Sussex County volunteers earn recognition locally

Last week, 13 Sussex County volunteer organizations were recognized for their work by Rita Landgraf, Delaware’s Secretary of Health and Social Services, at a luncheon at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club.

“We honor these selfless volunteers of Sussex County who reach out in support of friends, neighbors and other individuals who are vulnerable,” said Landgraf. “Through their shared spirit of volunteerism, these volunteers clearly show us how powerful actions and ideas can be when they are carried out in the service of others.”

More than 70 volunteers attended the event, representing various organizations, including AARP Chapter #5226, the Center for the Inland Bays, Friends of the South Coastal Library, Gardeners by the Sea, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis Club, Lord Baltimore Lioness Club, Lord Baltimore Women’s Club, Lunch With a Purpose, Philanthropic Educational Organization, Salt Pond Women’s Club, Shore Democrats and the Women’s Civic Club of Bethany Beach.

Landgraf praised the volunteer groups for their dedication to their outreach efforts to those who are less fortunate in the Sussex County community.

“While there is relative affluence among the coastal population, there are many residents in this community who are indeed vulnerable or need our assistance, individuals who are homeless, hungry, suffering from chronic illness. And often our most vulnerable population is our children, seniors and our veterans and our troops,” she said. “I know not one of you do this for recognition. You do it because you get so much back for what you give. And you give so much.”

Landgraf thanked the Lord Baltimore Women Civic Club of Bethany Beach for funding presentations on how to prevent child abuse.

“I know this county, in particular, has been deeply impacted by [former pediatrician and convicted child molester Earl] Bradley and what has happened, relative to child abuse. I thank you for doing education around how do we prevent child abuse… This is something extremely important that we continue to do.”

Landgraf noted that more than 4,000 families in Sussex County live in substandard housing. Since 1991, volunteerism through Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has allowed for 64 homes to be built in Sussex County, housing 92 adults and 168 children.

Lunch with a Purpose is the largest single contributor in Sussex County to the Delaware Food Bank, having donated 5,400 pounds of food during the 2010-2011 collection season.

Landgraf also recognized the organizations for their volunteer contributions to the community, mentoring students in local schools; providing scholarship opportunities to local high school and nursing students; collecting clothing and hygiene products for distribution throughout the county; protecting the local environment; delivering meals; crocheting lap-robes for active and recovering military troops; and engaging in civic development activities through support of the South Coastal Library and the Ocean View Historical Society.

The luncheon, “Honoring the Spirit of Volunteerism,” coincided with National Volunteer Week, which was started in 1974, as well as with Delaware’s Week of Service.

“National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their community,” said Carol Mankus, president of Gardeners by the Sea. “It’s about demonstrating to the nation that working together in unison, we have the fortitude to beat out challenges and accomplish our goals.”

“This community gives back but it also pays it forward. What exactly is this community? Clearly it is more than a ZIP code… This community is not the sum of its respective ZIP codes but rather the compounding generosity of the volunteers who live in those ZIP codes. One act of service often inspires another, and another, and another and another,” said Landgraf. “I am honored to be here to salute some of the women and men who volunteer their time and effort.”