Winners of the 2016 Be the Change Awards

Congratulations to the outstanding ‘Be the Change’ Award winners, announced last month at the 2016 Volunteer Expo. These individuals were honored for their service to their community through their longstanding volunteer work with nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. This year’s pool of award winners included individuals who had volunteered with an organization for 7 years, one who has provided over 1900 hours of service, a leader in corporate volunteerism, and a young man whose dedication has benefited over 10,000 people. We are thrilled to highlight the amazing work that has been done by these dedicated volunteers! The award winners received a certificate of honor, and the nonprofits that nominated the winners received a financial donation on their behalf.

The descriptions below are summaries taken from the nominator letters provided by each nonprofit organization.


The Outstanding Youth Volunteer award goes to Shrey Pothini with Avenues for Homeless Youth.

In honor of his birthday for the past 9 years, Shrey hosts a bath towel drive to benefit homeless youth staying in local shelters. After the first few years, he set a goal for providing a year’s supply of colorful towels to Avenues for Homeless Youth. This caused him to reach out to some businesses in his community and his school.  These efforts have resulted in thousands of towels collected for Avenues for Homeless Youth.  This year, Shrey’s drive will provide 3 youth shelters in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, and Prior Lake with enough towels until his next birthday.   Shrey started a service club in his elementary school, hoping to inspire his peers. This group of 100+ students, in grades K-6, meets twice per month to learn about a local non-profit and their needs.  The students then complete a hands-on project to help that organization. Through this student club last year students collectively volunteered over 3,000 hours and provided some sort of benefit over 10,000 people.  The club’s motto is “Young but Powerful” and the success of their club led to service Clubs in all 10 elementary schools in the district.Through Shrey’s motivation for helping others started with his visit to Avenues for Homeless Youth as a preschooler and has grown into a passion for empowering children of all ages to volunteer. He talks often about how all people can share their time, talents, or treasures to make the world better.  At the age of 12, he has high aspirations for how to continue to help and inspire others.

PPL-Jessica Adolph picThe Education Be the Change award honors a volunteer making a lasting impact in education. This award goes to Jessica Adolph for her work as a Mentor in PPL’s Scholars Program.

When Jessica first started volunteering with PPL youth programs seven years ago, she committed to the required one night a week in the after-school Scholars program. Two years ago she switched to two nights a week because she saw the positive impact it made on her mentee and knew that it would help him improve his literacy and social skills even more than he had already. Her student has grown so much through her dedication to his success and the pair has one of our highest attendance records to date.

In addition to returning to volunteer as a Tutor-Mentor during each school year, she has also volunteered with PPL’s summer program for all three years that it has existed. Throughout her time at the program, she has cultivated very strong relationships with all of her fellow tutor-mentors, PPL staff, and the students in the program, making her an invaluable and irreplaceable part of the team. ruby

Our Basic Needs Be the Change award recognizes a volunteer who has made a lasting impact in basic needs and social services. This award goes to Ruby Parker for her work with Ramsey County Community Human Services Department. Ruby has been volunteering with the Ramsey County Community Human Services Department as an Information Desk Attendant for over 2 years and has provided over 1,900 hours of service. At first glance, the information desk may not sound like a tough assignment but in reality it is probably the toughest.  The volunteer at the information desk is the first point of contact for visitors to the building.  The volunteer at the info desk often sees people at their lowest and sometimes bears the brunt of clients’ frustrations.  It takes a special person with compassion, patience and thick skin to handle the demands of hundreds of visitors and staff each day; Ruby is that person.

Ruby is also a member of the Ramsey County Citizens Advisory Council Low Income Committee and a graduate of the “You Be the Change! Public Policy Project training program through Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. Through her volunteerism and service to her community, Ruby makes Ramsey County a better place-thank you, Ruby!

Jeannie Lemere as Mrs Claus

Our Corporate Volunteer Be the Change award recognizes a corporate volunteer who has made a lasting impact in at work and in her community. This award goes to Jeannie LeMere with Thrivent Financial. Jeannie retired from Thrivent Financial in October 2015 after a 20-year career, so while her daily routine has changed quite a bit, her commitment to volunteerism is steady. At Thrivent, Jeannie worked on the Community Affairs team, leading the employee matching gifts program as well as a team of employee volunteerism leaders.  While this was her job, encouraging volunteerism in others was also her passion.  She always encouraged employees to try new ideas for volunteer events and helped them serve in their own desired way.  She encouraged people from different backgrounds to get to know each other and doing so through service was a winning combination. Jeannie led by example, giving much of her own time serving local nonprofits. As a master gardener in Washington, County, Jeannie educates the public about a variety of horticultural subjects and promotes good stewardship of the environment.

She is very involved in the outreach ministry of her church and, for more than 18 years, Jeannie led a team of Thrivent employee volunteers who served lunch monthly at House of Charity. She also delivered Meals on Wheels monthly for several years, has served as a Graduation Coach through AchieveMpls, and has worked as a volunteer with People Serving People for 5 years.

Do you have volunteer stories to share and celebrate? Comment below with your stories of the volunteer superstars in your life!

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