Award ceremony honors Iowa's dedicated volunteers

Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds were on hand to honor Iowa's volunteers.

Selflessly donating their time and effort, volunteers don't expect to be rewarded. But for the 30th year, Iowa honored the people who have made the Hawkeye State third in the nation in volunteerism at the Governor's Volunteer Awards in Ottumwa.

"This year is kind of special because it's the 30th anniversary and a lot of these people have given so much over many, many years," said Governor Terry Branstad. "We just want to encourage others to donate their time and help improve opportunities for people in their communities. A lot of good things going on and we're honored and proud to recognize the volunteers."

A big emphasis at Friday's ceremony was the trend of volunteerism in Iowa.

"Iowans are amazing people and here is the example," said Sue Huff, Executive Director of Iowa Kids University and coordinator of Friday's ceremony. "You see a room full of selfless, dedicated volunteers and it's a privilege to be with them and to honor them."

"I think as a state, we're very aware that we're very neighborly," said Kristen Meeker, Board Member of Iowa Kids University. "Maybe more so than other places in the country and so I think it creates not only an effective response in the areas they're working in, but also state-wide in assuring people that Iowans do have an investment in their state and in their communities."

As for the volunteers, they give for themselves as much as for those they are helping.

"It's something I really enjoy, it's something that I think can help your personality, sense of accomplishment in the sense that you're sharing [your] benefits with something that you're knowledgeable with the community," said Himar Hernandez, one of the award recipients. "I think everybody should volunteer on some level, whatever they're comfortable and share their passions."

Volunteers also play a very important leadership role, especially among our youth.

"By being volunteers, they really are leading by example," said Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. "So not only are they giving back to their communities, but just by doing it, they're encouraging people that see that to participate. And really, the rewards are so much more for those that volunteer than the people receiving, but it makes a huge difference - just in the economic impact, to helping the schools and the communities and the education, so it's a wonderful opportunity to give back."

Students at Ottumwa's Job Corps Center were on hand to help run the ceremony and seeing what an impact these people make on their communities has made an impact on the students.

"I got to meet some people that have been volunteering for a long time and took the time to do things that they didn't have to do, but they chose to do it," said Rictabious Hoober.

"I'm glad that the governor took time out of his schedule to come out here and represent us and everything that everybody out here stood for," said Keith Hunter. "So it was a great experience and hopefully, if I'm here next year, I'd like to do it again."

"This is actually an inspiration because it lets me know that many people do it just for the purity of their hearts," said Jessicah Dupree. "So it's an impact on a lot of us. That's why we actually volunteer, too, to show respect."