The winners of a county-wide search for the top volunteers in Fort Bend County have been selected by a panel of judges from 24 nominations received from throughout the county. These five individuals — Dave Kiger, Carol Manby, Susan Papa, Christine Smith, and Nolan Stilwell — have exhibited exemplary service to the organizations for which they volunteer and have made a significant impact in the lives they touch.
The five honorees will be recognized for their accomplishments by Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert at a celebratory breakfast on Thursday, April 28, beginning at 7:30 am, at Safari Texas Ranch, 11627 FM 1464 in Richmond.
Upon learning of the extraordinary accomplishments of the volunteers who were nominated for this award, Minute Maid generously requested the honor of being the presenting sponsor of the awards ceremony in April for the third year in a row.
The first honoree, Dave Kiger, comes from a family of volunteers who instilled the importance of volunteerism in him at a very young age. In the Exchange Club of Sugar Land, Kiger found an organization that supported his own goals — helping the underprivileged youth and elderly and supporting the American spirit of patriotism and ideals.
“Dave has the ability to turn even the most heart-breaking volunteer assignment into a joyous occasion,” says Celeste Ryan, who nominated Kiger for the award. “His enthusiasm is contagious!”
The second honoree is Carol Manby, who volunteered at the Fort Bend Women’s Shelter for more than 10 years until very recently, when two very painful and debilitating illnesses forced her to step down from her work. Before that, Manby could be found at the Women’s Center three days a week, inspiring staff and clients alike with her selfless determination to help improve the lives of the women and children.
Manby has been truly missed at the Women’s Shelter, according to Holt, but the legacy of hope for a brighter future — despite life’s adversity — that Manby inspired lingers on at the shelter, and continues to motivate others to follow in her footsteps.
Susan Papa, the third honoree, volunteers her time and talents for Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, an organization devoted to providing a safe place for children from newborn to 6 years of age who are in crisis because of abuse, neglect, or the effects of HIV. About 10 years ago, this organization caught Papa’s attention and then it caught her heart. Since then, she has devoted her photographic skills, her pets, her financial resources, her time, and her home to ensuring that Casa de Esperanza has the assets it needs to succeed — both now and in the future.
Papa’s ability to understand the Casa de Esperanza program in its entirety has led her to become a member of the newly-formed Advisory Board, where she can use her influence to encourage others to join her in this worthy cause for the children.
The fourth honoree is Christine Smith, a retired home-economics teacher who has devoted more than 25 years of her life to the children and families at the William Smith, Sr., Tri-County Child Development Council, Inc., Head Start/Early Head Start program in Fort Bend County. Because of her dedication to the people of Fort Bend County, the First Years, First Steps Early Head Start Center in Richmond was named after her. Volunteerism runs in her family — the William Smith, Sr., Tri-County Child Development Council is named after her brother.
According to Linda Newsome Johnson, who nominated Smith for the award, Smith refuses to accept excuses. “She doesn’t make any, nor does she accept any.”
The final honoree is a student at Katy High School — Nolan Stilwell. At 21 years of age, Stilwell is already making a name for himself in the Fort Bend ARTreach community as a gifted culinary artist and budding entrepreneur.
ARTreach is a non-profit organization that uses the arts to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children, special-needs groups, the elderly, and neglected populations. Stilwell has been involved with the organization for the past two years.
Through his participation in ARTreach, Stilwell discovered a passion for gardening and cooking, and now he is realizing his dream of becoming a culinary artist with a business. The jalapeno jelly that Stilwell has become known for is sold at ARTreach events to help raise money for the organization’s outreach programs.
The fact that Stilwell has Down’s syndrome has not slowed him down or deterred him from pursuing his goals. Through his own example, he is paving the way for other students with special needs who want to transition from high school into “real life” and working in the Fort Bend community. In a way,
“Nolan’s optimism is contagious,” says Terri Bieber, who nominated Stilwell for the award. “
Join us in applauding the amazing accomplishments of these five individuals at the 2011 County Judge’s Volunteer Fort Bend Awards Ceremony on April 28. Individual tickets and corporate sponsorships are still available.
For information, call Kathy Renfrow, Director of Volunteer Fort Bend, at 281-340-1919, or email her at kathyr@VolunteerHouston.org. The deadline for corporate sponsorships is April 12.