Volunteer Center kicks off ‘Breakfast With Champions’
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and mandated social distancing and stay-at-home orders, the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley is honoring the dedication and work done by community members by transforming the 27th annual “Breakfast With Champions” into an online recognition series.
The series, shared over Facebook, recognizes more than 40 volunteers nominated by local nonprofits with special posts highlighting each volunteer’s hard work done.
The recognition includes scholarship awards and various volunteer categories: Biggest Heart, Most Reliable, Organizational Advocate, Volunteer Leader, Volunteer Team, Retired Volunteer of the Year and Transformational Volunteer.
Several short video keynotes were created by the Volunteer Center’s CEO Karen Smith.
“During this unprecedented time in our community, our country and the world, we have opted to bring our breakfast event to you virtually to take the time to recognize the volunteers and their amazing work as has been identified by nonprofits here in our community,” Smith said in her welcome message.
She said even with the ongoing coronavirus situation, the Volunteer Center continues to work with local nonprofit organizations to identify volunteers and to provide them to aid in their missions.
“We encourage you, as we know our community loves to come together to help, to see what you can be doing for our community during this time,” she said.
Bob Martin, director of communications for KidsPeace, discussed changes made to the program based on feedback from nonprofits.
“Their concern was they were being limited in the ‘who’ and ‘how many’ volunteers they could nominate for the awards, given that each organization has so many amazing volunteers, the idea of picking one and saying ‘this is the one’ is very difficult to do,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to come together to tackle tough challenges and build stronger, more resilient communities.”
Colleen Mooney McGee, Crayola manager of community relations, praised the Volunteer Center’s decision to transform the event into a virtual celebration.
“Now more than ever, volunteers today are being called to new levels to help our community, country and world come together to overcome the challenges of an international pandemic,” she said. “This is why we wanted to carry this program out to share the importance and significant impact each and every volunteer has in the lives of others.”
Finally, Laurie Hackett, director of community relations and philanthropy for Air Products, spoke of the roles and characteristics exemplified by regional volunteers — their advocacy efforts for nonprofits, sincere work, great leadership, agility and flexibility and motivational spirit.
“Volunteers really are the lifeline of our community. So many of our nonprofits depend on the hard work and the commitment and the dedication of volunteers,” Hackett said.
“Thank you for all the work that you do, and how wonderful that we can all be together today, even though it’s virtually, to celebrate these incredible volunteers that make the Lehigh Valley community so great.”
After the keynote speakers, the Volunteer Center recognized Janice Altrichter, a retiring agency liaison and staff volunteer, for her years of passionate work for the organization.
“She has been with us for more than 10 years bringing joy to us and so many others through her delightful, caring character and her tremendous sense of humor,” the Volunteer Center wrote. “We wish you many blessings and good health in your retirement from the Volunteer Center and we will always be grateful for all that you did for us and the love and friendship we will always share with you.”
In April, “Breakfast With Champions” honored scholarship and award winners.
The first recipient, for the Youth Volunteer Scholarship Award, was Lola Willey, a Freedom High School student, for her volunteer work with the Bethlehem Special Olympics, for which she coaches basketball, soccer and softball.
Winners of the Family Volunteer Award were Abbe and Andrew Abrams of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley.
The award was for their service as PCFLV ambassadors and educators at different events and for their work during the organization’s Team Camp.
The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley Volunteer Service Award was presented to Barbara Clymer, assistant to the superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District.
The Youth Scholarship Award, sponsored by the Society of Volunteer Administrators, was given to Julia Swart, a Liberty High School student nominated for her work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lehigh Valley, where she serves as a fundraising and marketing intern.
The final two awards for the day were Volunteer Center Youth Council Scholarship Awards.
The first scholarship recipient was Johanna Lettera, an Emmaus High School student and vice president of the Volunteer Center Youth Council.
The Volunteer Center recognized Lettera’s volunteer work at numerous regional nonprofit organizations including the Wildlands Conservancy, Valley Youth House, The Neighborhood Center and Fountain Hill Elementary School.
The second Youth Council Scholarship Award was presented to Emmaus High School student Jessica O’Neil, the community outreach coordinator for the Youth Council, through which she also volunteered with several nonprofit organizations.
O’Neil also dedicated her time to the Bethlehem Special Olympics, the Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley Trick or Treat, Allentown Salvation Army luncheon and numerous other events, according to her honorary post.
On April 4, the nominees for the Biggest Heart volunteer category were presented.
The first nominee was Elizabeth Mulrine, for her volunteer work with the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children.
Finally, the second nominee for Biggest Heart Volunteer was Gina Adorno for her work as a bowling coach with Bethlehem Special Olympics.
New entries into the “Breakfast With Champions” virtual series are posted every weekday 8:30 a.m. on the Volunteer Center’s Facebook page at facebook.com/volunteerlv.