The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the second quarter of FY15. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.
Records Specialist, REM Ohio
The Ohio District Council Christian Youth Camp in Zanesville, Ohio, holds a special place in Carolynda Dortch’s heart. The summer of 2015 will mark the thirty-first year she will be visiting the campgrounds – and her twenty-fourth year as a staff member. “ODC Youth Camp” offers a variety of sports and leadership training activities for 300 children and 150 teens during two one-week sessions every summer. Among the activities offered to campers are sports, arts and crafts, Bible study, bowling, skating, campfires, music and dance, in addition to activities designed to boost self-esteem and confidence.
Serving in her eighth year as Head Female Counselor, Carolynda oversees the safety of all females at the campground, a team of counselors, program development, and securing sponsorships for camp operations. She also solicits donations from various church ministries in order to provide scholarships for 15-20 campers each summer. In order to qualify for a scholarship, a young person must demonstrate financial need and regularly attend Sunday School and/or Bible study.
Carolynda has held many positions over her many years at ODC, including camper, counselor, kitchen crew, Bible study teacher and camp treasurer, among others. She is proud to lead the staff in providing programming to young people that enables them to develop the skills they’ll need to be empowered individuals and successful college students.
“It’s so exciting to be a part of this camp,” says Carolynda. “It’s amazing to see how our young campers take the principles we teach them at camp and apply them to real life. I still keep in contact with many campers, and continue to be amazed at how successfully they are living their lives.”
“Carolynda has a huge heart and loves to help others,” said Buffie LaBelle, Regional Director at REM Ohio. “Whether at work, home, or in the community, she does whatever she can to bring a smile to the faces of the people she encounters.”
To learn more about The Ohio District Council Christian Youth Camp, please visit their website at http://www.children4christcamp.org/.
Behavior Analyst, REM Iowa
Paula Hill has served as the Board President of Gigi’s Playhouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the past year and a half. Gigi’s Playhouse is a nationwide non-profit dedicated to increasing positive awareness of Down syndrome through national campaigns and educational programming. Gigi’s programs also aim to maximize self-confidence and empower individuals with Down syndrome to achieve their greatest potential, in addition to providing a community of support for families.
With four children of her own, including a 15-year-old son on the Autism spectrum, Paula understands how important community support is when it comes to raising children. “Gigi’s helps parents connect with one another,” says Paula. “They welcome you with open arms. That kind of support makes people feel like they can deal with their disability, and to help provide that support is incredibly rewarding.”
Among her successes as president, Paula was instrumental in leading the fundraising campaign for the grand opening of another Gigi’s location in Iowa (now one of four in the state) in September of 2014. By using her connections within the community to build up the board of directors and identify a solid donor base, the fundraising campaign and grand opening for this location was hugely successful. The event drew a packed house and included a guest appearance by Gigi herself (a teenager with Down syndrome for whom the organization is named). The overwhelming amount of support was inspirational for Paula.
“I think this says a lot about the families in our community,” she says. “It’s a reflection of what the people here want to do – not only for individuals with Down syndrome and their families, but those facing other disabilities as well. It’s only going to grow from here.”
“Paula truly has a passion for helping others realize their full potential,” said Annie Streng, Business Development Director at REM Iowa. “She is genuine and caring, and knows what it is like to need connection and support from others. Through her work at Gigi’s, she is able to provide this to other families, and we are proud to have her as part of our team.”
Visit http://gigisplayhouse.org/ for more information on Gigi’s Playhouse and its many locations.
Program Records Coordinator, Massachusetts MENTOR, New Bedford IHT
Heather Wilson has been working with the Food for Friends Food Pantry in Westport, Mass., since 2011. She serves as the General Manager, ensuring that the Westport community has access to food and necessary living resources. Under Heather’s direction, the Food Pantry serves approximately 70 households per month, providing around 285 bags of food to seniors and families in need. Each bag contains enough food for 10 meals, carefully assembled by Heather to ensure that each bag offers a variety of sustenance.
When it comes to the bimonthly ordering of food through the Greater Boston Food Bank, Heather challenges herself by setting a budget for that order and trying to get as much food out of that number as she can. “It’s a self-challenge,” she says. “And one of the aspects I enjoy most about my role!”
As General Manager, Heather oversees a team of 24 volunteers that work together to sort donations, hand out food, and administer deliveries to homebound individuals. In this role, she has developed strong relationships with many people in the community and has become a fierce advocate for those in need of basic resources. Heather is inspired to volunteer by the individuals she serves.
“Just knowing that these families will be ok and have food is enough to motivate me,” she says.
“Heather’s willingness to help others is noticed by everyone that comes in contact with her,” said Patricia Martins, Massachusetts MENTOR Southeast IHT Program Director. “She approaches even the most tedious tasks with a smile and a ‘let’s get it done’ attitude. When I first learned of Heather’s involvement with the local food bank, I wasn’t surprised that her willingness to help extended beyond MENTOR. We are so lucky to have Heather on our team!”
To learn more about the Greater Boston Food Bank and the programs it supports, please visit http://gbfb.org/index.php.