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Volunteers recognized, honored at annual Sebastian Chamber luncheon

SEBASTIAN — Non-profit members of the Sebastian Rive Area Chamber of Commerce gathered Wednesday to recognize their Volunteers of the Year during the Chamber’s annual holiday luncheon.

“This is a very special Chamber program,” Chamber Executive Director Beth Mitchell said.  

Volunteers from the various organizations each nominated one of their own – as they have done for the last five or six years.

“Volunteering obviously begins with the individual – the golden rule and lending a hand,” Mitchell said, addressing a crowded banquet room at the Disney Vero Resort.

In all, 11 volunteers were recognized for their dedication and eagerness to help.

“It’s a natural high,” Mitchell said of volunteering. “You get lifted in the right way” by helping others.

This year’s crop of volunteers who have gone above and beyond include:

Pam O’Neil, who is a 3-year volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Senior Resource Association, spends her time helping local seniors.

The nominator said O’Neil is “like a big ball of energy” and missed when she is not there.

Lindsey Penney has been a volunteer with United Way for more than four years, helping in the office as well as with events.

She is “willing to jump in at a moment’s notice” her nominator wrote, adding that it is the “quiet, unassuming volunteers that move mountains.”

Julie Moore, a volunteer at By the River senior community, serves lunch to the residents as well as Sebastian seniors twice weekly.

She is “cheerful and efficient” and gets along well with everyone – a “food service dream volunteer,” her nominator wrote. Along with spending time at By the River, Moore volunteers at the Mel Fisher museum and teaches and volunteers at Kashi School of Yoga.

“She is energetic and delightful,” the nominator also wrote.

Marilyn Waldis has spent the last 24 years in many capacities helping the Exchange Club of Sebastian. She assists others, helps at food pantries, thrift shops, visits the sick at hospitals and much more, according to her nominator.

Leslie Balcerak is “a priceless volunteer who can’t say no” to the Indian River Habitat for Humanity, her nominator wrote. She is patient, friendly and teaches others new skills. She also puts together the organization’s annual year in review video and helps with the float for the annual Christmas Parade.

Habitat for Humanity is “truly blessed” to have the “most enthusiastic volunteer,” the nominator wrote.

Nettie Bunton has been a volunteer of the Sebastian Fishin’ Chics since 2009, serving as the group’s charity coordinator. As such, it is her job to pick out charities for the Chics to support.

Mike Nolan volunteers with the North Treasure Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross, training others in disaster relief and coordinating transportation.

With a “warm heart,” his nominator said, Nolan works tirelessly to support the American Red Cross. “We could not do it without him.”

Olive Wells has spent the last several years volunteering with the Hibiscus Children’s Center, performing various duties.

Such duties range from working with 4-year-olds in the pre-school program to coordinating arts and crafts projects with the teens.Regardless of what she is tapped to do, she “diligently gives her time and creativity,” her nominator wrote. “She is one special lady.”

Chris Pinson, who could not be in attendance due to a scheduling conflict, is the past president of the Rotary Club.

“He’s always been the one you can count on to get things done,” his nominator wrote.

Nancy Veidt is a longtime volunteer helping both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, along with the Sebastian Clambake Foundation, who nominated her for her willingness to help – no matter what.

“Nancy stands out,” her nominator wrote, explaining that she jumps in when asked – and even takes on more. She has even helped with the emergency cleaning of a park restroom facility.

“You don’t want to know the details of that story,” Mitchell said, drawing chuckles from the audience.

Tom Whipple, a one-year member of the Chamber through Palm Bay Fire Extinguishers Co., has taken every possible opportunity to volunteer at Chamber events, Mitchell said, recognizing him as the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce’s top volunteer.

He has volunteered at the Grant Seafood Festival, the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, the Sebastian Clambake Festival and the Pelican Island Wildlife Festival.

“I want to thank you all for your time and your service to the community,” Mitchell said, addressing the recipients.

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