The 14th annual Volunteer of the Year Recognition Program was presented by the Kiwanis Club Foundation at Strongbow Banquets on Wednesday morning. This event gave much due respect and recognition to the hardest working volunteers in the area.
The morning began with the traditional start for a Kiwanis meeting. “America the Beautiful” was sang and a prayer was said, blessing the people and the message of the morning’s event. Jeff Clymer, Vice President had a special presentation as he gave a check from the Kiwanis to the American Cancer Society for $500.
“One of the things we do is raise money so that we can give it away,” Clymer said.
Susan Brychell, President Elect, took to the podium next, giving her thoughts and reading a note of commendation from Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.
“It’s amazing to realize how many hours of volunteerism have been accumulated by people in this room alone to make the community a better place,” Brychell said. “I do have a letter from Mayor Costas for the nominees.”
An excerpt from the Mayor's letter is as follows: “Congratulations on being nominated by your agency to be the Kiwanis Volunteer of the Year for 2015 in Valparaiso, Indiana. The City of Valparaiso is proud of your volunteer efforts. Your efforts along the thousands of volunteers in the Greater Valparaiso area make our city a truly special place to live and work…”
“All nominees here today are special people,” Dr. Roger Luekens, Foundation Board Chair said. “They are special in their desire to give of themselves and volunteer for others, and they are particularly special to the agencies that nominated them. While their contributions to the greater Valparaiso area vary in 13 different ways, they are all equally important.”
There 13 nominees were:
- William Berger – Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County
- Sandi Howard – Dayspring Women’s Center
- Claudette Daniels – Hilltop Neighborhood House
- Sue Martz – Housing Opportunities
- Molly Judd – Lakeshore PAWS
- Stan Schorum – Porter County Career and Technical Center
- Jay Birky – Porter County Sheriff’s Office
- Diane Havrilla – Porter County Special Olympics
- Patty Andrick – St. Paul Men’s Club
- JJ Peller – United Way of Porter County
- John Bryan – Valparaiso Civic Air Patrol
- Jacki Stutzman - Valparaiso Family YMCA
- Lynda Krueger – Visiting Nurses Association of Porter County
Representatives from the Valparaiso Kiwanis walked around the room to each table where the candidates sat, taking a minute to talk about all of their accomplishments and letting the agency where each volunteers take a turn to give kind words about their nominee.
Warm applause accompanied each explanation, solidifying the notion that these people were special, and that if there was any good example of the goodness of humanity that could be followed, these people would surely be it.
But only one could be chosen, though. And after much deliberation, thought, and discussion by the Foundation Board, the decision was made. The 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award went to Jay Birky.
Jay is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Kouts, IN. He has been volunteering 25 hours per week with the Porter County Sheriff’s Department for the last 13 years as the chaplain and he runs a program at the Porter County Jail which teaches life skills to inmates. His impact at the jail has inspired other clergymen in the area to minister to the inmates.
Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds said of his nominee, ”I can’t tell you what this guy means to our whole department. When people are having a hard time, Jay is there. Whenever we have a problem, we go look for Jay. Many police departments in the nation don’t have a chaplain and I feel so blessed to have someone like him helping us.”
Not only did he get the recognition as Volunteer of the Year, he was also presented with a check for $1,000 that would go to the agency where he volunteers his time – the Porter County Sheriff’s Department.
“What an honor,” Jay said, smiling at the crowd who stood to clapping for him. “I want to thank the Kiwanis Club for this, and I want to give recognition and appreciation to David Reynolds and his crew. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. Thank you.”
Congratulations to all who were nominated. We are so proud of you and grateful to you for your service to our communities.