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MAVA 2021 Awards for Excellence in Volunteerism

John Bennett - 21st Century Bank

Nominated by Susanne Lovejoy

John Bennett is an iconic volunteer in the community, with ties to many nonprofit organizations that are cornerstones of what makes our city pretty awesome. He moves easily in Black-run and Black-led organizations to all-white spaces with the lens of helping to diversify those spaces with BIPOC. John is highly regarded in many nonprofit realms and maintains the connections after the work is done. He has a sincerity that makes him extraordinary in volunteerism. With his finger on the pulse of so many nonprofits, his volunteerism makes others look like they are not doing enough! His dedication to the work is evident in the many boards he sits on, his actions to assist nonprofits whenever and wherever he can, from actual hands-on heavy lifting to important connections and resources he easily shares. 

Diane Falken - Make-A-Wish Minnesota

Nominated by Kirsten Hoaby

Diane is Make-A-Wish Minnesota’s most dedicated volunteer, inspiring staff and volunteers alike with her positivity and work ethic, while filling gaps in staffing and assisting with mission-critical tasks. While Diane’s primary role currently is office support, she is also a dedicated Wish Granter and Airport Meet and Greeter, and serves on the Speaker’s Bureau. Diane joined the volunteer team in 2013. Her primary role at that time was a Wish Granter, and she also regularly completed Airport Meet and Greets. While she continues to serve as a Wish Granter, bringing happiness and joy to the wish families she works with, Diane has deepened her involvement in the past couple of years. Since 2018 Diane has been volunteering in the office and has become a crucial part of the team, bringing needed skills as well as a warmth and energy to her volunteer work. She has inspired and continues to inspire staff and volunteers to work hard and stay positive, even when times are tough. 

Sanya Pirani - Sanya's Hope for Children

Nominated by Dilshad Pirani

Sanya Pirani has shown extraordinary interest in the area of volunteerism. Sanya is freshman from Prior Lake High School. She served over 750 community service hours in 2020 and has been serving that many hours over the 6.5 years. She organizes 12-13 projects each year (projects include 3-4 food drives a year based on local need, food packing events, books, winter gears, school supplies, toys, drives) and she gets invited to speak at various events. She also organizes fundraising events such as bowling for hunger, musical parties, etc. to serve marginalized children and their families. She was 7.5 years old when she decided to help communities in need. 

Ken Skoglund - Courage Kenny Ski and Snowboard Program at Hyland Hills

Nominated by Tara Gorman

Ken Skoglund has given 26 years, three days a week, all winter long, not missing a one, as the equipment manager for the Courage Kenny Ski and Snowboard program at Hyland Hills. He consistently shows up early and is the last to leave, caring for the equipment and the people that utilize it. Ken has developed his own systems to identify and prepare the equipment before the participants and volunteers head out on their lessons. A system we now utilize at our other sites to organize and prepare, prior to lessons going on the hill. Ken is a humble and quiet man-who will give you a big smile and a detailed explanation when asked how something runs. He has given nearly 1700 hours of service to the Ski and Snowboard program. Thank you Ken for your time, knowledge, huge heart and the world’s greatest tool box!

Adam Warden - Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Adaptive Sports and Recreation Programs

Nominated by Khara Hesse

Adam Warden has been an exceptional volunteer, coach and mentor for the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Adaptive Sports and Recreation Programs. Over the past three years, Adam has been a consistent and dedicated Head Coach for the Adaptive Competitive Swim Team, Track Coach for the Courage Kenny Blizzards Adaptive Track and Field Team and substitute instructor for the Adaptive Rock Climbing program. Sharing his extensive knowledge of swimming, track and field, and endurance training, Adam provides excellent instruction to help our athletes develop their skills and prepare for competitions. Adam has been consistently volunteering five to ten hours each week for the past three years between lesson planning, traveling and leading practices for two programs, and additionally, he travels to several weekend-long competitions each season. He is incredibly generous with his time, consistently positive and energetic, and has built meaningful relationships with the athletes he coaches.

Award for Excellence in Volunteerism Leadership During COVID-19

Kathy Anderson - Living Well Disability Services

Nominated by Betsy King

Through the uncertainty of the past year Kathy has been a guiding light for our organization’s volunteer program. She has had phenomenal flexibility and a tremendous ability to pivot the program on short notice every time there was new information from our Nursing Director, the CDC or the Governor Walz. Despite the large amounts of stress felt by all over the past year, Kathy was able to keep a calm and positive spirit every day while making an incredible impact on Living Well Disability Services and the community around her. Her joy is contagious and has been uplifting for our volunteers, staff and people we serve.

