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Leading Volunteers Recognized At Bloomington Be More Awards Ceremony
Updated April 6, 2016 7:09 AM
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(BLOOMINGTON) - The Be More Awards, which honor local volunteers for committed community service, were presented Tuesday, March 29 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Sixty-one individuals and groups, all of whom had been nominated by community members, were recognized for their generous commitment to improving the community.

The awards program is sponsored by the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network, with support from the IU Credit Union, United Way of Monroe County, Community and Family Resources Department of the City and WTIU Public Television. In addition, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County presented a check for $500 to each of the ten Be More Award recipients, made out to the primary organization where each volunteers.

"The work of the Bloomington Volunteer Network is to build on community assets and tackle tough community issues through people-power," Volunteer Network Director Bet Savich said. "You are the people powering this town we call home!" Mentioning that this year's Be More Awards is an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, Savich stated "Tonight we celebrate you and your work, and our history as well - all the things that have been pioneered by concerned, active citizens."

Award recipients in 10 categories were selected by an independent panel of judges. Mayor John Hamilton presented the Be More Dedicated award to Nola Donley, who volunteers with Edgewood Junior High School, saying "Over the past 39 years, she has touched thousands of students, keeping over 600 students a year actively reading, encouraging achievement through the recognition that her 'student of the month' photos bring, and providing much needed assistance to the Edgewood Junior High School staff. Hers is truly a lifetime of service; we are honored to present her with this award."

Mayor Hamilton also presented each honoree with a commemorative plaque and Community Foundation President Tina Peterson presented each with a check for $500 for their organizations.

Additional presenters included 2014 Be More Award Recipient Erikka Vaughn, IU Credit Union President Bryan Price, Bloomington Sustainability Coordinator Jacqui Bauer, United Way of Monroe County Executive Director Barry Lessow, Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department Director Beverly Calendar-Anderson, WTIU Station Operations and Content Director Brent Molnar, Serve Indiana Executive Director Debbie Pidgeon and Kelley School of Business Director of Learning Technologies Sarah Smith-Robbins.

>Recipient Summaries:

Be More Healthy Award (Health and Wellness)

Presenter: Brent Molnar, Station Operations and Content Director, WTIU
Recipient: Carrie Shabahrami
Carrie Shabahrami has worked tirelessly over the last three years to bring Project Lifesaver to Monroe County. Project Lifesaver is a national organization that assists caregivers in caring for their loved ones through individual transmitter bracelets, which track people at risk for wandering off, including those with alzheimer's, dementia, autism, and other cognitive conditions.

In 2012, Carrie's nonverbal autistic five year old daughter, Sophie, became the first Monroe County Project Lifesaver bracelet recipient, inspiring Carrie to commit herself to expanding the program. Carrie has since been relentless in her passion to help others, affecting both those receiving the bracelet and the families who care for them. Through her efforts, the project has raised $48,000, serves over 40 families, and has saved over 15 lives.

Be More Collaborative Award (Group or Family)

Presenter: Erikka Vaughn, 2014 Be More Award Recipient
Recipient: Middle Way House On-Scene Advocates
Volunteers in the On Scene Advocate Program at Middle Way House assure the presence of a face-to-face emergency response for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and human trafficking, on a 24/7 basis. They provide this service both over the phone and in person. After a minimum of 20 hours of training, these volunteers make themselves available to provide support and information, and to empower survivors throughout their healing process. On Scene Advocates regularly wake up in the middle of the night to support survivors. Advocacy can take 6-7 hours; advocates do not leave until the survivor feels supported with a plan moving forward. This support can mean everything to survivors, as it offers them a vital and true sense of choice as they move forward.

Be More Energized Award (Youth)

Presenter: Tina Peterson, President and CEO, Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County
Recipient: Shay Upadhyay, for her work with WonderLab
Shay Upadhyay has been volunteering at WonderLab Museum since she was in the 7th grade, and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. In her four years at WonderLab, Shay has donated over 600 hours of her time and talent, working in development, membership, and the volunteer department, the birthday program, outreach events, summer enrichment camps, and more! In her work, Shay interacts with hundreds of visitors in the museum, and during her summer work impacted over 120 campers per week for four weeks. Wherever she is volunteering, she is known for making a positive difference and offering her contagious enthusiasm. Shay stands out not just for what she does, but how she does it, making her a model for volunteering in Bloomington.

Be More Uplifting (General)

Presenter: Barry Lessow, Executive Director, United Way of Monroe County
Recipient: Hope Builders, with New Hope Family Shelter
New Hope Builders remodel and maintain the row of houses leased by IU Health to New Hope for Families, which provides child care, programming, and emergency shelter to homeless families. Three properties have been completed; the fourth is rapidly being transformed from a vacant house into space for infant, toddler and child programming. The Hope Builders make a real impact on the 314 school-aged children who are homeless in Monroe County. Over the last four years, they have provided shelter to nearly 90 families. This group is amazing! Working tirelessly to remodel each of the houses, they contribute needed skill sets and countless hours to give families with the greatest needs in our community not only shelter, but love and support.

