I met Bella Hammond when she came to Valdez in the 1970s to present a First Lady Volunteer Award. That was at the inception of this volunteer recognition initiative Mrs. Hammond started that has carried on through the decades.
Since then hundreds of Alaskans have been honored for their charitable contributions through volunteerism. Highlighting the commitment and character of these fine Alaskans shows our appreciation for their sacrifices and encourages others to help build up their communities through giving of their time and talents.
Last year’s recipients included: a great grandmother who has volunteered her entire adult life in many different capacities impacting hundreds of lives; two dentists who spearheaded free dental clinic events providing service to hundreds in need; a police chaplain who has helped many Alaskans during their darkest hours; a volunteer firefighter and scout leader; a woman who has been the driving force to preserve her village’s art and culture; and a teacher who has always gone above and beyond to motivate and inspire our youth.
The volunteer work that Alaskans do, day in and day out, often goes unheralded. These are not the kind of people who wait for things to change, wish for conditions to be different, or get involved simply seeking recognition. So many Alaskans are change agents with the highest motivation – rolling up their sleeves because they are determined to improve the lives of people in the community.
In these challenging fiscal times, our volunteers will play an even greater role in helping those in need and in strengthening their communities. It is often said that volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they have the heart and it is a heart that cares deeply about community and fellow Alaskans.
I invite you to participate this year by nominating someone who demonstrates a personal commitment to long-term volunteer service. Nominations will be accepted through March 15 at gov.alaska.gov. The guidelines note that the volunteer selection committee is looking at qualities such as length of service to the community or state, extraordinary personal commitment, or significant impact or benefit to the community or state. We are hoping once again to receive nominations from all throughout Alaska. You may also contact our office at 907-269-7450 for additional information. Awardees are chosen by a committee of Alaskans and will be honored at a luncheon and ceremony at the Governor’s House in Juneau in May.
The committee members and I are excited to read about the good works of Alaskans who make our state so strong, so vibrant, and who keep volunteerism alive. Hosting the recipients in Juneau and honoring their contributions is a time honored tradition and an annual highlight which we all are looking forward to.
Donna Walker is first lady of Alaska.