ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — Nearly 900 people gathered at America’s Center Wednesday to honor outstanding volunteer service. About 100 people throughout the region were nominated for the United Way’s Volunteer Center Honors. Four people and two organizations were honored.
But it was Deborah Weber, now a United Way volunteer and Senior Associate with Real Estate Solutions who told her emotional story of finding herself as a single mother of four in need of help that she found from the United Way.
Weber says her husband lost his job in the mortgage industry during the housing bust. She says she had to get a second job to support her children and often faced shut-off notices from the utility company. But it was a phone call to the United Way’s 211 help line that led her into a 45 minute conversation that she says, “changed her life.”
The United Way staffer gave her a list of agencies that could and did help. Weber said, “It’s a very humbling experience to know that there are people out there that don’t know you or your family but they care.”
Weber says her experience receiving food, rent and utility assistance drives her desire to volunteer with the United Way, to donate herself and to tell her own story.
The United Way St. Louis ranks 10th in the nation for volunteering.
CBS St. Louis General Manager John Sheehan serves on the Board of the United way. KMOX’s Carol Daniel was the event’s emcee.
United Way Regional Volunteer Awards:
Calvary Church’s Serve Day, an intensive one-day service project for church members, was created in 2007 to provide church members with the opportunity to use their time and talents for the greater good. Since that time, Serve Day has grown from a church-wide to a region-wide effort. Volunteers have served meals, repaired homes, cleaned parks and hosted get-togethers for people with disabilities and older adults. Hundreds of individuals, from small children to seniors, spend a day giving to others in their community, learning about the needs around them and giving to people who are experiencing personal crisis.
Fred Domke is on a mission to serve the homeless. As a board member of the homeless drop-in center, The Bridge, Fred founded Bridge Bread, a social enterprise that employs clients of The Bridge to make artisan bread to sell through local churches. Fred is also a founding member and Vice President of HomeFirst STL, an affordable housing program that uses the ‘housing first’ model to end homelessness. Additionally, he supports the emergency shelter activities of Winter Outreach with home-cooked food. Through the years, Fred has been involved in many other volunteer activities including Habitat for Humanity, Shalom House and United Way supported Kingdom House.
Safety National Casualty Corporation
Giving back is second nature to the employees of Safety National Casualty Corporation. Whether they’re building homes through Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles; hosting holiday parties for clients of Pathways to Independence; exercising and socializing service dogs for United Way partner Support Dogs; donating bikes to children’s charities; sending Girl Scout cookies to military families overseas and much more, the employees of Safety National put their hearts and souls into making our region (and the entire world!) a better place to live.
United Way Agency-Partner Volunteer Award
Roger Jensen put his skills as a system administrator to work for military families and has touched tens of thousands of lives as a result. During the past seven years, Roger has spent countless hours creating, modifying and maintaining his custom software, H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, to coordinate care among military families, meeting the complex needs of those with multiple or extended deployments. His software is attributed to preventing 11 suicides and helping dozens of families seek counseling for their needs. Roger offers his software and services free of charge to other military-centric organizations, helping further expand the reach of many charities.
United Way Community Impact Volunteer Award
Honorable Judge Laninya Cason ̶
Judge Laninya A. Cason, Associate Circuit Judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit in St. Clair County, IL, noticed the large dropout rate coupled with a rise in teen pregnancy in East St. Louis and decided to do something about it. Four years ago she founded Diamonds in the Rough, a mentoring program aimed at helping young women make positive life decisions. Through the program, 8th graders are paired with African-American female professionals in health care, law, science and other career fields who mentor the young girls about the importance of education, health and self-respect. The young women in the program receive positive role models not only through their mentors, but through Judge Cason herself.
United Way Freeman-Kortkamp Award
Mike Hogan, Sunset Hills, MO
Mike Hogan learned the value of charity from his parents. As a boy growing up in Chicago, Mike went door to door with his father to solicit gifts for United Way. This experience helped shape the importance of philanthropy in his life and set him up for more than 20 years of service to United Way of Greater St. Louis. Mike’s first role with United Way began in 1993 as the Triumph Division Chair representing General American. Tenacious and committed to the cause, Mike quickly gained a reputation for being a fantastic fundraiser, winning division chair awards in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998. In 1997, Mike joined United Way of Greater St. Louis’ Board of Directors and has served on the audit, executive, contract agency, budget and campaign committees. While his impact has been tremendous at United Way, he has also left an indelible mark on many nonprofits in St. Louis. Mike has served on the boards of more than 20 nonprofits and has been an officer on more than half of those.