They are the community’s helping hands in so many different ways: sitting at bedsides listening to hospice patients, organizing elementary school book drives, tutoring fellow high school students, volunteering for the county’s biggest one-day food drive, and providing help and information to people who have lost their jobs.
United Way of Snohomish County honored the people behind these efforts, naming them as recipients of its annual Spirit Awards.
Buzz and Carol Rodland of Everett were honored for their lifetime commitment to volunteer work and philanthropy, with the Reeves/Sievers Founders’ Award. It’s the first time a couple has received the award.
As one the most recent examples of their community work, the couple participated in United Way’s annual Day of Caring by reading to children at Everett’s Hawthorne Elementary School. Carol Rodland previously taught at the school.
She serves on the board of the Providence General Foundation and on the Arts Council of Snohomish County.
Buzz Rodland is a member of the Rotary Club of South Everett/Mukilteo and volunteers through Rotary International’s Hands of Peacemaking, building schools and homes in Guatemala.
He is a board member of United Way of Snohomish County and in 2008 headed its annual fund drive.
George Janecke, of Lynnwood, said he’s a little embarrassed by the attention from the Spirit Awards.
The United Way award is one of a string of citations Janecke has received this year for his volunteer work, which also includes a President’s Volunteer Service Award from Barack Obama.
Janecke, 84, formerly served on the Lynnwood City Council. He has been involved in community projects for decades. One of his longest-standing commitments is working with hospice patients and their families, volunteering his time for the past 25 years.
But he also finds time to make donations to the Lynnwood Food Bank every Tuesday morning, with the trips adding up to an estimated 5,000 pounds of donated food last year.
He makes regular visits to a Lynnwood rehabilitation center, singing songs, telling stories and a bit of history.
Janecke said he’s humbled by the awards but joked that he feels he’s gotten too many.
“I will not need any more awards — or publicity — until my funeral,” he said.
Robert James, 58, of Lynnwood, received the award for his 18-year involvement with the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive.
When the drive first began, Volunteers of America, which distributes supplies to food banks across the county, only had a small warehouse on Lombard, James said.
Now the annual event has grown into the nation’s largest single-day food drive.
“You have an incredible amount of food sitting at the mailbox that in a matter of a few hours, you’ve got to get to a warehouse,” he said.
This year, approximate 375,000 pounds of food were donated, James said.
The plastic food donations bags distributed by letter carriers at mailboxes have been shown to double the amount of food collected on routes, he said.
Brittany Monares, 17, a senior at Mariner High school, was honored for her volunteer work, including the annual letter carrier’s food drive and helping out at a food bank.
Monares estimates that she’s donated 200 hours since her sophomore year for volunteer work, which also includes after-school tutoring.
“I like helping people,” she said. “I like knowing that I made a difference in their life.”
The Workforce Development Council of Snohomish County received a Spirit Award for its ongoing efforts to help people who have lost jobs due to the recession.
This includes work with 14 other agencies to form the Help for Hard Times Task Force.
“I realized that things were getting worse and worse for our community members,” said Sue Ambler, the development council’s chief executive.
Some 50 nonprofits came together to talk about what could be done to help the community, she said.
A website was established so that people could go to one place to get information on the resources available to laid off workers. “It became a model around the country,” used by a number of other United Way groups, she said.