Volunteers Of The Year

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a four-part series recognizing recently honored “Volunteers of the Year” through the partner agencies of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County.

For four years and 400-plus hours, Laura Wurstner has dedicated herself to helping children. Her diligence, dedication, tenacity and energy make her the Court Appointed Special Advocate Volunteer of the Year. A lifetime educator for 33 years, Wurstner has advocated for three children ranging in age from 4 to 13 years old. During this time, she has driven over 4,600 miles to make sure these children have a voice in court.

Program Director Kathy Park said, “Last year after hearing news the state was cutting CASA funding, Laura rallied friends, family, and community members in a letter writing campaign to our local and state representatives. Her dedication to the program is tireless and her professionalism is lauded by attorneys, caseworkers and foster parents.”

Wurstner’s kind, strong and considerate voice for children embodies the highest level of volunteerism.

Joelle Washer is Family Service of the Chautauqua Region’s Volunteer of the Year. Executive Director Jim McElrath said, “Joelle’s commitment to Family Service and her passion for success has made her a very effective board president and leader.”

Washer headed up the new executive director search at Family Service after the former director, Donna Vanstrom, announced her retirement earlier this year. Besides serving as board president, Washer has served as vice president, Search Committee chair, Nominating Committee chair, and Fund Raising Committee member at Family Service. She also is an extraordinarily talented wine maker.

Known for her pleasant demeanor and infectious smile, Judy Hunt is the Girl Scouts of Western New York’s Volunteer of the Year. Judy has served in every Girl Scout service unit position there is, and helps out with Product Sales. Membership Manager Denise Beeles-Johnson said, “Judy is actively involved in making a difference in the community she lives and in the lives of the young girls she works with. She is a true treasure and we’re honored to have her.”

In November, Hunt took a lead volunteer role at the Juliette Low Camp by Candlelight event at Timbercrest, which made “forever-memories” for some 135 girls and adults.

Whether it’s peeling rutabagas, serving spaghetti, or running a board meeting, Tara Eastman puts her caring heart, positive attitude and beautiful smile into everything she does at Joint Neighborhood Project. For these reasons and many more, Eastman is JNP’s Volunteer of the Year. Interim director Patty Perlee said, no task is too large or small for Tara to tackle.

“She does everything,” said Perlee. “Tara works on all of our fundraisers and finds volunteers to help her out. She also is a huge part of our holiday festivities and was our board president in 2012.”

While president of the board at JNP, Eastman worked full time to get her degree to become a full-time pastor, proving that busy people always have time to give back to their community.

The United Way of Southern Chautauqua County has a long history of collaborating with local employers to provide volunteer experiences for their staff.

This can be a one-day experience offsite at a local nonprofit or an ongoing partnership with a specific program. The new website, volunteerwny.org, can be used to manage corporate volunteerism by marketing specific opportunities to staff and then tracking their involvement over time. The site can provide valuable reports for the person coordinating the effort. Companies interested in exploring how to engage employees in corporate social responsibility should contact United Way at 483-1561.