Community Involvement Award Recipients Named
In collaboration with Community Thread, Washington County Commissioners Gary Kriesel and Fran Miron recognized the 2022 Community Involvement Award, and acknowledged the contributions that volunteers make to the area. Community Thread’s Community Engagement Director, Jennifer Kmecik, shared “this year’s volunteer award winners embody important qualities, including integrity, energy, creativity, and flexibility. After a competitive application and selection process, Community Thread is delighted to celebrate these individuals as role models in Washington County.”
Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award, Ella Hamilton (Stillwater)
A great example of what a teenager with a big heart and a desire to make the world a better place can accomplish, Ella Hamilton began her volunteer efforts with Young Life in Stillwater. Ella is an active Stillwater Area High School senior where she is a member of the National Honor Society and a leader of Ponies TRUST (True Respect Unifies Students Together), a student club including students with and without disabilities, working together to promote understanding and inclusion. In addition, she volunteers with high school adapted sports teams, and is the delegate to the Student Board of Directors for Special Olympics. She encourages anyone who thinks they might be interested in volunteering to “find something you’re passionate about and pursue it! It’s fun, not work.”
Outstanding Volunteer Award, Winnie Williams (Woodbury)
Defined by her gracious nature by people who know her, Winnie Williams dedicates her time to many diﬀerent organizations, volunteering in a variety of roles. According to Winnie, “Volunteering is a rewarding experience, especially if the volunteer is open to how it might change their life, not necessarily what one does to help others.”
At Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf (CCEFS), her primary responsibility is managing the website and social media and assisting with other technology and database projects. She also created websites for the Spirit Song Choir and Open Door Community Theatre. During the peak of the pandemic, Winnie joined forces with other volunteers to create Minnesota Vaccine Hunters to help those struggling with technology to make vaccine appointments. She also worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Washington County Public Health to coordinate eight accessible vaccine clinics at CCEFS service locations, overseeing everything from communications to logistics.
Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award, Ashley Bulmer (Forest Lake)
Known as a person with a can-do attitude who loves to support community events both through her business and her personal actions, Ashley Bulmer’s commitment to volunteering started at age 14 when she started volunteering five days a week during the summer at a community center in Duluth. Today, she considers her business as her ministry. Her job, she says, is “To be there for people - especially teens and young adults who are trying to find their voices/place in the world.” As owner of Big Apple Bagels in Forest Lake, Ashley has been mentoring her young employees since 2010.
In addition, she is a strong advocate for mental health and serves in a variety of capacities at Canvas Health, Inc. She also finds ways to encourage her two young sons in volunteer projects. In Ashley’s words, “The community needs a glue to put it back together and solidify it after the last few years. Volunteering can be that glue.”
Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award, Jerry Wohlers (Stillwater)
Jerry Wohlers is a man who, as he puts it, “simply likes helping people.” For 30 years he worked as a CPA in the tax department at Honeywell. Upon retirement, he volunteered at Valley Outreach in Stillwater. When a friend suggested he would be a good tax program volunteer for an AARP sponsored program hosted at Community Thread, Jerry signed up and began volunteering helping people prepare their tax returns for free. Seventeen years later, Jerry remains part of the team of volunteers responsible for preparing over 700 tax returns for low- to moderate-income taxpayers.
Jerry is inspired by his faith and motivated by the fulfillment he gets by helping people. “Volunteering is a great way to build community while also getting things done and improving the daily lives of those who get the help,” he noted. “There are many people in need, and there are many ways to serve. It does not have to be complicated. Community Thread is a great place to learn about volunteer openings in the community. Just do it!”
Outstanding Group Volunteer Award, Huntley Family (Lake Elmo)
For more than six years, Doug, Pam, and Natalie Huntley have been instrumental to the success of the 622 Education Foundation, which serves Independent School District 622. The mission of the foundation is to generate and distribute resources to create, enrich, and expand programs that enhance the quality of education in the school district.
Pam oﬃcially serves as the Angel Fund Co-chair, where she works with district social workers equitably distribute essential items such as winter clothes, eyeglasses, and school supplies. Doug serves in the role of Co-President, where he is leading many eﬀorts including the Angel Fund, new donor development, a 3M partnership, and board member recruitment and development. Natalie, the district STEM specialist at Weaver Elementary School, serves as the Education Foundation Board liaison to schools and teachers.
“Everyone has a gift to share, and by volunteering, a person gains a sense of purpose,” said Doug. “Whatever you put in, you will get multifold in return.” For the Huntleys, volunteering as a family increases the joy even more. They see how needs are met and connections are made, creating a stronger community.
Exemplary Employer Award, Andersen Windows & Doors (Bayport)
For over 100 years, Andersen Windows & Doors has made a commitment to give back to the community. As stated on their website: “We are proud to give back to our communities, and to inspire possibility by empowering people and communities to achieve their full potential.” They do this through corporate giving, the Andersen Corporate Foundation, and product donation. Their community impact focuses on affordable housing, education, and basic needs in in the communities where their employees live and work.
An important aspect of Andersen Windows & Doors’ philosophy of giving back is how they encourage their employees to volunteer their time and skills to causes most important to them. Over the years, volunteer efforts have included home building projects, environmental restoration, youth enrichment and education, food shelf support, food packing events, blood drives, and service on boards of nonprofits. Andersen Windows & Doors’ exemplary community support and culture of volunteerism positively impacts people’s lives while strengthening communities throughout Washington County.
Outstanding Legacy Award, Jennifer Shanedling (Stillwater)
Jennifer Shanedling led a life devoted to sharing unconditional love, time, food, and resources with anyone who needed help. One of Jennifer’s passions was the Linden Golden Care Living Center where she was known for having a strong love and commitment to the residents. Because of Jennifer’s minister’s license, she was allowed limited visits with residents during COVID restrictions. As a volunteer there, she arranged movie night experiences, brought volunteers in to help bake pies, and many other fun activities. In addition, she initiated the cleanup of the backyard and patio area and raised funds to beautify the space with perennials and decorations. Residents appreciated the garden transformation and enjoyed the beautiful, relaxing space where they could sun themselves and enjoy nature. At Christmas, Jennifer found out what each resident wanted and sought donations so that everyone would get a gift, personally delivered by Jennifer dressed as Santa Claus.
According to friends, Jennifer was able to find the good in people and was tireless when it came to helping struggling individuals start over. She was guided by her faith and commitment to service and no challenge was too great or too diﬃcult.
Congratulations to all the 2022 Community Involvement Award recipients!
For over 50 years, Community Thread has connected people, neighborhoods, and lives together to strengthen the community. The nonprofit’s mission is to maximize resources and engage volunteers to improve the quality of life for adults and their families in our local community. The vision of Community Thread is a community where all people are engaged, enriched, and connected. To learn more, visit Community Thread’s website, or call 651-439-7434.