11/10/10 — Volunteers recognized at annual ceremony

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Volunteers recognized at annual ceremony

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 10, 2010 1:46 PM

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Recipients of the 2010 N.C. Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service in Wayne County, from left, Margaret Eichelberger, national service; Amy Roux, executive director of Mental Health Association of Wayne County, group award; Freda Owen, senior award; the Rev. Ralph Johnson, faith category award; and Randy Sauls, individual award.

When Master Sgt. Kathleen Parrish moved to Wayne County with her family five years ago, the Michigan native said she knew right away this was a place they could plant roots.

"In the Air Force, home is where the Air Force sends you," she said with a smile.

Feeling part of a community so quickly was especially poignant since oldest daughter Lauren, now 16, had been to eight different schools by the time she enrolled in Norwayne Middle School.

Mrs. Parrish and husband Dean, also a master sergeant who retired from the military last year, also have an 11-year-old daughter, Grace. As Mrs. Parrish prepares for her own retirement within the year, she said it has been important to feel part of a community.

For the family, one way to do that was through volunteering.

"We have always volunteered with the military," she said. "That's part of what we do."

Their involvement with the Special Olympics program earned the family the 2009 Medallion Award, given to 20 recipients selected from across the state for outstanding volunteer service.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Parrish spoke at the N.C. Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, sponsored by the Wayne County Association of Volunteer Administration. Five awards were handed out for individuals and groups for dedicated service in the community.

This was the 32nd anniversary of the program that showcases the state's most dedicated residents, said Barbara Stiles, director of the RSVP program at Wayne Community College and awards committee chairperson.

It was also the first time the governor's office divided the award into five categories -- individual, group, faith, senior and national program.

Randy Sauls, president of the Goldsboro Bridge Battlefield Association, received the individual award. He has served with the organization for five years.

"Randy Sauls is the reason Goldsboro has a developed Civil War site," Mrs. Stiles said. "(He) had the dream to preserve and develop the field (about three miles south of Goldsboro) into a Civil War site. His leadership has made that happen."

And all with a small budget and volunteer labor, she added. She credited the "ambassador of local history" with doing much to raise awareness about the county's past.

Group award went to the Mental Health Association in Wayne County, which has served as special projects host at Cherry Hospital for more than 47 years.

In addition to coordinating season events and special activities, the association has also done much to promote and advocate for mental health wellness and recovery, Mrs. Stiles said.

"This group has the ability to engage others about the topic of mental illness and to interact with persons affected by mental illness," read the nomination application. "They take initiative to coordinate and plan various programs for citizens in Wayne County from all walks of life."

From his initial role as on-call volunteer chaplain to a sought-after counselor for families and staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Rev. Ralph Johnson earned the volunteer service award in the faith category.

An associate chaplain at the hospital since 2006, he typically spent two to three day a week in the oncology unit. But he wanted to do more, said his nominator, Rev. Suzanne Franklin, director of pastoral care.

"He decided to come to the hospital for several days a week to offer a healing presence to patients, families and staff on one of the toughest units in the hospital," she wrote. "This past year, Ralph has ministered to hundreds of patients, many in the last days of their lives, offering presence, conversation, prayer, support and a shoulder.

"Many of the staff in the unit consider him their pastor, sharing events that are important in their lives with Ralph. They also share the hardships and joys of their work as he works alongside them."

Freda Owen, a woman with a "special talent for special events," received the senior category award for working with Wayne County Services on Aging.

In addition to teaching line dancing and crafts, she has also provided special activities for dementia patients, and all on her own time and expense.

"She has devoted herself to helping the seniors of Wayne County and insists that all programs that she runs must be free," Mrs. Stiles said, reading from the nomination form. "Freda has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Wayne County Services on Aging. She has brought in new seniors who never would have come to the senior center without her. ... Her commitment is unwavering."

The National Service award went to Margaret Eichelberger, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro-Wayne since 2003.

"I hate to tell a woman's age but it's just remarkable," Mrs. Stiles said as she announced the recipient. "She's 77 years old (and) works several days each week at the store for Habitat for Humanity."

A teacher and leader as well as a "loyal and dependable volunteer," Mrs. Stiles said Ms. Eichelberger is also "a gentle spirit."

"She has worked in many places including the Red Cross and the local battered women's shelter," she said. "She is now a regular volunteer that the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has been able to depend on for the past year."

Faye Stone from the Governor's Office and deputy executive director of the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, credited the region with having a "rich tradition" of volunteers.

"Not only have volunteers helped to build the infrastructure," she said, (but) every year in Wayne County it seems that the volunteer service gets bigger and better."