New Rochelle Public Library Trustee Honored With Community Hero Award

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Haina Just Michael soloTARRYTOWN, NY -- Haina Just-Michael of New Rochelle, NY has been honored with the 2013 Community Hero Award for her two decades of work supporting the New Rochelle Public Library.

The award, given by the United Way's Volunteer Center Community as part of their Volunteer Spirit Award, will be presented during The Volunteer Center's annual benefit on April 26th, 2013 at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook.

“Nonprofits depend on the actions of volunteers in good times and in bad. They are reliable and knowledgeable, enthusiastic and dedicated,” said Alisa H. Kesten, Executive Director of The Volunteer Center. “We have seen our communities tested in the last year,” she continued, “and it is truly through the efforts of the eight winners of the Volunteer Spirit Awards that local organizations are able to serve and support our communities through natural disasters and trying times. The Volunteer Center is proud to pay tribute to these distinguished individuals and groups who give back to their communities.”

The Award reads:

COMMUNITY HERO AWARD
HAINA JUST-MICHAEL FOR NEW ROCHELLE PUBLIC LIBRARY

This energetic and multi-talented volunteer has been serving the New Rochelle Public Library in various capacities for the last 20 years. She has been a library trustee for the past 6 years and a liaison to the library’s Foundation. She has used her communications skills and experience to facilitate improved coordination between library advocacy groups, allowing for greater collaboration and heightened effectiveness. Haina’s efforts have directly impacted young families, Latinos, seniors and economically disadvantage residents, proving that public libraries level the playing field for lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The Volunteer Center is a one-stop resource for all things volunteer. Through their online database at www.volunteer-center.org, they match volunteers to meaningful opportunities. Designated by New York State as one of ten regional centers, The Volunteer Center has expanded beyond Westchester and Putnam to elevate the impact of volunteerism in the Mid-Hudson Valley area.

The Volunteer Center can be supported by purchasing a table, advertising in their journal, purchasing tickets or a making donation. Call (914) 948-4452 or visit on the web.

Other winners of the 2013 Volunteer Spirit Awards are:

EDUCATION AND LITERACY AWARD
MARIE RAMA for YONKERS PARTNERS IN EDUCATION

Six months after the launch of YPIE, Marie called to volunteer – education inequality was her issue. From day one she was a trusted and relentless fundraiser, singled-handedly raising thousands of dollars and forging collaborations with local businesses. But her championing the “Mountaineer Scholars” program shifted the admissions paradigm for low-income youth who faced serious obstacles to attend college. After getting board support, Marie applied for YPIE to join the program resulting in the selection of four Yonkers a year chosen to receive a four year full ride to southern Vermont College.

SOCIAL ADVOCACY AWARD
DEBORAH BLATT
FOR FAMILY SERVICES OF WESTCHESTER’S THE SHARING SHELF PROGRAM

Deborah is a visionary leader who convinced Family Services of Westchester that a community bank of new and gently-used clothing for children could bridge the gap between many families in need in the county and those more fortunate. Harnessing her professional skills, commitment to helping others and boundless energy, Deborah has been the driving force behind the success of this volunteer-powered program. More than 3,500 children and youth have benefitted from The Sharing Shelf’s efforts to date and many community agencies have been helped to better serve their clients.

QUALITY OF LIFE AWARD
LYNN HALPERN & SANDY SAMBERG FOR SOLE RYEDERS AND FRIENDS

A special group led by Sandy Samberg and Lynn Halpern created Sole Ryeders and Friends to improve the health of women in the Westchester community. All volunteers have been directly or indirectly affected by breast cancer as well as other women’s health conditions and want to help make a difference in the fight against these illnesses. Since 2009, the Sole Ryeders and Friends Fund has supported Cancer Support Team’s financial assistance program which offers grants to cancer patients to cover items not covered by medical insurance and has developed a wig exchange program to help survivors as well as patients.

GOING GREEN AWARD
FRIENDS OF THE OLD CROTON AQUADUCT

The Friends conduct Aquefest, an annual outreach program to encourage community involvement in maintenance and care for the Aqueduct trail in lower Westchester. The Friends use Aquefest as a foundation to encourage the youth of Yonkers to care for the trail and the environment along the 26 mile trail. Each year the event attracts nearly 1,000 visitors from near and far. Now, year-round, students from schools that border the trail have taken such an interest in upkeep that the trail virtually litter-free.

ARTS AND CULTURE AWARD
CAROL MORSE FOR HUDSON VALLEY SINGERS

This alto has been a member of the intergenerational group that performs in New York City and Westchester. In 2010 she realized her dream to bring this music to those who could not attend public performances and created The Hudson Valley Chamber Singers. These 13 musicians perform at assisted living residences, nursing homes, hospitals and at community events that offer easy access for diverse groups. All rehearsals are in the Morse home. Carol has served as president and is now president emeritus of the Hudson Valley Singers, currently serving on the fundraising and venue committees.

NEW YORK LIFE YOUTH GROUP IN ACTION AWARD
LET'S PLAY IT FORWARD, INC.

In Feburary 2012, ten teenage boys created this nonprofit to help children less fortunate than themselves by collecting and distributing gently used sports equipment. They enlisted the help of a Somers, NY municipal judge to help formally incorporate. To date, the teens have collected and donated over 5,500 pieces of equipment. They have donated gear to over 20 local organizations and raised money, most recently, to ship new soccer balls to a refugee camp in Costa Rica. In the short time since its founding, members of the group have volunteered 75 to over 100 hours in service.

NEW YORK LIFE YOUTH LEADER AWARD
JOSEPH GUSMANO FOR EAST FISHKILL COMMUNITY LIBRARY

Joe has regularly volunteered at the library for more than 3 ½ years on Saturday mornings, as well as for special events. He has been key to successful book sales group cleanup and as a musician and waiter for the Friends After Hours fundraiser events. In doing so, he has touched the lives of the library’s staff, volunteers, Friends and the youngest of library patrons. He is such a wonderful role model and perfectly suited to work with the KinderPrep program for preschoolers. Whether spearheading a book drives for soldiers deployed to Afghanistan or picking up a guitar to improvise at a fundraising event, Joe has made a joyful difference.

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