Governor’s Volunteer Awards

Governor's Volunteer Awards

2017 Governor’s Volunteer Awards

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Please click here to view the press release from the Office of the Governor.

To view photos from the 2017 Award Ceremony please click here.

Please click here to download the printable version of this page.

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 Congratulations to our 2017 winners!

Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the 34th annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards, today announced the 2017 award recipients. The Governor’s Volunteer Awards, administered by OneStar Foundation, honor the contributions of individuals, businesses and organizations in Texas that have made a positive impact in their communities or across the state through service and volunteering. Through her Texanthropy Initiative, Mrs. Abbott has made promoting volunteerism and service to others her primary focus as First Lady of Texas.

“It is no secret that Texas is filled with generous individuals and organizations, but these eleven awardees are truly extraordinary,” Mrs. Abbott said. “I am touched by all of the amazing things they are each doing to help their fellow Texans. Their example is truly inspiring.”

The awardees will be honored at an evening reception in the Fall at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

The recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Volunteer Awards are:



Governor’s Lone Star Achievement Award
David Godwin, Houston


This award recognizes the exemplary service of an individual who has volunteered for a minimum of 15 years. Lone Star Achievers are those rare individuals who recognize a community need and create new systems, programs, and/or processes to achieve positive change. Nominees inspire others to serve their cause through volunteering and philanthropy, often engaging cross sector partners for greater impact.

Houstonian David Godwin is a 61-year old retired volunteer and humanitarian. David’s longest-running charitable endeavor is the Literacy Initiative for Today (LIFT), at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, which has just celebrated 26 years of service to the community. LIFT classes are offered at no cost during the spring and fall semesters on Saturdays, and are taught by volunteers. Thanks to David’s creative input and hard work, more than 10,000 adult students from over 20 countries have learned to speak English through the LIFT program and have gone on to better jobs and brighter futures.

David has also served as coordinator for the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI) since 2002. The CCI locates host families for high-school exchange students. David works with students who are scholarship recipients of the U.S. State Department for study in the U.S. Two such programs are: Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), which provides the opportunity for students from the former Soviet Union to come to our country and experience a democratic society; and Youth Exchange and Study (YES), which provides opportunities for students from predominantly Muslim countries to come to the U.S. and attend local high schools. David and his wife Lucy have hosted more than 75 students from 28 different countries who are in the U.S. attending intensive language schools in Houston.

After David and Lucy adopted two children from China nearly two decades ago, they became involved in volunteer activities in Houston’s Chinese community. Since 1999, David has served as a board member of “Families with Children from China”. For nine years he coordinated a silent auction to raise funds for the organization. He has taught ESL at Houston’s Chinese Consulate and coordinated holiday events and Chinese New Year to help the families bond with each other.

David Godwin has performed decades of volunteer service in the Houston area and his legacy of service will continue to inspire others to serve.


First Lady’s Rising Star Award
Micah Pinson (12 Years Old), Shady Shores


This award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of an individual 18 years or younger serving and inspiring his/her community. Nominees should demonstrate leadership, commitment to service and the ability to inspire others to serve. Rising Stars mobilize others to achieve measurable impact on critical issues within their communities. Nominees understand the importance of collaboration and cross-generational partnerships.

Twelve-year-old Micah Pinson is a 7th grader at Corinth Classical Academy. In 2011, at the age of seven, Micah decided he wanted to make a difference in the lives of other children. With the help of his father, he conceived a community service project that today stands as the largest single toy donation for the Dallas Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Each year, through Micah’s efforts, the toy drive attracts more businesses and participants to the cause. In 2016, over 10,000 toys arrived at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in an 18-wheeler!

Motivated by the care he received as a child with a hand deformity, Micah wanted to give back to the hospital that had helped him, not only through physical changes but emotional ones, as well. The Texas Scottish Rite Hospital provided Micah the opportunity to attend Hand Camp. While attending the camp, he realized that he was not alone and that there were other children like him. So, wherever he goes, Micah encourages others to celebrate their differences and anything that makes them unique.

