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Governor’s Outstanding Volunteers to be honored Oct. 25 at Dover Downs

October 6, 2017

Individuals and groups will be honored with the 2017 Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Service Award Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Dover Downs Hotel. The people and organizations have engaged in diverse activities including mentoring children, rescuing wildlife, helping seniors and veterans and protecting the environment.

"The thousands of volunteers across our state make connections and forge relationships each day that make a difference in the lives of so many people," said Gov. John Carney. "By supporting vulnerable individuals and families, these dedicated volunteers play a critical role in helping us to build stronger communities. With that appreciation in mind, it is my privilege to honor the 24 individuals and groups with the 2017 Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Service Award."

"Serving everyone from at-risk children to our most vulnerable seniors, Delaware's volunteers demonstrate how their selfless actions help to bring us closer together and enhance our sense of community," said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services, which oversees the State Office of Volunteerism. "I thank this year's honorees for their incredible passion in serving their neighbors."

"Beautiful stories of compassion and extraordinary service to others emerge as a result of the awards process," said Georgeanna Windley, chair of the Governor's Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.

For more information on the event and recipients, go to www.volunteerdelaware.org.

The Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Service Awards are sponsored by the Office of the Governor, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Division of State Service Centers, the State Office of Volunteerism, and the Governor's Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.

The 2017 recipients for Sussex County are Roxanne Nelson, Economic Development; Dr. Thomas Connelly, Education/Literacy; Maryanne Yingst, Environment; Dr. Nancy Feichtl, Healthy Futures; Chase A. Marvil, Social Justice/Advocacy; and Scott Underkoffler, Veterans & Military Families.

Group winners for Sussex County are Greater Lewes Community Village, Human Needs; Ocean View Police Volunteers, Public Safety; Clothing Our Kids, Social Justice/Advocacy; and Operation SEAs the Day, Veterans & Military Families.

INDIVIDUAL RECIPIENTS

Roxanne Nelson, Economic Development

Roxanne Nelson founded Reading Opens Doors in 2007. The organization provides new Sussex County Habitat for Humanity homeowners and their children with books and skills to facilitate reading. Since the program's inception, Reading Opens Doors has served more than 100 Habitat for Humanity families in Sussex County. In July 2017, Nelson and Sussex County Habitat celebrated two significant program milestones: providing libraries for its 100th Sussex County family (serving 252 children) and the program's 10-year anniversary of working in partnership with Sussex County Habitat for Humanity. Last year alone, Nelson invested more than 325 volunteer hours in the interview, selection, and delivery and setup of family libraries. Her dedication and service strengthen Habitat for Humanity's impact, improving the lives of families by fostering an early love of reading. The joy on the faces of the children as they proudly show off their books and bookshelves in their new home inspires Nelson to keep going.

Dr. Thomas Connelly has been instrumental in the success of young men who are participating in the Gentlemen's Society of Excellence group while attending Cape Henlopen High School. The society was created out of a need for some young men to have a place they could go before their formal school day began that would lend itself to starting that day in a positive manner. Connelly has spent more than 320 volunteer hours mentoring students and tutoring five days a week during and after school. Fostering self-sufficiency with his mentoring, Connelly relied on his personal experiences with homelessness to help the students understand that they, too, can overcome the challenges they are experiencing - from their own homelessness, to not knowing from where their next meal would come. He also helps them understand that peer pressure and being involved in drugs and alcohol is not the path to success. Connelly has given the students he mentors more self-confidence and the knowledge that they can achieve their goals if they stay focused and believe in themselves, because he believes in them.

Maryanne Yingst joined the Newark-based Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research in September 1999 and has filled many different roles since then. Starting as a bird care volunteer, she helped care for the thousands of avian patients that get admitted each year. As her first year progressed, Yingst trained for retrieval and transport of injured birds. On a moment's notice, she responds to calls about birds in trouble and covers all areas of northern Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania. It quickly became evident that Yingst would be an excellent trainer for new volunteers and, over the last almost 20 years, she has trained hundreds of new volunteers, including individuals in Kent and Sussex counties, on how to safely capture/retrieve and transport injured wild birds. Yingst spent almost 600 hours volunteering in 2016 and has already logged more than 500 hours in 2017 with Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research.

