By Zorina Barker
For Peninsula Daily News
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The award recognizes the “dedication, sacrifice and accomplishments” of community leaders and volunteers “who have made a difference in Jefferson County, who have made our communities a better place by doing extraordinary things for their neighbors, their community or the environment.”
This is the ninth year for the Heart of Service award, sponsored by the Peninsula Daily News, the Rotary Club of Port Townsend (noon club), the Port Townsend Sunrise Rotary Club and the East Jefferson Rotary Club.
The awards will be presented at a luncheon at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St. in downtown Port Townsend, at noon Tuesday.
The luncheon is open to the public.
Catered by Jordini's Restaurant, lunch is $12 for soup, salad and a sandwich, and $9 for soup and a salad.
Those attending are asked to arrive by 11:45 a.m.
The 2014 Heart of Service honorees are:
■ Carol Christiansen and her late husband, Jim. They made themselves indispensable to the Quilcene Historical Museum, Linger Longer Stage project, Quilcene Community Center, Quilcene/Brinnon Garden Club and other South County groups through thousands of hours of volunteer work.
■ Karen Ciccarone, a retired nurse and Port Hadlock resident whose organizational skills and passion for community service benefit the Port Townsend Boiler Room, JC MASH, YMCA Building Futures and NAMI.
■ Virginia Johnson, DVM, who shares her talents, energy and passion for animals with Olympic Mountain Pet Pals, Humane Society of Jefferson County, Peninsula Friends of Animals, Rescue Every Dog and Welfare for Animals Guild.
■ Fred Kimball, a skilled builder who has donated time and energy to benefit the community through Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Home Builders Association.
■ Vince Verneuil, a dedicated and motivated volunteer who portrays Santa Claus at Christmas events every year and keeps the holiday spirit alive all year through work with the Vincent de Paul Society in Port Townsend, East Jefferson Rotary Club and Port Townsend Yacht Club.
A blue-ribbon judging committee selected the six Heart of Service recipients from 19 nominations made by individuals, clubs, churches, businesses and other organizations.
“These are truly local heroes, working to make community life stronger, tighter, happier, richer — busy people who unselfishly give their time and energy to help others, who always seem to be able to make time to offer a hand or a shoulder,” said John Brewer, PDN publisher and editor.
Carol and Jim Christiansen
Twelve nomination letters were received for this Quilcene couple. (Jim died last year on Christmas Eve.)
“They were partners, a team, a dynamic duo, and a pair that worked in tandem,” wrote Mari Phillips, chairwoman of the Quilcene Historical Museum.
Quilcene now has an official slogan, “Pearl of the Peninsula,” as part of an effort to bring a sense of pride to the community.
The Christiansens rallied residents to come up with a slogan and brought committees together to bring the vision to fruition.
“There is no doubt that Jim and Carol Christiansen have made Quilcene a better place to live,” according to Sandra Shea and Eric Anderson.
“Jim and Carol, with collective skills too numerous to list, are everywhere there's a job to do or a cheer to holler for Quilcene and its families,” wrote Stan Nealey and Linda Herzog.
Herzog and Nealey added:
“From the Quilcene Historical Museum, to Worthington Park's 'Ten Acres of Possibilities,' to the Linger Longer Productions Board and the outdoor stage, to the County Tourism Council, to endless gardening all over town, to the re-invention of the Quilcene Community Center, to the participation in and celebration of all the Quilcene Conversations successes. Jim and Carol have always been front and center.”
Jim was cited for his skills with finances and Carol for her fundraising and organizational talent.
“The Carol and Jim team were phenomenal!” wrote Quilcene resident David Satterlee.
Letters from Olympic Mountain Pet Pals, Jefferson County Humane Society and Rescue Every Dog joined Peninsula Friends of Animals in nominating Virginia (Ginny) Johnson, a veterinarian at the Hadlock Veterinary Clinic in Port Hadlock.
The groups praised Johnson's years of volunteer work on behalf of the animals in their care.
Several pet owners also wrote in support of Johnson.