Micah demonstrates creativity, leadership, perseverance and commitment through his volunteer efforts. Since the toy drive began, each year Micah seeks ways to involve more community and business leaders in this project. He speaks before the city council, Masonic lodges, schools or any other groups he might persuade to get on board.

Over the years, his perseverance and commitment to this project are without a doubt his biggest strengths. In total, more than 25,000 toys have been collected over the six-year period for the toy drive, and 2016 was the best year ever. Micah is already planning how to increase and sustain the toy drive for future years. His hope is to involve younger patients so the project continues, and there is clearly support for the sustainability of Micah’s work. He sees this project not only as a way of giving back to the hospital that helped him so much, but also as a blessing in his life.

Micah Pinson has already performed several years of volunteer service and is giving back to the community that provided help to him in a way that will inspire others to serve in the years to come.


Partners in Education Award
Fort Bend Education Foundation, Sugar Land


This award recognizes an individual or group that demonstrates measurable impact on a recognized need within a public, charter or parochial school(s). The Partner has implemented innovative and/or informed or evidence-based solutions to further educational goals for students. Nominees are committed to long term results and employ an evaluation component for continual learning and improvement of the program or intervention.

In 1992, Fort Bend County business and community leaders came together to form the Fort Bend Education Foundation (FBEF) to support Fort Bend ISD teachers and schools. Throughout its twenty-five year history, FBEF has awarded $32 million in grant funding to enhance educational outcomes in Fort Bend ISD. FBEF works collaboratively with the school district to provide an exceptional learning experience at all 75 campuses that house more than 74,500 students and 5,000 teachers.

In 2013, FBEF partnered to assist Computer Science II students in STEM Labs. Included in the agreement were 25 licenses for Petrel Software to support the study of petroleum, earth science and technology, as well as 25 licenses for Ocean Kit Software geared toward STEM learning. Fort Bend ISD is one of only two K-12 districts in the state using this software, because typically it is used at the college level.

The 44-member FBEF board includes local business, industry and community leaders who volunteer their time and resources to help Fort Bend ISD achieve its mission to “inspire and equip all students to pursue futures beyond what they can imagine.” Through this dynamic partnership, more than 800 FBEF volunteers work on a variety of projects to allow the FBEF to serve as a powerful catalyst for extraordinary student achievement.

For over 25 years, the Fort Bend Education Foundation has been able further the district’s educational goals with positive long term results by implementing programs that support teachers and equip students for a brighter future through the good work of hundreds of FBEF volunteers.


Service To Veterans Award
Tony Smith, Copperas Cove


Nominees may include individuals or organizations that have designed program(s) or services to meet the needs of military-connected families or individuals. The exemplary service will show respect for the unique challenges of military-connected families and individuals. The awardee will demonstrate cross-sector engagement including significant input from those served.

Retired Veteran Tony Smith has turned his service to country into a more-than-full-time, unpaid second career as a county-appointed Veterans Service Officer (VSO). Coryell County has only two VSOs in a county that has one of the largest populations of disabled veterans. Two years ago, Tony found free office space and began reviewing a backlog of veteran’s cases where assistance had been requested but not acted upon. The backlog was extensive, but Tony devoted himself almost full time to work through each veteran’s issue.

Tony is a trained small group facilitator through “Bring Everyone in the Zone”, based in Killeen. Within less than two years, he helped grow his peer-to-peer veteran groups from one poorly-attended group, to three in Copperas Cove and one in Gatesville. He devotes one evening per week to his peer-to-peer group, which meets at the Copperas Cove Senior center and has 40-plus members. These groups provide a safe, confidential atmosphere for veterans and active duty personnel to gather.

Tony has provided for the veterans in his area in other ways as well, including:

Tony Smith continues to seek the much-needed support for disabled Veterans, and he is a compassionate and willing volunteer in his community. His tireless dedication to serve veterans will be a lasting catalyst for good.

  • Counseling and support for several successful suicide prevention engagements, saving lives and positively impacting families and the community.
  • Securing a donated motorized scooter for a disabled elderly veteran so he can be mobile on his rural property.
  • Raising funds and negotiating the best price among local funeral directors for the burial of a veteran who died with no family to pay for the expenses.
  • Assisting widows in working with funeral directors to provide the most cost-effective services.
  • Finding volunteer pastors to conduct funeral services for veterans that had no local church, and as a chaplain, sometimes performing services himself.
  • Gaining recognition for the service of forgotten Viet Nam veterans when, in February 2017, he provided official recognition to those that could not attend the Reagan Dinner.


