PORT TOWNSEND — The 13th Annual Heart of Service Awards were presented to seven community members, including four Port Townsend High School students, at a luncheon Tuesday at the Fort Worden Commons.
A special surprise service award was given to a member of the community for his years of volunteer work.
The Heart of Service Awards is a collaboration between the Peninsula Daily News, the Noon Port Townsend Rotary Club, The Port Townsend Sunrise Rotary Club, and the East Jefferson Rotary Club. This is the 13th year of the awards program.
“I’m so excited to be here in this room filled with people who serve, who care about serving, and who care about celebrating those who are outstanding in their service to the community,” said Sheldon Spencer, Port Townsend Rotary Club president who introduced Steve Perry, general manager of the Peninsula Daily News, who was the master of ceremonies for the event.
“This is a special occasion to honor those who are special to our community,” Perry said.
“Today is about seven extraordinary people who may very well be your neighbor, or the person down the street. The accomplishments of what they do make Jefferson County special in so many ways. Today is about Jefferson County Heart of Service Awards, one of the greatest honors we can bestow on these volunteers.”
Sheldon Spencer introduced award recipient Barbara Berthiaume.
“Barbara serves, and it starts right in her own neighborhood,” Spencer said. “She’s on the Port Ludlow ‘Welcome to Your Neighborhood’ committee and is a contributing writer for the Port Ludlow Voice. That’s what I call starting locally.”
He said her volunteerism branches out from there, serving the greater North Olympic Peninsula community. She was cited for her work with the Boeing BlueBills, the Hospice Foundation board and she’s also involved with STEM programs.
Berthiaume said volunteering isn’t all altruistic.
“You do it for a lot of reasons,” she said. “It gives us a sense of purpose and a social connection. All of the people I’ve met through volunteering have been wonderful and inspiring, and have become best friends. It makes us better versions of ourselves.”
Arlene Alen, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, described the work Val Phimister does with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), saying that mental health and mental health issues touch every aspect of the community.
Elaine Nelson, one of the people who nominated Phimister, said: “Val has been board president for four years and works tirelessly to present the core mission of education, support and advocacy for those with mental illness and their families.
“She spearheaded the initiative that lead NAMI-Jeffco to becoming the first affiliate in Washington state to be certified by both the state and national organizations. This certification recognizes that we adhere the standards of excellence in everything we do,” she continued.
“With Val’s initiative and guidance, NAMI-Jeffco has formed a supportive collaboration with the Jefferson County Therapeutic Court.
“If any of us needs a helping hand, need someone to listen to our problems someone to walk with us through a crisis, it’s Valerie Phimister,” Nelson said.
Phimister said: “Port Townsend and Jefferson County would fall to its knees without its volunteers.
“One in five American adults have their own mental diagnosis. Then there are the people who are impacted with this disease. I am anxious to spread the word about mental illness.
“I may be getting this award, but this award goes to my hard working board, and my husband Mike,” she said.
Rotarian Cammy Brown spoke of Bonnie Douglass’ selfless volunteerism for people in need, her work with the Boeing BlueBills, the Garden Club, Habitat for Humanity and the Quilcene Lions.
“Bonnie stuffs backpacks for the Weekend Nutrition Program for kids in the Quilcene and Brinnon schools,” Brown said. “Her passion and dedication to the community makes her a wonderful role model.
“She is a gentle giant who serves our community with humbleness and dedication. Bonnie is longer a hidden gem and we are grateful for her service.”
Said Douglass, while receiving the award: “We couldn’t feed the kids every week without the BlueBills; we couldn’t get the school supplies we need. We help so many children.”
Lois Sherwood, school advisor for the Port Townsend Rotary Club, spoke about an exceptional group of siblings: Seniors Kailee and Meigan and juniors Jason and Leianna Kunz saying they have that “quiet sense of service.”
“Service is in their DNA,” Sherwood said. “Each is exceptional. It really begins with family.
“All four step into service without fanfare or expectation of recognition. Each finds a unique way to serve that matches their strengths and abilities. There is a synergy of service.
“As a family what they contribute is so much more than just the individual pieces. What fantastic role models they are.”
Leianna Kunz said: “I’m honored to have a really wonderful family, being adopted from China when I was eight. And having really wonderful siblings. I didn’t have a family before. I’m grateful for having Mike and Cindy as my parents, they are role models as are my older siblings. Service has always been special to me.”
Perry announced that this is only second time the Heart of Service award committee had decided to honor someone who exemplifies selfless service and he presented the special Award for Service to Chuck Henry, one of the founders of the Sunrise Rotary Club.
Henry was surprised by the honor, accepting it during a standing ovation.
Henry invests countless hours promoting Rotary projects such as the Nighttime Driving in the Dark Charity Golf Tournament and the Running of the Balls fund raising event during the Rhododendron Festival, Perry said.
He helps coordinate the Rhody Trike Races each year. He has been the Rhody Parade registrar for over 10 years.
He has been involved with the Jefferson Mental Health Board for 18 years, is the main safety officer for the Wooden Boat Festival and has been on the docks overseeing safety concerns for 15 years. In addition to the work, he is a volunteer coach and judge for the Port Townsend High School Mock Trial teams, providing thousands of hours of his professional expertise to teenagers in the mock trial courts.
Henry is a graduate of Gonzaga Law School and worked at the Spokane Prosecuting Attorney’s office until moving to Port Townsend with his wife and law partner Susan Allen who are general practice attorneys.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]