Pierce County honors outstanding volunteers

Lindsay Czerwinski, a Tacoman who has volunteered 19 years as a Juvenile Court Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL), was named Pierce County’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year during Pierce County’s 31st annual Volunteer Recognition Brunch March 21.

The event featured Gov. Chris Gregoire as guest speaker, and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and Pierce County Council Chairman Roger Bush as masters of ceremony. Nearly 100 individuals and groups were recognized.

Czerwinski has been volunteering as a CASA since 1990, first in Florida, and then joined Tacoma’s volunteer program in 2004. She has volunteered more than 600 hours for Pierce County in 2008 alone and strongly advocates for eight children who have been abused and neglected, in five different families.

Czerwinski does her advocacy work in addition to working part-time, assisting with office work and volunteering to help out with CASA training. She also works with the CASA mentoring program called CASA Chat, in which new CASAs are matched with experienced CASA’s. She is truly a major backbone of the CASA/GAL volunteer program and her service.

Other Volunteer Award winners include:

1. Group of the Year

The Pierce County Fair Board works closely with the WSU Pierce County Extension’s 4-H Youth Development. They work year-round to support and improve Frontier Park, the home of the Pierce County Fair. Activities include community outreach, securing donations and in-kind contributions, risk management, and overall event management. This group is unique because it is a diverse group of community members from different businesses as well as public and private organizations. In the weeks before the fair, some members work full-time toward this effort, and during the fair, all board members work 16-hour days. This serves Pierce County by putting on a community event that would otherwise be unaffordable if the county had to pay these volunteers. The Board works to keep it a low-cost event for both Pierce County and attendees. The Pierce County Fair offers educational value, community-building interests, and fun for all ages. Accepting for the Fair Board was Tony Walters of Milton.

2. Longevity Award

Sheriffs Department Chaplain Bill Balmer of Tacoma had been a fixture in the jail since 1955, retiring last month after volunteering for 53 years. His chaplaincy work with the inmates included one-on-one counseling, bible studies, church services and educational or treatment programs. His presence at the jail also reached out in support for staff, most of whom work difficult and demanding jobs.

Cathy Swenson, a WSU Pierce County Extension, Community Service Department volunteer from Kapowsin, has been sharing her clothing knowledge throughout Pierce County for more than 40 years. The Graham Crackers 4-H Club proudly calls her leader. Until its closing last year, she was an active member of the Home and Community Educators. As a Clothing and Textile Advisor for the past 26 years, Swenson has shared her knowledge of sewing, textiles, and laundry with families all over Pierce County. Swenson is also Pierce County Fair Home Arts Superintendent, where she provides hands-on sewing opportunities for children and demonstrates clothing and textile related skills to the general public. Lessie Tompkins accepted the award for Cathy, who is recuperating from surgery.

3. Special Achievement Award

Lakewood’s Marcia Dombrosky, a WSU Pierce County Extension Master Gardener, is the lead for the Children’s Garden at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center. She directs up to 15 other volunteers. Under Dombrosky’s direction, the Puyallup Children’s Garden has grown into a large and beautiful space for children to visit and learn about plants and their care. From April through October, Dombrosky oversees 12 educational events for children of all ages to get involved in free hands-on programs. In 2008, these included lessons on frogs, bees, worm bins, pumpkin growing, and making stepping stones.

Helen Dowsett of Puyallup, another WSU Pierce County Extension Master Gardener, has been a Master Gardener since 1981. She has always been interested in plants and insects and published a book, “Insects of Western Washington,” that features hand-drawn illustrations and detailed descriptions. Dowsett is also a Master Diagnostician and attends continuing education classes to keep abreast of the current training. She has served as a mentor to Master Gardeners in training, faithfully volunteers at the Extension’s office clinic, and assists at the yearly training of new Master Gardeners.