I first met Bella Hammond when she came to Valdez in the 1970s to present a First Lady Volunteer Award. That was at the inception of this volunteer recognition initiative Mrs. Hammond started that has carried on through the decades. Since then hundreds of Alaskans have been honored for their charitable contributions through volunteerism. Highlighting the commitment and character of these fine Alaskans shows our appreciation for their sacrifices and encourages others to help build up their communities through giving of their time and talents.
I invite you to participate this year by nominating someone who demonstrates a dedication to volunteer service and who has had a significant impact on the lives of Alaskans. We are hoping once again to receive nominations from all throughout Alaska for all types of volunteer work. Last year's recipients ranged in age from 12 to 80. They came from urban and rural areas. Their volunteer commitments included: raising thousands of dollars for cancer patients and research; building recreational programs and facilities; cultural preservation; using a therapy dog to bring joy and hope to many; village leadership and service; and working to end homelessness, suicide and opioid addiction. A core value of helping others is the one consistent thing they had in common.
The volunteer work that Alaskans like these do, day in and day out, often goes unheralded. These are not the kind of people who wait for things to change, wish for conditions to be different or get involved simply seeking recognition. So many Alaskans are change agents with the highest motivation — rolling up their sleeves because they are determined to improve the lives of people in the community.
In these challenging fiscal times, our volunteers will play an even greater role in helping those in need and in strengthening their communities. It is often said that volunteers don't necessarily have the time, they have the heart, and it is a heart that cares deeply about community and fellow Alaskans.
Nominations will be accepted through March 6 at VolunteerAwards.Alaska.Gov. Thanks to our generous sponsors — Alaska Airlines, Bering Straits Native Corp., ExxonMobil Alaska and Dateline Digital Printing — awardees will receive a trip to Juneau and will be honored at a luncheon and ceremony at the Governor's House in Juneau in May.
Awardees are chosen by a committee of Alaskans. The committee members and I are excited to read about the good works of Alaskans who make our state so strong, so vibrant and who keep volunteerism alive. Hosting the recipients in Juneau and honoring their contributions is a time-honored tradition and an annual highlight that we all are looking forward to.
First lady Donna Walker is married to Gov. Bill Walker and is a mother, grandmother, attorney and businesswoman.