, Dan also spends time volunteering in our Habitat ReStore. His leadership and positive spirit while volunteering for Habitat make our organization lucky to have him.

Why I volunteer: “I believe in the Habitat mission. I consider helping to house people the next thing to Christ’s commission to ‘feed my sheep.’ ”

Rick and Sue Sargo

Agency: Mid-State Literacy Council

Length of service: Two years

Roles: Rick and Sue Sargo tutor a female adult student as a couple. Rick will start with money counting, assisting his student in buying coffee and counting change. Sue invites her student to review cooking words and choose a recipe from a cookbook. On cooking days, Sue will work with measurement, pouring, mixing, reading the recipe, time management. While the dish is cooking, Rick engages the student in a dice game.

Why I volunteer: Rick: “I never thought doing volunteer work in education could be so enjoyable. WE both wanted something different from our careers. When Sue is cooking, I enjoy the down time so we can throw the dice and play Yahtzee which our student really enjoys.” Sue: “I really enjoy the time I spend cooking with our student. I find it rewarding when we make a dish she likes. She will always tell me if she likes the dish. I am thinking we need to cook a dish two separate times because I think she can handle it now.”

Karen Brewster

Agency: Youth Service Bureau

Length of service: 1.5 years

Roles: Karen has become a regular volunteer in our Stormbreak Girls Group Home, preparing home-cooked breakfasts on Saturday mornings with the residents. In addition, she facilitates workshops for youth involved in our Supportive Independent Living program on successfully transitioning into adulthood. In both of these settings, Karen helps to create a sense of family for YSB youth, and shows them unconditional positive regard.

Why I volunteer: “I believe the greatest gift we can give others is unconditional love and acceptance. While I cannot change the world, I can change someone’s world. If I can reach one child with love and kindness, I have lived well. It is a privilege to interact with the amazing YSB youth.”

Sandy Stewart

Agency: Tides Inc.

Length of service: More than seven years

Roles: Sandy plays an integral role at Tides by facilitating the adult spousal group during our Tides Nights. In addition to this, she also is a constant and consistent ear for those who attend Tides, whether they are in her allocated group or not. She also is willing to help volunteer outside of these evenings by helping at our signature event, Happy Valley’s Got Talent, or at other community events throughout the year.

Why I volunteer: “After experiencing loss in my life, I wanted to find a way to give back to the community. Tides was the perfect fit when I found them 13 years ago. I love supporting families through their grief journey. Tides is an amazing program and I’m so proud to be a part of it!”

Tim Fleming

Agency: Center for Alternatives in Community Justice

Length of service: Nine years

Roles: Tim has served on the board for nine years – four as board president. Tim is a wonderful advocate for CACJ. As a local attorney he is familiar with the justice system and believes in restorative justice.

Why I volunteer: “I chose to become a Board member of CACJ because of my belief in our mission. CACJ provided me with insight into becoming a mediator, and now, a collaborative divorce lawyer. After 36 years of practicing both criminal and family law, I believe in the principles of peaceful resolution of conflict, and my association with CACJ has enabled me to advance those principles to which I hold close. CACJ is also an important asset to our courts and our county as a resource for support to our custody mediation and supervised bail programs. I believe in the value of those programs to the court and the community at large.”

Gert Aron

Agency: Pennsylvania Prison Society – Centre County Chapter

Length of service: 22 years

Roles: Co-convener, Treasurer, Representative to the Prison Board for Centre County, Representative to Centre County Council for Human Services, and Program Presenter at the Centre County Correctional Facility

Why I volunteer: “I chose to volunteer for the Prison Society after working with another agency. The Prison Society was so much more effective when helping inmates.”

Janie Burns

Agency: Grane Hospice Care

Length of service: Two years

Roles: Janie is one of our volunteers, referred to by Grane as Earth Angels. Janie visits directly with our patients and their families bringing companionship and comfort. Janie is also one of our Earth Angels that sits vigil so our hospice patients are not alone when they pass. On top of all these things she also assists us with volunteer activities and special event planning.

Why I volunteer: “It’s truly a privilege and honor to volunteer for Grane Hospice. This opportunity has allowed me to confidently make a difference in the lives of so many by simply holding a hand and offering a friendly smile. I feel very blessed to be a member of the Grane Hospice family.”

Kaley Harman

Agency: Juniper Village at Brookline

Length of service: One year

Roles: Leads residents in daily singing groups. Sings for residents. Conducts Music & Memory evaluations/Assists in building Music & Memory program. Assists in coordinating “Arts in Aging” lecture series for residents.

Why I volunteer: “As a graduate student studying voice at Penn State, I am so happy to share music with people outside my generation and typical field of study. When I sing with the residents, I am able to experience the power of music at its core. Juniper Village has been so kind in letting me explore the relationships between music and memory care, and I will certainly carry all that I’ve learned here for the rest of my life and career.”

Alondra Perez

Agency: Centre Helps

Length of service: Since fall 2017

Roles: Alondra is a Centre Helps Hotline Volunteer and a Youthful Offenders Program (YOP) Instructor. Throughout her time at Centre Helps, Alondra has shown her dedication and commitment in many ways. She has spread awareness about CH services through her roles in PSU on-campus orgs Active Minds and Psi Chi, mentioned CH in news articles/interviews, and talked about CH in a speech she gave to the PSU Board of Trustees. She has a great attitude, positively contributes to staff morale, and has made a strong impact on Centre Helps during her time here!

Why I volunteer: “I chose to volunteer at Centre Helps because I was interested in getting the experience as a counselor and provide mental health services. Being a volunteer made me value the importance of all kinds of support starting at basic needs in order to further help clients.”

Douglas Erickson

Agency: Child Development & Family Council of Centre County Inc.

Length of service: 20 years

Roles: Doug Erickson has been a Board Member, Board Vice President, Board Chair for Centre Foundation Lift Off Fund for Child Development and Family Council of Centre County Inc.

Why I volunteer: “Child Development & Family Council of Centre County Inc. is a community-based advocate for high-quality early-childhood education, and I have been honored to work with the Council for these last many years. Investing in our children is the best investment we can make.”