DETROIT – Harold “Bud” Irving of Escanaba was named Senior Volunteer of the Year at the 2014 Governor’s Service Awards Monday night in Detroit.
The award honors a senior citizen who has taken action to make her or his community a better place to live. Irving has a unique way of serving veterans in the Upper Peninsula.
For 25 years, his dogs have accompanied him as he serves as a registered volunteer driver for the Delta County Department of Human Services and the Upper Peninsula Health Plan, helping veterans travel to doctor appointments. His first dog, Chubbers, became part of Irving’s unique volunteer driving service with a touch of pet therapy. In addition to driving, Irving and Chubbers also spent long hours with patients recovering from chemotherapy or dialysis.
Word spread and soon patients were requesting the “guy with the dog.” When Chubbers passed away, Irving trained Choppers so they could continue visiting patients for pet therapy visits.
Irving has volunteered 14,263 hours for the Delta County DHS and logged more than 375,000 miles. In 2013, he contributed 534 hours and 1,037 miles.
He and his dogs have served as many ailing veterans’ best friends during some of their toughest moments.
Five finalists from eight categories won 2014 Governor’s Service Awards to acknowledge their commitment to solving community issues through volunteerism. During the event, one winner from each category was selected.
“It’s an honor to celebrate these extraordinary volunteers and organizations and highlight their dedication to their communities,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “While we could only recognize 40 of them tonight, there are more than 2 million Michigan residents who donate their time and efforts to making Michigan a brighter place to live and work. Volunteering is rewarding for both the volunteer and those they serve. I encourage all Michiganders to get involved in some type of volunteer activity.”
Irving was the only award recipient of the five finalists named from the Upper Peninsula. Joan Elizabeth Zbacnik of Marquette was also named a finalist for the Senior Volunteer of the Year.
Zbacnik documented more than 3,000 hours with the American Red Cross in 2013 and for the last 11 years has been a Disaster Action Team leader and been on-call to assist fire victims in Marquette County. She has responded to 22 disaster-stricken areas across the country to help victims, including the disasters of Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the 2013 Oklahoma tornados and the 2013 Colorado flooding. As a volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Zbacnik has logged more than 14,853 hours, donating 18 hours a week for the last 16 years to drive seniors to doctor appointments, help fund raise and assist with events.
Diane Isleib of Munising was a finalist for Volunteer of the Year. She has spent 31 years with the Alger County 4-H Club where she made an impact on countless young lives. She has exceeded 16,000 volunteer hours with the club and through her leadership roles she has helped the club raise more than $100,000. She regularly volunteers with the Great Strides Walk-a-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis, Make-a-Difference Day and the Alger County Fair. For 18 years, she also made an impression on hundreds of youth by serving as youth director at Calvary Church of Negaunee, where she still continues to teach Sunday school and help with youth activities.
The Marquette-Alger Regional Education Service Agency (MARESA) was a finalist for the Outstanding National Service Program Award. Their “Get Ready, Get Reading” AmeriCorps program focuses on providing one-on-one or small group tutoring specifically targeted to the most salient area of reading need by grade level. The goal of the program is not only to improve academic performance, but also to create engagement in the community. AmeriCorps members help the community by participating in service events, such as highway and school building clean-ups, Salvation Army food drives and Make a Difference Day.
The Hospice of the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) was a finalist for the Outstanding Volunteer Program Award. EUP is dedicated to providing community support to individuals and families touched by life-threatening illness, grief and loss. The hospice movement stresses human values, which include physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs. The Hospice of EUP addresses each of these areas through its programs and is one of the state’s only voluntary hospice programs still in operation. Community volunteers helped raise funds for the Robert and Helen Ball Hospice House through a Dancing with the Stars event and other local fundraisers. The community raised nearly $1.5 million in just two years to build and pay for the facility. In 2012-2013, 163 volunteers donated 9,508 volunteer hours and 2,622 patient care hours.