HELENA — Friday in Helena, leaders honored Montanans who’ve contributed to the state’s volunteer spirit.
The Governor’s Office of Community Service recognized six individuals and two organizations at the annual ServeMontana Awards.
“Folks who are usually behind the scenes doing lots of great things for other people, for the landscape – someone has seen your good work and you've been nominated, so take that as a good thing,” said Sarah Sadowski, the office’s director.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps shows 31% of Montanans participated in a formal volunteering effort in 2021 – the ninth-highest rate in the nation. Montana had the country’s highest rate of “informal helping” – things like doing favors for neighbors – at more than 68%.
“That’s just the way Montana is,” said Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, who was on hand to help present the awards.
One of this year’s winners was Brian Tucker, a teacher and Army veteran from Great Falls. He has been a leader in programs helping young people and Native Americans going through recovery.
“I like to help people, because I’ve been in dark places, and I want to help them realize that they can get out,” he said.
Tucker said he was surprised when he heard about the award.
“I don't look to be recognized,” he said. “I mean, it feels absolutely amazing, but I just like helping people – and that's what makes me feel good, is seeing them smile and stuff like that.”
This year’s other winners were:
· Christina Dyke, Youth Award winner, from Missoula, who mentored younger students, worked with the Montana Conservation Corps and engaged in other volunteer efforts.
· Katalina Adams, Young Adult Award winner, from Stevensville, who worked on volunteer drives for Shriners Hospital, the Poverello Center, human trafficking victims and children with hearing loss.
· Brenda Brady, Engaged Citizen Award winner, from Winnett, who serves with numerous community groups, including Winnett ACES and the board for the newly expanded Petroleum County Community Center.
· Dimitrios Tsolakidis, AmeriCorps Alum Award winner, from Helena, who volunteers with the Montana Legal Services Association’s Pro Bono Program, helping low- and moderate-income Montanans get legal assistance.
· Iva Rose MacKenzie, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, from Missoula, who volunteered nearly 14,000 hours over 31 years for Missoula Aging Services, as well as serving numerous other causes.
· Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, Group Service Award winner, which has raised almost $3 million over 30 years for Billings schools, providing programs like classroom grants and support for students facing food insecurity.
· Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, Business Service Award winner, whose employees volunteered more than 3,800 hours in 2021, and which conducted company-wide volunteer activities like food, clothing and blood drives and Habitat for Humanity builds.