Higher Education Community Impact Award
University Of Houston Sure™ Program, Houston


This award recognizes a college or university that supports and encourages civic engagement and volunteering as a core value. Nominees should demonstrate how students are engaged in intentional cross sector collaboration to address one or more identified needs within the community. The institution is considered a valuable partner in addressing community needs.

The SURE™ Program, based at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, stands for Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship, and that is exactly what the program has been doing since 2012 with remarkable results. As of April 2017, SURE™ has trained over 500 entrepreneurs from underserved and disadvantaged backgrounds and launched over 80 businesses. The average SURE™ Entrepreneur is a 41-year-old African-American female, with some college experience, from a low income, three-person household. According to an impact study commissioned by SURE™ in 2016, over 63% of SURE™ participants come from low-income households. The two chief parts of the SURE™ Program are SURE™ Entrepreneur Academy and the SURE™ Incubator.

In the SURE™ Entrepreneur Academy, UofH students enroll in a class called “Brainstorming to Bankrolling” and serve as consultants to local entrepreneurs—largely from underserved communities—through the process of writing a business plan and pitching for funding. The students are led and aided by the small army of executive volunteers that guest lecture for each class and provide one-on-one tutoring to entrepreneurs when needed. The program culminates with a graduation ceremony and pitch day involving leaders from large multinational banks to small micro lenders. In the past, SURE™ has also offered an accelerated version of the SURE™ Entrepreneur Academy for veterans and their families called the SURE™ Bootcamp for Veterans.

The SURE™ Incubator is an entirely volunteer-led and student-run organization which, at no charge, provides ongoing support and consulting services to graduates of SURE™ Entrepreneur Academy and SURE™ Bootcamp. It does this by marshaling volunteers and connecting departments across Bauer College of Business to develop professional-level accounting, marketing and supply chain plans for selected entrepreneurs.

At the heart of SURE™ is a commitment to service and civic engagement in Houston. The program’s radical approach to education has been sustained over four years due to the tireless commitment of its founder, Dr. Saleha Khumawala, and a stream of countless volunteers, including students and professionals. Each year the program has grown and this year (Spring 2017), SURE™ is training 88 aspiring entrepreneurs as part of UofH President Renu Khator’s Third Ward Initiative.

When it comes to empowering local entrepreneurs from underserved communities, SURE™ is truly making a lasting impact.


Corporate Community Impact Award
USAA, San Antonio


This award recognizes a private sector entity, including small businesses, for implementing employee volunteer programs that have demonstrable community impact. Nominees have community service as a core value and business strategy. Nominees go beyond episodic volunteering and are committed to long term community engagement. Corporations or other for-profit, private sector entities/businesses are eligible for the Corporate Community Impact Award.

The corporate responsibility signature cause at USAA is to promote military family resiliency. Within that cause, one of USAA’s key focus areas is to support the needs of the 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers who care for wounded, injured or ill service members. According to the RAND Military Caregivers Study, these caregivers consistently experience more health problems, face greater strains in family relationships and have more workplace issues than civilian caregivers.

In 2016, USAA provided a $400,000 charitable grant to PsychArmor Institute to develop a free, online educational support program tailored to the unique needs of military caregivers. USAA further supported PsychArmor with the hands-on involvement of USAA’s Corporate Responsibility team to provide strategic direction, help define success and measurement criteria, review each course with the help of a military caregiver advisory committee, and provide feedback to support PsychArmor’s high standards for quality.

The courses in the online school cover a range of subjects that were identified by military and veteran caregivers as educational needs including, “Understanding Invisible Wounds of War at Home,” a set of seven courses that educate and advise caregivers that support loved ones with PTSD, TBI, depression, and substance abuse. USAA’s funding also allows PsychArmor to offer a support call center that complements the online training material by providing follow-up coaching and counseling services from mental health clinicians.

