Laughs, Tears, and Cheers: The United Way Community Volunteer Excellence Awards

photo 1This past Tuesday the Heart of Florida United Way hosted their inaugural Community Volunteer Excellence Awards in celebration of volunteerism in our community. YNPN Orlando’s very own board chair, Ms. Jessica Schwendeman, was the program lead for the event and set the benchmark high for future years to come! Between the incredible stories of the nominees and the closing comedy show with SAK Comedy Lab, it’s no surprise the evening concluded with a standing ovation.

photo 2Held in Downtown Orlando’s Shakespeare Theatre, the awards ceremony was introduced by Heart of Florida United Way’s President & CEO, Robert Brown, before handing the mic over to Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell. Maxwell was charismatic and engaging, and led the ceremony through the seven award categories, finally announcing the winners of each.

While every volunteer that was nominated is nothing short of extraordinary, the volunteers who won their category had inspiring and in some instances emotional stories to tell. For the “Above and Beyond” category, the Bcenter nominee (and winner) was a stroke survivor herself who spent her time and own personal finances to support other stroke survivors and their families by providing treatment resources, hope and direction.

photo 3Representing the Millennial’s, a lovely young lady with Seminole County Public Library System took home the award for “Outstanding Youth Volunteer” for her hours spent helping children learn how to read,  proving that our generation is active and impactful in the community. She shared her nomination with four other youth volunteers all working to make a difference in Central Florida. After the show we enlisted them all as new YNPN Orlando members. (*Editor’s note: kidding).

photo 4Clearly this author’s jokes are not as good as those from the SAK Comedy Lab, which was how the Community Volunteer Excellence Awards were concluded. The actors had the audience laughing throughout the entire show, at times so hard this author’s cheeks hurt! In the spirit of the evening, where happiness and compassion prevailed, it seemed appropriate to end on a positive note with shared laughter by all. There is no doubt that not only was the roaring standing ovation deserved, but that future United Way Excellence Awards will not be events you will want to miss!

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