Courtney Flug - VEAP

Nominated by Joseph McDonald

Courtney Flug is an incredibly talented and committed Volunteer Director who uses her strengths in collaboration and communication to mobilize VEAP's volunteer “force” who are so integral to our day-to-day operations. Pre-pandemic, Courtney annually facilitated the work of over 3,000 volunteers, who gave more than 65,000 hours of their time to provide food and housing supports that are critically important to people living in poverty and on fixed and low incomes in our service area.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we did not know what to expect from our strong volunteer base. With the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and program participants as our first priority, and knowing we’d have to reduce the number of volunteers at our facility on a daily basis, Courtney collaborated with our program directors and the rest of the staff to quickly adjust our volunteer structure in order to facilitate a new contactless, drive-up food distribution system and welcomed 850 new-to-VEAP volunteers who joined us to bring hope to our community in such a challenging year. VEAP cannot imagine how they could have done what they were able to accomplish during the COVID-19 crisis without Courtney’s leadership and her commitment to volunteers.

Mary Fondren and Kate Wittenstein - Shelf of Hope

Nominated by Noah Chan

Mary Fondren and Kate Wittenstein are receiving this award as a pair. If it were not for these two, the Shelf of Hope (SOH) food shelf would have fallen apart. When COVID-19 hit Minnesota, the food shelf started losing volunteers and the main food shelf operator disappeared and ceased all communication. It was forced to shut down for the time being. Mary, one of the two SOH volunteers left, stepped up and started coming in on her own to restart the food shelf. A previous volunteer lost his home and the last one left was Kate Wittenstein, who tried staying away due to her age in a pandemic. Even she couldn’t help herself. Both Mary and Kate have been a part of the food shelf for years and understood how important it was to its community. Many people depended on it for their sustenance and with COVID-19, they needed it now more than ever. Both Mary and Kate shouldered the brunt of the work, from making hundreds of food bags to unloading hefty food pallets by themselves on a weekly basis. If it were not for them, who knows where the Shelf of Hope would have been. It is for their unending will, generosity, resilience, and grace that these two deserve this award.

Brooke Zank - Family Pathways

Nominated by Samantha Jacobson

Through the uncertainty of the past year Kathy has been a guiding light for our organization’s volunteer program. She has had phenomenal flexibility and a Brooke has played an integral role in ensuring Family Pathways’ ability to serve our clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to performing her job duties at an exemplary level, Brooke consistently demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to her Family Pathways community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic touched the Family Pathways community, there was a moment where the organization was not sure it would be able to continue to meet the rising needs of our clients. There was a real fear that our organization would have to close its doors. With many of Family Pathways long-term volunteers turning away for fear of their health, Brooke took it upon herself to check in with them and offer ways that they could support our organization remotely. She used the time to recognize them, spotlighting new volunteers each month and telling their stories. Brooke developed and issued Family Pathways very first Reflections Quarterly Volunteer Newsletter and made sure that all volunteers were able to receive copies highlighting them and their successes. With the COVID-19 pandemic enhancing the consequences of social isolation in our already rural and isolated communities, Brooke worked with our team to develop a Doorstep Delivery program recruiting volunteers to deliver food to our aging community and spend time with them. One client said to a volunteer, “I am so happy to see you. You are the only person I have seen in two weeks!” Brooke has made a lasting difference at Family Pathways and in the community. 

Mary Wiser Award for Leadership in the Field of Volunteer Resources

Camille Nash - Park Nicollet

Nominated by Christine Van Lith-Migneault

Over the past year Camille has shown leadership and commitment in an unprecedented way. With the pandemic halting the volunteer program within the organization, Camille seamlessly redirected and continued to develop and guide the volunteer program in different ways that benefited the organization and enhanced the hospital and clinics experience for both patients and staff. Camille is warm, caring, hardworking, direct and mission focused. She is a team player and is supportive of her staff, partners, and volunteers. She always acts with integrity and follow through. She is well versed in the work of our organization and of our Foundation, and is well respected by her peers and looked to for her input and insight on cross-organizational projects. Camille leadership and ability to adjust to any situation has made her a perfect candidate for this prestigious award

Krystal Queen

Nominated by Kara Hirdman

Krystal gives up a lot of her time volunteering. She is outside giving out food, running a non-profit she founded for single mothers who are struggling, she volunteers for school basketball, she volunteers her time to coach kids in her neighborhood and surrounding areas as well. You can see her information on social media, she shares posts daily, she has been on WCCO for The Friendship Project, which is her non-profit for single mothers, and she does all this as a single mother herself with three boys. She constantly strives to serve those in need. She understands what it feels like to be a minority female who has struggled through life. She deserves a lot of recognition for what she does for various groups, communities and individuals.

Vicki Snyder - Basic Needs of South Washington County, Inc.

Nominated by Kate Hoelscher

Vickie Snyder inspires those around her to serve their community. She leads Basic Needs of South Washington County Inc. humbly, but with more energy than anyone. When someone is in need, she ensures they are served with dignity. She has been in their shoes before, and will do everything in her power to ensure they have what they need. As a leader, Vickie has no trouble jumping into any of the organization’s volunteer roles required to serve the community. She is also willing to have the difficult conversations to improve the organization as a whole. Since she stepped into the role of Executive Director/President in 2015, she has used her keen business acumen to bring the organization from being behind on rent and expenses with 10 volunteers to financially stable and over 50 volunteers. Vickie’s humble leadership makes her a critical component of our community. It often seems like everyone knows Vickie! She volunteers with the Chamber of Commerce, Women in the Chamber, Cottage Grove Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and others. Her community network is astounding, and enables her to lead Basic Needs in a way that best serves her community’s needs. 

