Celebrating and promoting volunteerism across the region, 500 people packed the Rye Town Hilton's ballroom this morning for The Volunteer Center of United Way's 32nd annual Volunteer Spirit Awards Breakfast.
Seven people and one organization were honored for their work Jake Gallin, Peter McCartt, Cynthia Odell, Pat Rosafort, Nicole Sheindlin and Lou Thomason; and the Neighbors Link High School ESL Volunteer Tutors Group.
Volunteer Center Executive Director Alisa Keston told the audience that New York is "dead last" among the United States in volunteering—a state of affairs a task force plans to remedy with a goal of enlisting 1 million volunteers for community service in New York by 2014. The Volunteer Center, which now matches volunteers to opportunities in Putnam and Westchester counties, will expand to cover the mid-Hudson Valley—starting this year by adding Rockland County.
Among audience members the focus was on youthful volunteers. Amy Weber, a volunteer with Neighbors Link, said all her children have been devoted to the organization's teen ESL tutoring program.
"It's extremely important to get young people involved in community service," she said. "It changes the way they look at the world around them."
On hand to applaud the winners were Sister Beth Dowd OSU and Sharon Parente, director and board member respectively of Songcatchers Inc., which makes music training and education accessible to needy children in southern Westchester. A Songcatchers DVD of children singing played at the breakfast before the speeches began.
"What better way to do community service than to share a gift you have, a thing you love," said Sister Beth.
See video interviews with three award winners—Lou Thomason, Pat Rosafort and members of Neighbors Link's teen tutoring team here on Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch.
Winners Cynthia Odell and Peter McCartt discuss their volunteer work on the Connections page at Bronxville-Eastchester-Tuckahoe Patch.
Hear Judith Weber and Jake Gallin, also Volunteer Spirit Award winners, on New Rochelle Patch.
Nicole Sheindlin, winner of the Education and Literacy Award, talks about her volunteer work on the Connections page at Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch.