OTTUMWA — Gov. Kim Reynolds was greeted by nothing but smiles from volunteers who were ready to receive their awards.
“On behalf of lieutenant governor and me, we want to be the first to congratulate our honorees today,” Reynolds said. “Each of you really exemplify the best in Iowa’s character. It’s what sets our state apart and changes lives every day. These awards are a chance to showcase that Iowa’s doing what we do best and that’s getting involved and making a difference.”
Reynolds said that Ottumwa was among five cities in Iowa to host awards ceremonies for a total of 545 recipients. “We recognize you — the volunteers — for your exceptional heart and devotion to making a difference.”
After Reynolds spoke, recipients went to the stage to receive their awards and take photographs with her and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. Before recipients got to enjoy lunch, Connie Hammersley-Wilson took a few more moments to share why she believed this ceremony was important.
“For those of you who are here observing this, please know that you can be one of these awardees as well,” Hammersley-Wilson said. “Your service and dedication makes communities thrive, it brings people together and makes your heart feel good.”
While the service and dedication certainly brought the volunteers together, it wasn’t just for the awards. At least that is what Mendy McAdams thought after she received an individual award for her work with Ottumwa Noon Lions. “Talk to any of these people who got an award today,” McAdams said. “They don’t want an award. They want to help their community and make a difference. That’s what volunteering is — by helping others you help your own soul.”
Although McAdams believed volunteering should come out of the goodness of one’s heart, she said the awards ceremony was necessary in order to highlight the impact people are making on the community. “I appreciate that they have this kind of a thing because there are so many people that volunteer so much of their time and don’t ever get recognized,” she said. “We don’t need the recognition, but sometimes there are people that you need to understand are really committed to what they’re doing.”
Sue Huff, a volunteer who dedicated most of her time to the community gardens, loved the awards ceremony not only because it brought the volunteers together, but because more women are volunteering and being recognized for their time and dedication. “To see a woman governor and congratulating them and to see young women in color guard is amazing,” she said. “I am just thrilled because this whole trajectory of women’s leadership comes from women helping other women.”
Huff even said there are benefits for volunteering. “It gives you the ability to be more successful adults,” she said. “The relationships they develop impact them for the rest of their lives.”
Retired teacher Crystal James agreed with Huff. “You know, you’re never too old to volunteer,” James said. “Volunteering is timeless. You take blessings and you receive more blessings. Volunteering teaches them compassion.”