Within the first year, over 13,000 learners completed 36,000 training courses. Of that group, 86 percent demonstrated knowledge-gained and feel more connected, supported and confident; 92 percent actively continued with additional courses; and 90 percent of caregivers engaged with the school said they would recommend the courses to others.

USAA and PsychArmor Institute are part of Hidden Heroes, a national coalition of more than 300 private, public nonprofit, and faith-based organizations that support America’s military and veteran caregivers by drawing attention to their unique needs and helping to fill the gaps in supportive programs. The school is a critical element of this national coalition. The school’s online education content is featured on the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes website (, which provides a wide array of resources exclusively for military and veteran caregivers and family members.

USAA’s commitment to programs that recognize the sacrifices and address the needs of military and veteran caregivers and their families is helping to generate positive impact on the military community across the nation. According to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, USAA is the first business to dedicate a pillar of its corporate responsibility program to addressing the nation’s military caregiver crisis.


Corporate Community Impact Award For Small Business
Granite Properties Inc, Houston & Dallas


This award recognizes a private sector entity, including small businesses, for implementing employee volunteer programs that have demonstrable community impact. Nominees have community service as a core value and business strategy. Nominees go beyond episodic volunteering and are committed to long term community engagement. Corporations or other for-profit, private sector entities/businesses are eligible for the Corporate Community Impact Award.

Granite Properties, Inc., is a commercial real estate development and investment firm that was founded in Dallas and later expanded to Houston and across the nation. Since 1991, growing servant leaders has been an integral part of the corporate fabric at Granite Properties. Employees are encouraged to serve the community—to show up, stand up, speak up and contribute. Granite Properties believes this commitment to leadership strengthens their relationship with the communities they serve.

Annually, Granite Properties employees have 40 paid hours allocated toward community service during working hours, but many go above and beyond this commitment. In 2016, employees completed over 5,000 hours of community involvement, at a value of over $3,000 per employee, for an impact of $497,000 to citizens and communities in Texas, Georgia, Colorado and California.

Volunteers from Granite Properties have given over 3,500 hours in the past ten years to the residents of the Richmond State Supported Living Center, an intermediate care facility serving over three hundred Texans who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Granite Properties volunteers led a capital improvement committee, excavated and improved the grounds of the Therapeutic Riding Center arena, and donated funds allowing residents to attend different sporting events such as Rockets, Texans and Astros games, and Harlem Globe Trotters. They also support the annual Birthday and Holiday Gift Program, and sit on the Board of Directors for the Volunteer Services Council. Not only do Granite Properties employees volunteer, they bring their families and friends to support the mission to enhance the quality of life for the center’s residents.

For over 10 years, Granite Properties employees have also supported Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and Plano. Employees have raised over $50,000 each year over the past five years for the hospital’s annual Red Balloon Run and Ride family event. Granite Properties has also led the Building Owners and Managers Association Adopt-A-Block Initiative, working with the City of Dallas to identify a worthy recipient of an external home renovation. Twice a year for the past five years, Granite Properties’ engineering team has led the project, which is a full work day for 30 to 40 individuals.

Granite Properties is also involved with other local Texas organizations, including Frisco Family Services, Collin County Meals on Wheels, and Easter Seals of Greater Houston.

The leadership and employee volunteers at Granite Properties consistently strive to create a lasting impact in the communities they serve around the state through their strong commitment of giving back and service to others.


Community Leadership Award
Haven for Hope, San Antonio


This award recognizes an individual, group or organization for strengthening their community through intentional partnerships. Nominees understand the importance of service and developing connections between groups and individuals and forge collaborative solutions to meet local needs. They exhibit a dedication to their communities that inspires those around them to serve. Any individual, group of individuals, faith-based or community organization including civic groups can be nominated for this award.

In 2006, at the urging of San Antonio business and civic leader Bill Greehey, the San Antonio City Council decided it was time to seek innovative solutions to the homeless problem in Bexar County. After conducting national research on promising models and best practices, Haven for Hope opened in 2010 to guide a person from homelessness to housing through a recovery framework and comprehensive on-site social services. Today, Haven for Hope of Bexar County is the largest homeless service center in Texas, serving more than 1,600 people daily. The 22-acre campus is located in one of the poorest zip codes in the state, yet it is a national model in moving people who are experiencing homelessness to self-sufficiency. There are 137 nonprofit partners either on campus or in the community providing services to address the systemic causes of homelessness. Services include job training, employment readiness, basic reading to college preparation, professional certifications, financial literacy, behavioral health services, spiritual care and more.

