Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series recognizing recently honored "Volunteers of the Year" through the partner agencies of the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County.
The United Way of Northern Chautauqua County and its partner agencies are jointly recognizing the dedication of local residents to make the community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
In 2001, Melvia Mellors, Program Coordinator at the Westfield Senior Day Center, stopped into the Four Seasons Floral Shop in Westfield to see how much it cost to make corsages for the women at the site for a special Mothers Day event. John Monroe, the owner said he would donate the corsages as a special gift and thank you for the good job we were doing for the elderly in the area. He said he really believed in the program and wanted to help. Since then, John has volunteered his time and skills over the years helping make different programs and activities more special. Through his generosity and kindness, he has helped brighten the day for many participants at the Westfield Senior Day Program.
Charlie Meder and his recently deceased wife Donna have been dedicated volunteers for more than 15 years at the American Red Cross. Whether it's driving the Emergency Response Vehicle to Louisiana, delivering the Red Cross supply trailer to local shelters, or responding to single house fires at 2 o'clock in the morning, Charlie is committed to sharing his time and energy to those in need.
"Both Charlie and his late wife were recognized as our Chautauqua County Volunteers of the Year for the Red Cross," said Executive Director Bill Tucker. "Their commitment and dedication were constantly on display, and they did whatever was asked of them without question." For this reason and many more, Charlie and Donna Meder are this year's Volunteers of the Year for the American Red Cross.
These volunteers were honored at the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County's, "Volunteer of the Year" reception held at the Shorewood County Club.
As part of this celebration, United Way was proud to announce a new web resource to help connect individuals with volunteer opportunities. The site, www.volunteerwny.org, is being launched in partnership with other local United Ways and The Service Collaborative of WNY, Inc. Not-for-profits are able to create organizational profiles and post volunteer opportunities at no cost. Individuals can then search for something that fits their schedule and fuels their passion for helping others. "Volunteerism is core to our movement," Deborah Tederous, Executive Director at the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County, said. "The services and expertise volunteers provide allow nonprofit organizations, and ergo the communities they live in, to function in a stronger and healthier capacity."
In conjunction with the New York State Volunteer Generation Program, New Yorkers Volunteer and the Corporation for National & Community Service, VolunteerWNY serves as the hub for volunteer activity for Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, and Allegany Counties. VolunteerWNY is an initiative to promote volunteerism across the region.
According to recent census data, New York State ranks 51st out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in volunteer activity. Startled by this statistic, New York State's Commission on National & Community Service established a goal to strengthen our volunteer spirit. The objective of this initiative is to 'Place one million people in meaningful roles as volunteers to address important needs in communities across the state.'
To maximize the impact of volunteers, the State Commission established a network of ten volunteer-connector agencies to serve as Regional Volunteer Centers. Regional Volunteer Centers, like VolunteerWNY, provide critical training and resources to expand the capacity of local volunteer organizations. These resources will help organizations recruit, manage, support and retain individuals to serve in high quality volunteer assignments.
There is no cost to use the website and anyone can use it just by visiting www.volunteerwny.org.