Dr. Nancy Feichtl has been a community volunteer for 20 years, seeing and responding to a variety of needs. She is the founder of ITN Southern Delaware, an affiliate of ITN America, a nonprofit transportation network that provides sustainable, community-based and community-supported transportation services for seniors over 55 and adults with visual impairments throughout Kent and Sussex counties. With Feichtl's guidance, ITN Southern Delaware has built a transportation cooperative network that helps to promote lifelong safety and mobility. Feichtl also helped to start Sussex Academy, the sole successful charter school in Sussex County, is actively involved in Citizens for Clean Power and is one of the volunteer drivers for ITN Southern Delaware, logging more than 2,000 miles on her personal vehicle in 2016 alone.

At the age of 15, Chase Marvil created The Inspiring Project with a purpose of promoting positivity and lending a helping hand to anyone and everyone in need. Beginning in 2013, Chase began posting inspiring messages on social media to help his followers who may be having a bad day feel better. The goal of the project is to shine light onto those who are feeling lonely, down or helpless. The long-term objective is to help people who are experiencing bullying, and decrease suicide. Not only does Marvil promote positive outreach on the internet, he also hosts events at various businesses and has created Inspiring Walls that provide schools, businesses and organizations the opportunity to share their passions and inspirations on large murals. Marvil's project is a daily operation run mostly by himself, and it has impacted nearly 100,000 people.

Scott Underkoffler is the proud son of a veteran and has been dedicating his time to bettering the lives of other servicemen/women and their families. He is currently the Delaware Detachment commander of the Sons of the American Legion, and Underkoffler's hard work and dedication to serve others have touched the hearts of many. His influences are continually changing the lives of servicemen/women and others throughout the community. He helps change the lives of veterans who need help but cannot afford it. With his strong voice, he persuaded the legion to provide threshold ramps for people with disabilities for many of the members. These ramps helped members with wheelchairs and others with mobility impediments to gain more independence in going about the routine of daily life such as going to the grocery store or the doctor. Currently, Underkoffler is spearheading a fundraising drive to have a wheelchair ramp built for a veteran from American Legion Post 24. Underkoffler is the go-to guy who veterans and their families can trust to do his best to help members of the community.

The Greater Lewes Community Village program is a volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping seniors, people with disabilities and low-income adults live independently at home for as long as possible. The village provides volunteer support, services and programs that enhance the lives of its members by helping them be healthy and engaged in a variety of social, educational and cultural activities. The programs and services offered by the village’s 90 volunteers serve as a bridge between seniors who live at home, but need to adapt to changing circumstances or are beginning to have difficulties functioning. The village meets these seniors where they are and helps them lead full, safe and independent lives.

The six individuals who make up the Ocean Police Volunteers spent almost 2,000 hours in 2016 providing essential services to the community. The volunteers assisted with traffic control, acted as funeral escorts, completed building and vehicle maintenance, worked with victims, aided with community policing activities and performed a variety of other tasks. By assuming these duties, the volunteers freed up sworn police officers to focus on crime fighting and public safety.

Clothing Our Kids is a nonprofit organization of approximately 150 volunteers whose mission is to improve the lives of at-risk elementary school children by providing them with school clothing. In Sussex County, 22 percent of children live below the poverty level and do not have school clothing. Lack of appropriate school attire has a negative impact on children's self-esteem, school attendance, and ability to learn; it can also lead to bullying. Clothing Our Kids' goal is to assist youngsters with an equal start in their early education and help them become successful students. Working exclusively through nurses, counselors, and assistant principals, volunteers with Clothing Our Kids respond to requests, usually within 24 hours. Volunteers pack up the items and deliver them to the school, where the children are presented with the package in private, so they are never embarrassed in front of their peers. In the 2016-17 school year, Clothing Our Kids provided more than 20,000 items to 3,852 children.

Now in its fifth year, Operation SEAs the Day is an annual event held in Bethany Beach for veterans who are recovering from injuries sustained while serving this county and their families. During the week after Labor Day, Bethany Beach hosts 32 families for a well-deserved week of rest, relaxation and fun. The families stay in homes donated by local homeowners and are provided with the resources to experience the best of Bethany and nearby attractions. Each Operation SEAs the Day week is meticulously planned by an all-volunteer board of directors who spend almost 3,000 hours each year arranging the weeklong event. The week includes a kickoff welcome reception, beach bonfire/cookout, Hero's Welcome Home/Thank You parade, concert at the Freeman Stage, boating, therapeutic horseback riding, stand-up paddle lessons, golf, tennis, spa day for ladies, children’s luncheon, caregiver coffees and farewell brunch. Local businesses and area residents add to the menu of activities, all exclusively available to the veterans and their families, free of charge.