Desirous of finding an effective way to give back to the San Antonio community, Haven for Hope leadership convened town halls, attended community association meetings, and met with those living in surrounding neighborhoods. Residents and local businesses identified a clear need for work crews to assist in neighborhood cleanup and beautification projects while minimizing costs. As a result, the Haven for Hope Ambassador Program, led by men and women residing at Haven, was developed to address identified community needs while providing opportunities to give back to those experiencing homelessness. Haven Ambassadors complete an average of 60 or more projects annually for an average contribution of more than 7,000 work hours a year. Projects include building handicap ramps, landscaping, graffiti clean-up, home construction, flooring, painting, roofing, mural/sculpture installation and more. The Ambassador Program collaborates with many nonprofits, such as Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio. The Ambassadors helped them create a safe, nurturing space for the more than 8,900 at-risk youth that they serve. To date, more than 3,600 volunteers experiencing homelessness have participated in the Ambassador Program, demonstrating Haven’s strong commitment to the San Antonio community.

Through its unique model, Haven for Hope is making a difference in the lives of San Antonio homeless, youth, local businesses and the community at large. Hope is often all it takes to revitalize a community and change a life.


National Service “Make a Difference”
AmeriCorps Member Erin Moody, Lockhart


This award recognizes the exemplary achievement of an AmeriCorps member who is currently serving or has served the State of Texas. The volunteer/member has achieved extraordinary impact above and beyond the scope of their service requirement. The nominee ensures the sustainability of a program or a nonprofit organization by building service capacity, or by improving lives through direct service. Members must have successfully completed or be on track to complete his/her term of service, minimum hours requirement, and all other service requirements to be eligible.

Erin Moody is currently completing her second term of service as an AmeriCorps member with Communities In Schools (CIS) of Central Texas at Lockhart Junior High School. CIS is a dropout prevention organization that works directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom.

During her service term, Erin has carried a caseload of more than forty 6th to 8th grade students with whom she meets individually for at least one hour per week. She has developed an understanding of the complexities of the community of Lockhart and the pressing issues families and students face, including: having an incarcerated parent, abuse or neglect, self-harm, gang affiliation, and poor academic performance. Erin has established strategies for communication among teachers, CIS staff members, schools administrators, and school resource officers to address behavior, academic, or other issues in a timely manner to ensure lasting benefits to her students. Last year, 100% of the students in Erin’s caseload improved in academics and behavior, 90% passed all four of their core classes, and 100% were promoted to the next grade level. Erin was the only AmeriCorps member to have these results with her caseload of students.

Additionally, Erin has facilitated a total of seven student-led projects on campus during her service. Each project was designed to build unity and acceptance within the student body. Administrators reported that the activities were a huge success and have supported goals found in the Campus Improvement Plan that Lockhart Junior High School can replicate yearly to improve the school’s climate and culture.

Erin Moody has gone above and beyond her official position description to build relationships and to initiate strategies that encourage and empower the youth at Lockhart Junior High so they have the best opportunity to reach their full potential as well-educated, engaged young citizens.


National Service “Make a Difference”
AmeriCorps Vista Shelby Thomas, Houston


This award recognizes the exemplary achievement of an AmeriCorps VISTA who is currently serving or has served the State of Texas. The VISTA has achieved extraordinary impact above and beyond the scope of their service requirement. The nominee ensures the sustainability of a program or a nonprofit organization by building service capacity. The VISTA must have successfully completed or be on track to complete his/her term of service, minimum hours requirement, and all other service requirements to be eligible.

Shelby Thomas is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Alliance of Community Assistance Ministries, Inc. (ACAM) in their Disaster Relief and Recovery Program. ACAM is a member of the Harris County Long Term Recovery Committee, the Texas Gulf Coast VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) and was a partner in the former Greater Houston Storm Recovery Network. These collaboratives represent over 40 different nonprofit and government organizations.

