GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It was a packed house Thursday when the WPS Volunteer Awards returned to an in-person presentation after being forced to go virtual because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“It’s really outstanding to see all the volunteers here,” beamed Eric Sponholtz of the Volunteer Center of Brown County, which serves as a hub for recruiting volunteers for hundreds of local non-profits. “Through a computer screen is great, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. To have over 500 folks back in-person is just a testament to the volunteering spirit.”

More than 900 volunteers were recognized at the ceremony at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay.

Nominees, their supporters, and the event’s sponsors enjoyed breakfast while being serenaded by fine arts students from East High School.

An independent panel of judges had the difficult task of reviewing nominations and selecting a runner-up and recipient in each category. The main criteria in making the selections were the need for the volunteer service, the volunteer’s impact, and initiative, and any challenges nominees overcame along the way.

The Green Bay Packers Give Back Large Group runner-up award went to Circles Green Bay, a group of volunteers that are making an impact on poverty in the community.

The large group winner was the Resettlement Volunteers who helped secure food, and housing among other necessities to help Afghan refugees adjust to life in northeast Wisconsin.

The American National Bank Small Group Award went to Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary and the three ladies who were instrumental in creating a solid stream of both revenue and awareness for the organization by designing merchandise and developing e-commerce systems.

The small group winners were the food volunteers with the Salvation Army who met the challenges of the pandemic both when it came to demand and how to change how to distribute the food with COVID-related restrictions.

The Bellin Health Arts and Culture Award runner-up was the volunteers supporting the Civic Symphony of Green Bay, which provides local musicians a chance to perform orchestral music in a friendly, fun setting while continuing to nurture their skill, love, and passion for music.

The winner was the BEAM team or Bellin Expressive Arts in Medicine. The volunteers offer free art projects, put together “Make and Take” kits, and create painting demonstrations for patients when they receive chemotherapy.

The Georgia-Pacific Adult Volunteer Award recognized Diane Wilson as runner-up for her work as a greeter at the Jack and Engrid Meng Hospice Residence on Unity’s campus.

The winner was Margi Kvitek a valuable behind-the-scenes team member for Literacy Green Bay.

The United Healthcare Youth Volunteer Award also focused on literacy. Runner-up Huw Griffiths helped fellow students learning English at East High School improve their reading comprehension by 50% in just one trimester.

The winner was 15-year-old Grace Fuss, who, after her mother’s cancer diagnosis, formed her own non-profit which in three years distributed hundreds of care packages to cancer patients and healthcare heroes.

“It just shows that in this tough world, with so many hard things going around that there are still people who want to give back donate their time and care about others,” Fuss told Local 5 News.

The Volunteer in Education Award, sponsored by the George F. Kress Foundation, honored Valerie Dantoin as runner-up. She’s an instructor at NWTC, teaching future farmers and food producers how to shorten supply chains. She took it a step further, creating one of the first-in-the-country associate’s degrees in sustainable food and agriculture.

The education volunteer winner was Jack LeDuc who not only helps the kids learn how to read but really listens to what they have to say and encourages them to pursue their interests and dreams. He goes out of his way to find books and materials for each student at a level they can understand.

The Constellation Volunteer Leadership Award runner-up was Kim Diaz, a board member for New Leaf Foods for the past 11 years, Kim has worked tirelessly to support the organization’s mission of promoting healthy food access and education and helping to build a thriving sustainable local food system in a clean environment.

The constellation winner was Sherrill Revolinski who fills a need whenever she sees it. She volunteers at several organizations including the Oral Health Partnership, Volunteer Center of Brown County, Friends of the Brown County Library, Golden House, and Evergreen Theater, Inc.

The Schreiber Heart of Gold Lifetime Achievement Award runner-up was Sister Mary Berg of St. John’s Ministries’ which brings hope and dignity and creates lasting change for those who are homeless or at-risk in the greater Green Bay community.

WBAY Anchor Bill Jartz was the Heart of Gold Winner for always lending his voice to worthy causes. Most notably, helping raise more than $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club.

In addition to volunteer recruitment, the Volunteer Center also leads several of its own programs, including our AmeriCorps Seniors Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Reading Coaches for Kids.

In 2021, 135 active AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers provided 17,712 hours of service to nonprofits in the community. And the Reading Coaches for Kids program, which welcomed volunteers back to the classroom as of September 2021, has had 55 Reading Coaches provide 642 K-5 students with one-to-one reading help.

The center is also hosting its 5th annual Volunteer Expo on Sept. 20 at the Resch Expo with dozens of non-profits in one place. Attendees can learn more about the valuable work each participating organization does, and discover ways to strengthen our community by giving of their time and talents.