Pierce County volunteers get their week

One of them has taught sewing and other life skills to young people for four decades. Another is a group that served meals to those working on-scene in the difficult hours after the Lakewood police and Eatonville deputy shootings. Still another is a high-school student who works to help children with disabilities.

Volunteers are the unsung heroes of Pierce County, giving of their own time and going largely unnoticed by most of their fellow citizens. But from March 15 to 19 they’ll have a week of their own capped by an annual brunch on March 20 intended to give them a taste of how much they’re appreciated.

“You don’t get a feel for how many in Pierce County give of their free time until you go to the brunch,” former event co-host and County Council Vice Chair Terry Lee (District 7) said this week before the council adopted a resolution proclaiming next week as Volunteer Recognition Week. “It’s inspiring to be in the same room with these compassionate, knowledgeable and energetic people.”

This year’s brunch will recognize 587 volunteers who gave nearly 53,000 hours of their time in 2009. Among those who will receive special honors are Volunteer of the Year Susan Parr, who has been involved with 4-H youth programs at Washington State University’s Pierce County Extension for more than 40 years teaching sewing and other projects to young adults. One of her students even sewed his own tuxedo jacket for the high-school prom.

Other award recipients are:

— Sarah King, Outstanding Young Adult of the Year (as part of her culminating project at Rogers High School, King volunteered with county parks and recreation programs that provide services to children and young adults with disabilities, continuing to volunteer after the project was completed);

— The Charles Wright Academy sixth-grade class, Young Adult Group of the Year (the class’ students have cleaned-up and removed garbage and invasive plants from a trail leading to Chambers Creek since 2001);

— The Soup Ladies, Group of the Year (often working in a field or parking lot, the 34 members of the Soup Ladies mobilize quickly to provide fresh-cooked meals to first responders during emergencies like the Lakewood police and Eatonville deputy shootings);

— Santa’s Spirit, Special Achievement Award (these volunteer “elves” bring donated and purchased Christmas gifts to less fortunate families in Pierce County in a donated ambulance “sleigh”); and

— Merilyn Schriver and Bill Taylor, Longevity Award (Schriver has taught youth in the Junior Livestock Board, the Graham 4-H Club and county and state fairs for 35 years, and Taylor has volunteered as a WSU Pierce County Extension Master Gardener for 34 years).

There are many opportunities to volunteer with Pierce County government. To get involved, visit the county’s volunteers Web page at http://www.piercecountywa.org/pc/services/volunteer/home.htm .