JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s an annual tradition dating back to 1975-- volunteers from across Alaska were brought to the governor’s mansion in Juneau to receive Volunteer of the Year Awards from the First Lady of Alaska.
First Lady Rose Dunleavy, alongside Marilyn Romano, the Alaska Airlines regional vice president for the state of Alaska, presented the awards before hosting a lunch for the award winners.
Six recipients were chosen by a committee from a pool of 75 nominees. One of the recipients was unable to make the trip to Juneau.
“It’s been incredible,” said Dunleavy. “You read so many, so many stories about the nominees, all their accomplishments, all the hard work they put into their work.”
The award winners volunteer in diverse fields across the state:
Blaze Bell, the Vice President of the Board of Directors for Victims for Justice, said she experienced a traumatic event around 15 years ago, she uses that experience now to help others. “It’s really important for people to know that they aren’t alone,” she said.
In Western Alaska, Jon Cochrane started Bethel Winter House “to prevent death by exposure among Bethel’s homeless population during the extreme cold of Alaska’s winter.”
Posie Boggs worked long hours to see the passage of House BIll 64 in 2018 that set up a legislative task force on reading proficiency and dyslexia. Since then, Boggs “spearheaded an effort to continue to educate Alaskans on how we can do better to make sure every child in our state is given the gift of learning to read.”
On the Kenai Peninsula, Cindy Glassmaker set up the Kenai River Spring Cleanup alongside her husband Mark to ensure that “Alaska’s environment remains viable and healthy for generations to come.”
“Quite honestly, it was a surprise. It was nothing I would imagine in a million years ever receiving,” Glassmaker said about the award. “It’s very humbling to be recognized for the work we’ve been doing on the Kenai River.”
Sara Mullen was unable to make the trip to Juneau. She was awarded for work she has done with the Alaska National Guard's Warrior and Family Services program. Mullen was commended as a driving force behind the Wreaths Across America event at Ft. Richardson National Cemetery.
“She raised more than $10,000 for that event and coordinated with statewide organizations to honor our fallen Alaskan heroes,” read Mullen’s commendation.
Rachel Olson was presented with her award for having done “influential and life-changing work with children, families and professionals involved in Alaska’s foster care system.” Olson serves as the Director of Royal Family Kids, a camp in the Mat-Su Valley that helps abused children.