“I have never encountered another veterinarian who gives as much of their time, energy and money to help stray, abandoned and unwanted animals as she does,” wrote Nancy Campbell, shelter director of Peninsula Friends of Animals.
Wrote Randi Winter of Pet Pals:
“It is largely because of Dr. Johnson's commitment to our efforts that we have never been forced to turn away any family who applies for our services.”
Jenny Haynes, Humane Society shelter clerk, noted:
“Her efforts make our animals adoptable that much faster, which gets them into homes that much faster.”
“She is always approachable and accommodating,” wrote Phyllis Becker of Port Hadlock.
Virginia Messina, a client of Johnson's veterinary practice for nearly 15 years, wrote: “Her care is genuine and meticulous.”
“Dr. Johnson is always just a phone call away, never saying 'no' when emergencies arise,” added Linda Johannessen, secretary and treasurer for Rescue Every Dog.
“She is a model for anyone aspiring to make a positive difference in this ever increasingly complex world.”
“Seldom have we met anyone like Karen Ciccarone with the selfless dedication to helping the at-risk children in our community,” Bill and Linda James of Port Townsend wrote in their nomination letter.
“It is difficult to adequately describe the energy and passion Karen has for helping people, particularly kids.
“And the only reason she does this is because it's the right thing to do.”
Included with their letter was a battery of newspaper articles about Ciccarone's volunteer work.
A retired RN with psychiatric and pediatric experience, she was instrumental in last year's creation of the Youth Mental Health Clinic in Port Townsend.
“I've been dreaming about this since I moved here,” Ciccarone said in an interview last August.
“Most youth are distrustful of established care and authority. I felt there was a need to broaden the reach and widen the safety net for at-risk youth.”
The clinic sees people in the 13-to-25 age range. Ciccarone has been adamant that the clinic's services be free and confidential.
Ciccarone also has served on the boards of the Jefferson County Medical Advocacy Services Headquarters, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Peninsula Region Support Network and the Boiler Room.
She mentors a local child through the YMCA's Building Futures Program.
“For four years, Fred Kimball has handed over the keys to nearly every new Habitat for Humanity homeowner in this county,” wrote Jamie Maciejewski, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County.
Kimball and his wife, Janie, both volunteer for Habitat — Janie in the store and cooking up food for the other volunteers, and Fred chairing Habitat's Construction Committee and being a board member of the Land Acquisition Committee.
He was president of Habitat's board of directors from 2008 through 2012.
“No one realized what he would accomplish,” added Maciejewski in her nomination letter. Kimball's list of accomplishments includes a commitment to serve 50 families in five years, more than the total number served in the first 14 years of the organization's history.
He continues to lead the Homebuilders Blitz and the installation of infrastructure for the new 12-home Birkenfeld Community and Nora's Neighborhood Park in Port Townsend.
For many years, he also has served as president of the Jefferson County Home Builders Association, another volunteer position.
“Both Fred and Janie have donated hundreds of hours to Habitat for Humanity in Jefferson County,” wrote Lizanne Coker, executive director of the Home Builders. “They've given countless hours to various charities over the years.”
Even when he's not sporting a red suit and black boots, Verneuil personifies Kris Kringle with his bushy white beard, deep-throated laugh and caring and kind attitude.
As Santa Claus during the holiday season, Verneuil's joy is interacting with the kids.
If someone insists on paying him for playing Santa, Verneuil turns the money over to charity.
Verneuil served three years as president of the Vincent de Paul Society in Port Townsend and continues through this group as a hands-on participant in helping needy community residents.
“Vince tirelessly devotes numerous hours to see that the maximum benefit is delivered with the limited funds available,” wrote Larry Howland of Port Hadlock in his nomination letter for Verneuil.
Rotary has benefitted from Verneuil's “Service Above Self” participation for more than 20 years, the last 10 as a member of the East Jefferson club.
He has been involved in the installation of a playground for the Chimacum School, assembly of a pavilion at H.J. Carroll Park and construction on the Bookmobile Barn for the Jefferson County Library.
“It is a privilege to nominate Vince for the Heart of Service award for 2014,” added Howland.
“He is the epitome of one who places the needs of his fellow community members above his.”