Six everyday Alaskans who give time and effort to bettering the state received some recognition.
The annual First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year awards were held Friday morning at the Governor’s Mansion, and First Lady Rose Dunleavy gave out awards and big hugs the day’s honorees and spoke the importance of the work they do.
“We recognize all that you do not for recognition, not for personal gain and not for awards, but for service to your neighbors and your communities,” Dunleavy said. “This year’s recipients are truly an inspiration and an example of people who are serving above themselves. They are deserving of this ward.”
This year’s winners were Blaze Bell, Posie Boggs, Rachel Olson, Jon Cochrane, Cindy Glassmaker and Sarah Mullen, who was not in attendance.
The awards are a tradition that was started by then-First Lady Bella Hammond.
Marilyn Romano, Alaska regional vice president for Alaska Airlines, who has served on the awards executive committee for six years, said this year there were 75 nominees for the committee to consider.
Dunleavy said everyone nominated is worthy of recognition, but the community contributions of the six who received awards were especially notable.
“It was amazing,” Dunleavy said. “We had this great big binder of stories, and it was kind of hard.”
Glassmaker is a regular volunteer for Kenai Peninsula community events, and she and her husband Mark initiated the Kenai River Spring Cleanup and have continued to make sure that the Kenai River and Alaska’s environment remains viable and healthy for generations to come.
Glassmaker said over the six years the river cleanup has existed, more than 13,000 pounds of trash has been removed from the river.
She said it’s rewarding to know her actions have a positive impact on the environment and to see children participate in the program year after year.
“They say it’s the best field trip of the year,” Glassmaker said.
Bell is the Vice President of the Board of Directors for Victims for Justice, a nonprofit that serves and advocates for victims of violent crimes.
Boggs helped bring forward the successful HB 64 Legislative Task Force on Reading Proficiency and Dyslexia in 2018. Once the bill became law, she spearheaded an effort to continue to educate Alaskans on how to make sure every child in our state is taught to read.
Cochrane started the Bethel Winter House to prevent death by exposure among Bethel’s homeless population during the extreme cold. Sponsored by the Bethel Winter Lions Club, The Winter House provides a warm, clean and safe environment, along with a hot dinner and breakfast every day they operate.
Mullen is involved with the Alaska National Guard’s Warrior and Family Services program and is an advocate for veterans, those currently serving and their families. She was a driving force behind many efforts for service men and women in the Anchorage community, including initiating the Wreaths Across America event at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery.
Olson works with children, families and professionals involved in Alaska’s foster care system. She serves as the Director of the Royal Family Kids-MatSu camp, doing everything from fundraising and recruiting volunteers, to leading the staff and campers, to becoming the first Trust Based Relational Intervention Practitioner.
“I’m glad they’re being recognized,” Dunleavy said. “This is something that is an awesome opportunity, I think to recognize all the volunteers here.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.