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Howard County’s “Volunteer of the Year” awards announced

Howard County’s “Volunteer of the Year” awards announced

April 13, 2017

Media Contact:
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County honored outstanding volunteers last night in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of seven individuals and one non-profit organization. The winners were selected from 19 nominations. The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients.

“It is an honor to join the County Council and Volunteer Center Serving Howard County in recognizing the extraordinary individuals and organizations who generously give their time and talent to help improves the lives of others,” said Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “Our volunteers are the backbone of our great county and many of the services we offer wouldn’t be possible without the work and dedication of these individuals.”

"Volunteers are the lifeblood of Howard County," said Council Chairperson Jon Weinstein shared. "Like a rock thrown into a pond, the impact this year's amazing honorees have will continue to ripple out across our community."

Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the “Pathway to Excellence” at the county’s Troy Park at Elkridge. The pathway is be part of Troy Park’s future development.

This year’s award winners were:

Volunteers of the Year: Donna Kruzic and Nancy Schieken
Howard County Recreation & Parks’ “No Boundaries” program is a drama program for adults with intellectual disabilities. The program’s success depends on the help it receives from its volunteers, like Donna Kruzic and Nancy Schieken.

With a background in dance, Donna Kruzic’s expertise is a welcome addition to “No Boundaries.” For 10 years, she has been an exemplary volunteer with the program, going above and beyond the call of duty. Outside the program, Donna spends multiple hours typing and organizing director’s notes. She spends time creating the master CD to which the participants perform, making extra copies for participants who need extra help practicing at home. She adapts the dance moves and musical pacing and timing to accommodate each individual actor’s abilities. As the assistant director, Donna is an integral part of each rehearsal. As her nominator wrote, “she is beloved by all of the actors and they know to look to her for guidance.”

Nancy Schieken has also been volunteering with “No Boundaries” for 10 years. Nancy has become an integral part of the program, volunteering two to three hours every week, and up to 20 hours in the weeks leading up to each performance. As described by her nominator, “The most striking characteristic about Nancy is her perpetual optimism. She always has a kind word to say about everyone, choosing to overlook their faults and bring out their best qualities. This is especially encouraging to our actors who thrive on positivity.” Nancy always has a listening ear for the actors who want to talk about what is going on in their lives, as well as an encouraging word for other volunteers and staff at the program. She is never afraid to jump in where needed, whether it is running the sound system during rehearsals, creating props, helping with costume changes or subbing in a scene when an actor is absent. Her role is vital to make rehearsals and performances run smoothly.

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Rees Draminski
As a junior at Mount Hebron High School, Rees Draminski enjoys reading, swimming and programming in his free time, when he’s not thinking of new ideas for TeCanal. TeCanal is a nonprofit organization that promotes STEM education to low-income neighborhoods in the Baltimore area. For two years, Rees has volunteered his time with TeCanal, where he has been instrumental in developing, implementing and teaching its curriculum, putting in 10 hours a week with tutoring and mentorship. When one of TeCanal’s outreach centers was without internet, Rees developed “SpeedyMath,” a math game that allows customizable infinite math practice offline. He also downloaded websites so the children could do webquests without the need of internet access. Rees found a solution, a hotspot on TechSoup, and by soliciting donations, he raised enough money to buy a hotspot with unlimited data. As his nominator wrote, “[Rees] instills a certain quality of curiosity in the children that makes them want to learn more.”

Non-Profit Volunteer Organization of the Year: Metanoia Church
Members of Metanoia Church were the first volunteers to step forward to help after the flood in Historic Ellicott City on July 30, 2016, and they have never stopped. As their nominator wrote, “As a shop owner, I was overwhelmed and needed serious help. A phone call was all it took to get [Staff Pastor] Jesse Florida or [Reverend Dr.] Adam Feldman [from Metanoia Church] to make it happen. If I needed volunteers, Jesse made it happen. If I needed a few tubs, brushes, bleach or whatever, Jesse or a church member would appear with it. Tasks which were impossible [to complete] alone, were accomplished with a team of volunteers from Metanoia Church. Their presence was constant.” Throughout it all, their service has been invaluable.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Casey and TJ Swiney
For more than 25 years, Julie Casey has been an integral part in the Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association (HCVFA). She has served as HCVFA’s President for three terms. Under her leadership, she has played a vital role in: fostering diversity and inclusion, particularly for women firefighters; supporting the annual breast cancer awareness campaign; coordinating with the six volunteer fire companies in Howard County regarding state grant funding; conferring with the county’s fire chief on budget and other administration issues; and working toward improved safety, health and physicals for volunteers. Julie was actively involved in campaigning for the construction of the new Elkridge Volunteer Fire Station, which is currently under construction. Howard County Fire Chief John Butler especially praises Julie’s work gaining recognition for the sacrifices firefighters make and for her efforts on the new Elkridge Fire station.

A 44-year veteran of the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department, Captain TJ Swiney has worked his way up through the ranks over the years. According to his nominator, Captain Swiney’s at the station almost every night and puts in at least 25 hours a week. As Captain, he oversees the station’s observer and rookie programs, helping new members prepare to become firefighters. He also serves as the station’s training officer, assisting both volunteer and career members hone their skills. Described by his colleagues as someone “you can trust and believe in,” “is always there if you need him” and who “fights for the community,” Captain Swiney is an example of all that is good about the volunteers who keep residents safe.

Dynamic Duo Award: George and Janice “Jan” Vanisko
George, a retired engineer, and Jan, a retired nurse, are always willing to help others in need. George fixes anything, especially tech products such as computers, televisions, phones and thermostats, and Jan always keeps a medical bag available for first aid issues, blood pressure checks and interpreting medical reports in layman’s terms. When not fixing things or providing medical assistance, George and Jan can be found volunteering at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, Our Daily Bread, Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Louis Church and FISH. They pick up donated groceries from Giant and deliver them; buy and grill chickens for a monthly meal at Our Daily Bread; drive patients to doctor’s appointments; and counsel those with Alzheimers or dementia, and their caregivers. As described by their nominator, “they bring joy to all they serve.”