Award for Excellence in Executive Leadership

Jen Thorson - Girl Scouts River Valley

Nominated by Niila Hebert

Jen came to Girl Scouts from a higher education background and immediately saw opportunities to better communicate with and engage our volunteers with a focus of gratitude and a “what can we do for you” sentiment, versus communication focuses of tasks and volunteer responsibility reminders. Jen is a continuous learner and is always willing and eager to share her learning with others and encourage their individual learning plan. Her vision for creating truly welcoming and inclusive spaces for all members led to the creation of a participation pathway created for, by, and with members of color. She is an unapologetic champion of girls, women, and anti-racism, and it shows in her thoughtful words to staff and willingness to have hard conversations with misaligned members. Jen’s contributions and impacts on the River Valleys council and the Girl Scout movement have been tremendous and will have a lasting effect on how our council moves into the future and how we strategically plan to sustain Girl Scouts and offer this leadership program to all girls!

Shannon Wussow - Mid-Minnesota Women's Center, Inc.

Nominated by Lenora Zino

Shannon has one mission in life... to positively impact others and ultimately help create a better world by losing herself in the acts of serving others. This commitment and determination is clearly shown in her actions by also in engaging her staff as to the importance of volunteering. She clearly exemplifies the virtue of good citizenship and the importance of volunteering. She has been involved in a tremendous amount of activities that have had an immeasurable impact on Mid-Minnesota Women's Center and the community. Shannon has also committed a great deal of time to guest speaking and public engagements creating awareness and informing our community about our organization and the services we offer. This is something Shannon is passionate about and she is determined to make a change and have a positive impact.

Award for Excellence in Volunteer Program Development

Adriane Lepage - Girls Scouts River Valley

Nominated by Niila Hebert

Although Girl Scouts was not new to Adriane, as a girl who sold cookies and earned the highest Girl Scout award, the Gold Award, when she started working for Girl Scouts in 2019, it began as an experience like no other. Adriane came from the for-profit world so working for a non-profit was a change, but it was clearly a welcomed and enthusiastic shift. From the start, Adriane has exhibited the best quality a new leader can have, the willingness to listen and learn. 

When Adriane joined our team of 18 staff, some who worked remote, others in other offices, she focused on building relationships and trust. She spent hours 1:1 with staff to get to know about their work style and interests. She found meaningful ways to show appreciation and made herself available to help any team member trouble shoot or just chat. Her methods of support and management are so relevant to building a solid volunteer program because she manages the team that provides direct service delivery to our volunteers who then manage and support our troop leaders and families. The ripple effect of her example of leadership and grace has made great impacts on the way our paid staff manage, support, and appreciate our auxiliary workforce - our volunteers!

Volunteer of the Year

Emily Justman

Nominated by MAVA Staff

MAVA is better because of Emily. She has over 12 years of experience working in nonprofits, specifically focusing on aging. Throughout her career she has coordinated, supervised, and managed volunteers. She said that working with volunteers is a humbling experience because she has the opportunity to work with the best of humanity. Emily joined MAVA has a volunteer to contribute to the community and strengthen her skills, and build new ones. Over the past two years at MAVA, Emily has assisted with fund development, contributed to marketing and communications initiatives, edited training manuals, and currently directs the all of MAVA’s social media content. Emily supports and furthers the work of the MAVA staff and organization. Her kindness, compassion, and hard work is felt by the MAVA staff and visible the work and projects she supports and leads. The MAVA staff is grateful to talented, thoughtful, and mission driven service, not to mention time. Emily was recently hired as a part-time contractor at a non-profit that focuses on aging. And yet, she still makes time to volunteer with MAVA.

Becca Metz

Nominated by MAVA Staff

Becca was a Communications major and in her senior year at the University of Minnesota when she started her internship with MAVA. She supported MAVA’s weekly e-blasts, MAVA Monthly newsletter, website updates, and more! It’s been almost three years since that internship, and Becca continues to spend hours each week making sure MAVA’s members receive information about upcoming trainings and events, and that they MAVA website and database is updated. Becca said, “Volunteering for MAVA has helped me feel rewarded and creative in my work. It allows me to touch many non-profits by helping elevate their work and providing them with high-quality information and training. Each time I sit down to work for MAVA, I am learning something new. Whether it is the intricacy of HTML or the secrets of MailChimp. Volunteering for MAVA is a rewarding and fulfilling task!” She definitely fulfills and furthers the work of the MAVA staff, and we are ever grateful to have her as a part of the MAVA team! Becca’s future goals are to transition to working for a non-profit that directly benefits the lives of animals in the twin cities. I am very passionate about our furry friends and think it is possible to make a world that is kinder and more thoughtful in the way that we keep pets. This change is possible but will take a shift in the way we think about how society approaches animal care. This will take momentous time and effort but it is something I am dedicated to working on.