04/20/07 — County's volunteers honored

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County's volunteers honored

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 20, 2007 1:55 PM

Red Cross volunteer Joanne Peterson received the President's Lifetime Call to Service Award Wednesday during a luncheon held to honor Wayne County residents who give their time to help their community.

Ms. Peterson, who has been traveling nine years with the Red Cross to help disaster victims around the country, was on her way to Maine this week to help residents hurt by last week's severe storms. She expects to stay there about three weeks.

"It's a good 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but it's enjoyable -- as well as a lot of hard work," she said.

Ms. Peterson contributed 4,000 hours of her time to helping others last year making several trips to help victims of disasters.

During the luncheon, the coordinators for the Volunteer Wayne and Retired Senior Volunteer programs presented gold, silver and bronze pins and letters from President George W. Bush to 160 people who have served more than 100 hours in the past year.

Event chairman Penny Withrow presented an symbolic check to city and county officials. The check was for $804,000, representing the value of the nearly 43,000 hours that volunteers contributed last year.

"Know that you are truly valued and appreciated," she told the assembled volunteers.

Ms. Withrow had the people in the audience stand when she called out the number of years they had volunteered. At the end, only one woman stood. She was Audrey Rhode, mother of Volunteer Wayne's director, Barbara Stiles.

Ms. Rhode has been involved in volunteer work for 46 years.

"I had seven children and was available a long time," she said. "I loved it."

Ms. Stiles said her mother was a Boy Scout and Girl Scout leader and later became a "gray lady" hospital volunteer. Now, she said, her mother crochets blankets for the MERCI Center to send overseas.

Volunteering is not always easy, said keynote speaker Tim Kelly of the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.

"I'm sure we can all share horror stories. I have some. But volunteering is necessary," he said.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people of all ages have been volunteering in record numbers, Kelly noted. And once they start volunteering, they tend to stick with it, he said. He said in 2006 two thirds of the people who volunteered the previous year were still involved in giving of their time to help the less fortunate.