Six honored in Port Townsend with Heart of Service Award
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Heart of Service Award winners Virginia Johnson, Fred Kimball, Karen Ciccarone, Carol Christiansen and Vince Verneuil, from left, are shown after the Tuesday ceremony in Port Townsend where they were honored.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The spirit of volunteerism and generosity was celebrated Tuesday when six community heroes were honored during the ninth annual Heart of Service awards.

During the luncheon gathering that drew about 200 people to the Northwest Maritime Center, the community lauded the good deeds of the award winners, who then said the accomplishments were not solo acts.

“The work we do could not be done without the many volunteers that exist in our community,” said Fred Kimball, a skilled builder who received an award for work donated to Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Home Builders Association.

“None of the great work that service groups do could happen without the time and efforts of the good folks of our county,” Kimball continued.

“While you will have a hell of a fight on your hands if you try to take this award away from me, I feel as if I need to share it with all volunteers, past, present and future.”

Carol Christiansen, who shared the award with her late husband, Jim Christiansen, said: “Volunteering is part of the American DNA.

“It is at times scary, fun, seemingly impossible and frustrating, but mostly it's so darn rewarding.”

The couple had 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.

The Heart of Service awards are 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 ceremony took the place of the Noon Club's regular weekly meeting.

“This is a day about six people, from different walks of life, with different talents and with different gifts whose unselfish efforts have made Jefferson County a better place,” said PDN Publisher and Editor John Brewer, who acted as master of ceremonies.

“I think you'll find it enriching to learn about their accomplishments.”

A blue-ribbon judging committee selected the six Heart of Service recipients from 19 nominations made by individuals, clubs, churches, businesses and other organizations.

In addition to Kimball and the Christiansens, those honored Tuesday were:

■   Karen Ciccarone, a retired nurse and Port Hadlock resident whose used her organizational skills to benefit the Port Townsend Boiler Room, JC MASH, YMCA Building Futures and NAMI.

■   Virginia Johnson, DVM, who donates her time and skills to Olympic Mountain Pet Pals, Humane Society of Jefferson County, Peninsula Friends of Animals, Rescue Every Dog and Welfare for Animals Guild.

■   Vince Verneuil, a dedicated 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.

Jefferson County Library Director Meredith Wagner introduced Christiansen and paid special tribute to her late husband.

“We have lost Jim, but the gifts he gave to all who were privileged to work with him will live forever,” Wagner said.

“Carol, you and Jim are greatly admired by the Quilcene community. Fortunately for Quilcene, you made it your home.”

Ciccarone was introduced by Steve Rafoth, who said, “Karen, your service to the community is special, and you deserve all the recognition that you get.”

Ciccarone said she came to Jefferson County seven years ago to retire, but that didn't happen because she became involved in a free mental health clinic for youths.

“We've been open eight months now, and the greatest reward is being able to be there for the kids that need help,” Ciccarone said.

“One of the most touching moments was when a 20-year-old man said to me, tears in his eyes, 'This is the first time in my whole life that anyone cared about me.'

“It doesn't get any better than that.”

Hilda Anderson introduced Johnson, reading from one of the award nominations.

“What people forget is that helping animals is also helping humans,” Anderson said, quoting Susan Skaggs of the Peninsula Friends of Animals.

“When a call comes for help, it is never a cat or dog phoning; it is always a desperate person on the other end of the line.”

Anderson said Johnson didn't have animals when she was a young girl.

Her first animal was a cat named Adlai Stevenson who was attached to a house her family bought.

This theme was picked up by Chuck Henry while introducing Kimball, who hails from Libertyville, Ill.

“I'm always amazed how these connections happen,” Henry said.

“Libertyville, I believe, is the home of Adlai Stevenson.”

Kimball said: “To the many crusty old miners, drillers and tradesmen who taught me how to live and not to die, their lessons were invaluable.

“Now that I'm the crusty old guy, I'm passing this [knowledge] on to the next generation of worker volunteers.

“I look forward to seeing all the great work we will accomplish in the future.”

Verneuil plays Santa Claus on a regular basis and even resembles St. Nicholas in the off-season.

Accordingly, his life's mission is to bring people gifts through his charitable work.

“Optimistically, I have very high hopes that the Maritime Discovery Schools to be integrated into the local schools will be a great help in educating local students so they can be prepared to gain above-minimum-wage jobs,” he said.

“On the other hand, I am very pessimistic that the cycle of poverty from one generation to the next will improve, mostly because of the funding limitations.

“We need to have quality one-on-one consulting services to provide the public with budgeting help, energy-saving techniques and mental health problems,” he added.

“Funding is being reduced substantially for the local organizations that administer this type of help.”

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 13. 2014 7:22PM
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