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ON THE SCENE: Volunteers making a difference

June 3, 2013
NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Volunteers are the backbone of any community. Name an event, project, or crisis where volunteers do not make the difference, it's near impossible especially in event-driven communities such as Lake Placid and its surrounding villages and hamlets.

When Tropical Storm Irene roared through the Ausable Valley volunteers were out helping neighbors as the rain was falling and started cleaning debris and mud from such businesses as the Valley Hardware before owners had a chance to get to their stores as the waters began to subside.

When ORDA bids on various World Cup bobsled, skeleton and luge events, it does so knowing it can count on a large volunteer turnout. So does Wilmington when it pitches for the now annual Whiteface Wilmington Bike Fest. Last Saturday I met two volunteers with saws high up on Hopkins clearing the trails that will be used for the 9th annual Great Adirondack Trail Run that will be held in mid-June, an event hosted by the Mountaineer that benefits the Ausable and Boquet River associations.

Article Photos

Naj Wikoff/Lake Placid News
Judy Shea with Joan O'Leary, and Arron Barney's sister Emily, who stood in for him.

The Garden Club's many volunteers create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and locals alike, while Sinfonietta and Arts Center volunteers insure that a wide array of cultural offerings are available to uplift the spirit. Volunteers for the Ecumenical Food Pantry help nourish the body and volunteers out at Uihlein Mercy Center provide comfort for those in end of life care, helping ease the burdens of family members.

Volunteers for the ambulance and fire departments provide people with piece of mind knowing that when emergencies arise highly-trained people will respond to their needs. Community service organizations like the Masons, Rotary Club, Lions and Kiwanis raise funds for scholarships, community enhancement, and the welfare of children. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Scouts and Shipman Center create nurturing atmospheres for youth, whileConnecting Youth and Community (CY) advocates for policies and actions to enhance environmental factors that strengthen healthy lifestyles.

On Saturday, community leaders, their friends, family and colleagues celebrated three people, two youths and one adult, for their volunteer contributions. The Volunteers of the Year celebration began in Peacock Park with the planting of a flowering tree to honor the remarkable contributions of high school seniors Joan O'Leary and Arron Barney, and Judy Shea, whose volunteer efforts have touched nearly every major event held in Placid over the past 30 years.

After the planting ceremony watched by most past winners and carried out by North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi and Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randal, the tribute moved to the Art Center lobby where a delightful spread of refreshments donated by many local restaurants, hotels and businesses, and local beverage makers was available. There the three winners' accomplishments were extolled.

"My volunteer journey started in 9th grade," said Joan O'Leary. "I wrote a play that I wanted to present. My mom called the Arts Center and I talked with the director Nadine who agreed to stage the performance. We put out an audition call and lots more came than I expected. I didn't want to turn any away and that became my mission. I just love giving kids the chance to be on stage. I wrote in extra parts so that anyone who wanted to perform could. Since then, I have written and directed four plays at the Art Center, one at Northwood and one at St. Agnes. I love seeing the kids blossom on stage, learn how to work together and develop good community work ethics. I thank the LPCA for believing in me, which created a wonderful snowball effect as so many other people became involved."

"I am very excited for my son Arron," said Merry Barney. "He could not be here today because he is down in the Finger Lakes undergoing advanced training as a interior fireman. His inspiration was his father, who is a fireman. He has wanted to volunteer since he could stand up. He's put in over 400 volunteer hours over the past two years with the Rescue Squad and with the Fire Department."

"Without volunteers nothing would be moving," said Dmitry Feld, a former Volunteer of the Year winner. "In any community, there is a big need to fill where government or family can't. Volunteering helps a person feel part of a community."

"I focus my volunteering to order to help the local food movement and to tie the local farmers and their healthy foods with local events," said Generations chef David Hunt, who brought a large platter to the reception. "I like introducing people to the many healthy foods available locally. Most of the ingredients in this platter were grown here."

"It's a social thing for me," said Jill Cardinale. "I like working with like-minded people for a common cause. I don't feel it's work, it is really fun."

"National Volunteer Week provides us with an opportunity to thank those special people give of their time to make our community better," said Supervisor Roby Politi. "No one has a greater community spirit than Judy Shea. She brings a ferocious energy to it. She has a long list of community activities she has been involved in. She is one of the special people that help set this community apart from all the rest."

"As you all know, Judy is everywhere," said ODA President and CEO Ted Blazer. "She does so many good things for everyone and especially for us. I know that Aaron and Joan will blossom like the cherry tree we just planted."

"Judy is something special," said Jim McKenna, president and CEO of ROOST. "The Shea name is special but Judy is something else. Looking back over the 30 years I have known her, she has been involved directly or indirectly in every major event that has happened."

"I have fun," said Judy Shea. "I volunteer because it is fun and for the friendships. I volunteer for all the things I'm interested in, and you want to give back. That's it. This is a big honor because Lake Placid has so many volunteers."

"I am very proud of her," said husband Jim Shea. "She is always working. She is tireless. I don't every try to stop her any more."



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