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Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year Awards Announced

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Howard County recently honored outstanding volunteers in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of seven individuals and one nonprofit organization. The winners were selected from 19 nominations. The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients.

Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the Pathway to Excellence at the county’s Troy Park at Elkridge. This year’s award winners were as follows.

• Volunteers of the Year: Donna Kruzic and Nancy Schieken

Howard County Recreation & Parks’ “No Boundaries” program is a drama program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Donna Kruzic spends multiple hours typing and organizing director’s notes, as well as creating the master dance CD to which the participants perform, making extra copies for participants who need extra practice; Nancy Schieken has also been volunteering with the program for 10 years, ensuring that rehearsals and performances run smoothly. Schieken has become an integral part of the effort, volunteering two-to-three hours every week, and up to 20 hours in the weeks leading up to each performance.

• Youth Volunteer of the Year: Rees Draminski

A junior at Mount Hebron High School, Rees Draminski enjoys reading, swimming and programming in his free time, when he’s not thinking of new ideas for TeCanal. TeCanal is a nonprofit organization that promotes STEM education to low-income neighborhoods in the Baltimore area. For two years, he has volunteered his time with TeCanal, where he has been instrumental in developing, implementing and teaching its curriculum, putting in 10 hours a week with tutoring and mentorship.

• Non-Profit Volunteer Organization of the Year: Metanoia Church

Members of Metanoia Church were the first volunteers to step forward to help after the Historic Ellicott City flood last summer, and they haven’t stopped offering assistance. As its nominator wrote, “As a shop owner, I was overwhelmed and needed serious help. A phone call was all it took to get [Staff Pastor] Jesse Florida or [Reverend Dr.] Adam Feldman [from Metanoia Church] to make it happen. If I needed volunteers, Jesse made it happen. If I needed a few tubs, brushes, bleach or whatever, Jesse or a church member would appear with it.”

• Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Casey

For more than 25 years, Julie Casey has been an integral part in the Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association (HCVFA). She has served as HCVFA’s president for three terms. She has played a vital role in: fostering diversity and inclusion, particularly for women firefighters; supporting the annual breast cancer awareness campaign; coordinating with the six volunteer fire companies regarding state grant funding; conferring with the county’s fire chief on budget and other administration issues; and working toward improved safety, health and physicals for volunteers.

• Lifetime Achievement Award: T.J. Swiney

A 44-year veteran of the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department, Captain T.J. Swiney has worked his way up through the ranks. According to his nominator, Swiney’s at the station almost every night and puts in at least 25 hours a week. As captain, he oversees the station’s observer and rookie programs, helping new members prepare to become firefighters. He also serves as the station’s training officer, assisting both volunteer and career members hone their skills.

• Dynamic Duo Award: George and Janice Vanisko

George Vanisko, a retired engineer, and Jan Vanisko, a retired nurse, are always willing to help others in need. He fixes anything, especially tech products such as computers, televisions, phones and thermostats; and she always keeps a medical bag available for first aid issues, blood pressure checks and interpreting medical reports. When not fixing things or providing medical assistance, they can be found volunteering at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, Our Daily Bread, Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Louis Church and FISH. They also drive patients to doctor’s appointments; and counsel people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as their caregivers.