Houston was impacted by four major storms from 2015 to 2016, and Shelby’s work as a VISTA was invaluable to recovery efforts. One of the greatest challenges in times of disaster is communication across the many voluntary organizations involved in response and recovery. Seeing this, Shelby implemented systems and processes to address this challenge. Not only were Shelby’s efforts a success, but they are already being replicated by associated ministries, and will remain in place even after her service is completed. As she updated ACAM’s Disaster Recovery Plan, she documented every process, developed tracking methods, forms and tools for data gathering and reporting, and collected post-grant data that ACAM utilized to report on the overall impact of disaster relief efforts.

Thanks to Shelby’s outreach to the 17 organizations that received grants through ACAM for disaster relief and recovery, ACAM was able to capture over $1 million in in-kind donations. Shelby worked closely with the Texas Gulf Coast VOAD to update the VOAD website and its roster of members, which is critical to maintaining the communication network. Shelby also updated ACAM’s GuideStar profile by entering in various nonprofit metrics, as well as financial and planning information. ACAM is now one of only four Houston-based human services organizations (in a region with 627 such organizations) with a Platinum GuideStar Seal.

Shelby’s service as a VISTA has had a significant and lasting impact. She came at a time when others were experiencing burnout or had lost enthusiasm after a series of disasters hit the region. Shelby brought fresh ideas, joy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done, uplifting all organizations and revitalizing efforts to serve.


National “Make a Difference” Award
Senior Corps Volunteers Arlen And Mary ’Beth Lohse, San Angelo


This award recognizes the exemplary achievement of a SeniorCorps volunteer who is currently serving or has served the State of Texas. The volunteer has achieved extraordinary impact above and beyond expectations. The nominee ensures the sustainability of a program or a nonprofit organization by building service capacity or by improving lives through direct service or capacity building.

Over 30 years ago, Arlen and Mary ’Beth Lohse began volunteering with Meals for the Elderly as substitute drivers during the holidays and summer months. In 2004, as retirees, they started volunteering fulltime through West Texas RSVP, a Senior Corps program that provides volunteers for Meals for the Elderly.

Charlyn Ocker, President of Meals for the Elderly in San Angelo stated, “More than 50% of seniors served by Meals for the Elderly live below the federal poverty line on less than $11,770 a year. All are chronically disabled and almost all live alone. As much as they need the nourishing food, they also need to know that someone cares about them.” Meals for the Elderly serves an average of 650 clients per day on 47 unique routes, and without meals supplied by Meals for the Elderly, many seniors would be prematurely placed in assisted living or nursing homes due to their inability to shop for food or prepare their own meals.

Arlen and Mary ’Beth’s normal schedule is to deliver meals on at least seven routes within a 5-day work week, often serving as substitute or emergency drivers. Without their help, clients might be at risk of not receiving a meal that day. They also go above and beyond by providing clients with special packages of cookies on milk delivery days, bologna on bread days, lollipops for everyone – including sugar-free lollipops for diabetic clients – or bringing a favorite BBQ sandwich to a homebound, terminally ill senior. Mary ’Beth is known as the “napkin lady” for always providing a seasonally inspired napkin with the meals. In January and February of 2017 alone, they drove a total of 64 routes, delivering 671 meals and serving 219 unduplicated clients.

Arlen and Mary ’Beth have developed relationships and friendships that go beyond just bringing meals to their neighbors. Some of these friendships have continued even as their clients moved into assisted living facilities or nursing homes, where they continue their visits.

Many in the San Angelo community say there is no one who does more for Meals for the Elderly or the organization’s clients than Arlen and Mary ’Beth Lohse. They are mentors, role models, and living examples of what is the absolute very best of humanity.

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A big thank you to our GVA sponsors!

2017 GVA Sponsors


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Past Award Winners

Please click here to view the 2016 Governor's Volunteer Award Winners.

Please click here to view the 2015 Governor's Volunteer Award Winners.

Please click here to view the 2014 Governor's Volunteer Award Winners.

Please click here to view the 2013 Governor's Volunteer Award Winners.