BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Hyattsville is full of passionate residents who donate their time to many different city events and committees. On Dec. 4, those volunteers were invited to the 2017 Volunteer Recognition and Appreciation Reception.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth told the crowd the purpose of the dinner was to give thanks to those who volunteer their time and service to the city. “We can’t recognize everyone,” she noted, adding, “if we did, we’d be here till next week.”
Hollingsworth highlighted three volunteer programs that were started in the last year during the dinner: the Summer Reading Program, the Teen Club, and the Hyattsville Ambassadors.
The Summer Reading Program at Rosa Parks Elementary School was the idea of the Education Advisory Committee. The program aimed to help prevent the summer slump — the loss of learning obtained during the school year. Mayor Hollingsworth presented Kathy Dow-Burger, one of the organizer’s of the program, with a gift and called the program “a huge success.”
The Teen Club was started by Sgt. Suzie Johnson as a way to keep teens entertained and safe during the summer. The mayor thanked the numerous volunteers who help by serving food, cleaning up and hanging out, and presented a group of them with a gift. The program “helps teens know they are valued,” Hollingsworth said.
The third program, the Hyattsville Ambassadors program, was started as a way to engage community leaders, business owners and property owners for the purpose of highlighting the advantages of investing in Hyattsville. The program allows the ambassadors to make the first impression, acting on behalf of the city. Two of the three ambassadors, Ann Barrett and Erica Riggio, were present and received gifts.
A number of Student Service Learning Volunteers received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. There are three levels to the award based on number of service hours — bronze, silver and gold.
The bronze award, for those students with at least 174 volunteer hours, was given to: Wilbert Davis, Jose Elizardi-Colindres, Titilayo Famakinwa, Hughisha Fanty, Jose Gelabert, Opeyemi Salau, Musukula Sesay and Giresse Tchiekouo.
The silver award, for those students with at least 249 volunteer hours, was given to: Dominic Miller and Tan Vu.
The gold award, for those students with 250+ volunteer hours, was given to: Irenosen Okojie, Claudia Giunta and Andrea Shirdon. Shirdon, now a senior in high school, has been volunteering with the city since she was in sixth grade. Giunta, the daughter of city employee Chris Giunta, has been volunteering since she was 11 years old.
The city also gave out the Volunteer of the Year award. Each year, the award is designed by a local artist to represent “the spirit of service.” This year, the award was designed by Mt. Rainier artist Alma Selimovic. Hyattsville City Police Chief Doug Holland presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Rev. Stephen Price, the interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Hyattsville, citing the many things he has done to bring cops and clergy together. Price has become the leader of the “Community Police Chaplains,” a group of local clergy who have been working with officers and residents. Price, who has a crisis response background, has done ride-alongs with officers and has come out at all times of the day or night to assist officers or residents in crisis, said Holland. Price has been “a godsend to the city of Hyattsville,” Holland added.
The city depends on the service of volunteers.
“We work to build community through volunteerism,” said Jake Rollow, director of community services and public information officer. “The service projects we coordinate address a need and, ideally, bring people together in a unique way that builds relationships and understanding.
“For example, at the Jan. 15 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Mayor Hollingsworth is leading, we’re coordinating a trash cleanup of the woods near Northwestern High School. We’ve already had one church congregation sign on to help, and our hope is that we’ll also have students and other residents join us that day so that we not only clean the woods, but make new connections in our community.”