Be More Sustainable Award (Environmental Sustainability)

Presenter: Jacqui Bauer, Sustainability Coordinator, Economic & Sustainable Development Dept., City of Bloomington
Recipient: Woodie Bessler
Woodie Bessler applies his background in electrical engineering to helping people in the community understand energy and use it wisely. As a member of the Monroe County Energy Challenge, Woodie led the effort to target homes that use the most energy; documented possible conservation savings; performed free energy assessments; and helped make an empty house livable for AmeriCorps Members.

As a member of the Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network (SIREN), Woodie is the author and presenter of the Going Solar program, given over 50 times to approximately 1,000 people. He has also coached MCCSC robotics teams, trained teenagers to weatherize houses, and visited classrooms. Woodie applies his experience and know-how to assist our community as it works to reduce its energy consumption to reduce climate change.

Be More Knowledgeable Award (Education/Literacy)

Presenter: Bryan Price, President and CEO, IU Credit Union
Recipient: Lindsay Badger, with New Leaf- New Life
Lindsay Badger works through New Leaf- New Life to help inmates make the changes in their lives necessary to avoid reoffending. Recidivism is a major reason for prison overcrowding, and many released from prison face serious obstacles in reentering the community; Lindsay's volunteer efforts are aimed at reducing recidivism by developing inmates' self-confidence and communication skills as well as by reducing the barriers they face. Lindsay teaches I.U. Communication and Culture Department credit courses in the jails and leads "think tank" groups to research criminal justice issues, develop recommendations, and present findings to members of the community who can act on them. Lindsay's actions have life-changing impacts on the students involved in her classes and bring attention to serious issues the community faces.

Be More Creative Award (Arts/Culture)

Presenter: Beverly Calendar-Anderson, Director, Community and Family Resources Dept., City of Bloomington
Recipient: Reimagining Opera for Kids
Reimagining Opera for Kids (ROK) provides free opera performances to elementary, middle, and high school children across the south central Indiana region. The musicians and stage crew donate their time for rehearsals, touring, and performances, and ROK designs and provides free study guides to the schools. ROK's performances create a jumping off point for further discussion and inquiry. ROK also give opportunities to young artists, such as performers, composers, choreographers, directors, and arts administrators. For many audience members, a ROK performance is their first experience of opera -- or any of the performing arts. ROK guarantees that reduced public funding will not diminish a child's opportunity to experience live performance, and is committed to making this art form accessible to the next generation.

Be More Phenomenal Award (Board Member)

Presenter: Debbie Pidgeon, Executive Director, Serve Indiana
Recipient: John Warkentin and Kathryn Sandefur
John Warkentin has volunteered at Hannah Center for 4-5 hours a day, 4-5 days a week, for 18 years. The center provides physical, emotional, educational, and practical support to up to 100 families a week; John has impacted the lives of thousands of clients, while saving the center a great deal of money. Because of John's level of commitment and faithfulness, the center has been able to employ a prenatal, childbirth and education teaching employee for nearly two decades. When he started volunteering, after his retirement as an engineer, John learned to navigate the financial logistics of a major capital campaign while handling operational, longer-term capital, and shorter term designated donor accounts. During his service, Hannah Center has consistently received excellent evaluations by independent accounting auditors.

Kathryn Sandefur has been a dedicated Hannah Center volunteer for over 20 years. Recently, Kathy has become a member of the Board of Directors, for which she contributes her insights, leadership and experience. In a crisis center, needs change quickly; Kathy is known for her ability to adapt to these needs. On any given day, she may be encouraging a parent, teaching a dental hygiene class for kids, or strategizing goals with staff. Over her years of service, Kathy has helped the center serve over 100,000 clients, and has been instrumental in helping the organization grow from serving 100 families a year to serving 100 a week. Her knowledge and desire for growth is the perfect blend of respecting the past while embracing the future.

Be More Bloomington

Presenter: Sarah Smith-Robbins, Director of Learning Technologies, Kelley School of Business
Recipient: Prism Education and Training Committee, with Bloomington PRIDE
The youth members that make up the Education and Training Committee of Prism's Youth Leadership Team have made amazing strides in advocating for LGBTQ+ youth. Statistically, these youth face higher rates of bullying, depression, self-injury, and suicide attempts. In recognizing these startling statistics, committee members took countless hours of their time to develop and deliver trainings to make schools a safer and more affirming place for LGBTQ+ students. These were then delivered to over 600 staff members of MCCSC and at multiple conferences, including Indiana State School Counselors Association, IU School of Social Work Alumni Conference, Indiana Youth Group Youth Leadership Summit and the Youth Empowerment Summit. Through identifying this need and addressing it through advocacy, the Committee has shown its strength, dedication, and bravery.

Be More Dedicated Award (Lifetime of Service)

Presenter: John Hamilton, Mayor, City of Bloomington
Recipient: Nola Donley, for her work with Edgewood Junior High School
Nola Donley is a dedicated, creative volunteer, willing to do whatever is asked. She has assisted in the library/media center of Ellettsville Junior High School for 39 years, all to better serve students. She also offers professional photography services to the 'Students of the Month', so they can be recognized by their peers, teachers and the community. Nola's service has kept the media center running smoothly, especially after reductions-in-force eliminated the librarian position. She has worked with at least four librarians there, easing the transitions through her deep knowledge of the school and its services. Many thousands of students have had more choices within the media collection because of her service, which keeps them actively reading and climbing high to meet personal goals.

For more information about the awards, contact Bet Savich at 812.349.3472 or

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