Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2011

Three of North Carolina’s top 20 volunteers or volunteer groups selected as the 2011 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award are from Rowan County, and together account for lifetimes of service to individuals and organizations.
This year the awards go to Rodney Cress, Mark Ritchie and the Rowan Regional Medical Center Auxiliary.
Rodney Cress
Rodney Cress, founder of the Rowan League of Veterans, an advisory board member and volunteer with Faithful Friends, and Flight of Honor committee member of Rotary, stays pretty busy, balancing everyone else’s needs before his own, his nominator, Anne Ingram, says.
“Rodney Cress does something every day of his life in service to the veterans of the U.S. military and to help animals who are homeless and hungry,” Ingram, of Faithful Friends, wrote in her nomination.
Over the last three years, she said, Cress has paid for 44 cats to be altered and vaccinated, and found the 10-acre tract of land where the new animal sanctuary is being built.
“In the four years Faithful Friends has been in existence, I have called Rodney a thousand times, asking, ‘Rodney, can you,’ ‘Rodney will you,’ and, ‘Rodney, do you know anybody who can…’” Ingram said. “And the answer has always been yes.”
In 2010 Cress collected, organized and distributed over 10,000 pounds of pet food and 500 pounds of cat litter to Faithful Friends, pet owners in need and caretakers of feral cat colonies. He also cares for his own feral cat colony of around 30 cats, along with veterinary care, shelter and food for them.
Ingram also commends Cress for his work with veterans, helping them to receive medical care or other benefits.
“He is fiercely patriotic, and what he always says first about veterans is a humble, ‘thank you,’ for their sacrifice for our country,” Ingram said.
“What I admire and respect most about him is that he is incredibly hard-working for something he believes in, and he will persevere when the going gets tough… Rodney is an unselfish man, honest as the day is long, loyal to a fault and has a strong sense of integrity.”
Mark Ritchie
Mark Ritchie, a life coach at Rowan Helping Ministries, treasurer and board member for the Center for Faith and the Arts, and a very active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, was “instrumental” in creating the life coaching program at Rowan Helping Ministries, his nominator, Cam Campbell, says.
The life coaching program, is free and pairs clients with a life coach who “can provide them with advice on resolving difficult situations,” Campbell said in her nomination statement.
“Mark’s spent many hours developing this plan, which included creating interview questions, short- and long-range planning and goal setting techniques,” Campbell said.
Life coaches, Campbell said, “provide immediate and ongoing support in connection with short-term case management, spiritual counseling and/or crisis intervention to deal with the challenges individuals may feel in transitioning from a crisis toward a more stable and whole living situation.”
“Mark is able, through his work, to help individuals and families move toward a stable life,” she said. “He is able to give them guidance and direction, and help them find hope to feel empowered to move beyond a life of crisis.”
In 2010, Ritchie worked with 14 individuals and two couples, and works one-on-one for a six week period and also provides ongoing support, Campbell said.
Ritchie is also a volunteer with New Tomorrows and leads monthly Bible devotions with shelter guests.
“One of Mark’s special skills is active listening,” Campbell said. “He demonstrates a relaxed attentivenesss to his clients while communicating compassion and hope,” and “focuses on the support and encouragement needed for the client to follow through with the plan.”
Rowan RegionalMedical CenterAuxiliary
The hospital’s auxiliary volunteers serve in more than 26 different departments throughout the hospital, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The hospital averages 23 auxiliary members a day, and in 2010 contributed a combined 24,000 hours of service to the hospital, nominator Jill Makransky said.
With more than 200 members, Makransky says the auxiliary, “donate their time, talents and efforts to working with our hospital and serving our community.”
“Partnering with hospital staff, auxiliary members work to provide services which the medical center might not otherwise afford,” she said. ‘What makes these volunteers different from others is the relentless efforts and passion they have for making their community hospital a strong, successful organization.”
In 2010 the auxiliary provided more than 1,000 stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons to pediatric patients at the hospital, and purchased a Wii system fo the rehabilitation center, and also purchased a new set of playground equipment for the child development center.
“Each day these auxiliary volunteers come in and provide services that cannot be valued at any price, whether it be a simple hello, a warm hug, a friendly touch, or a kind smile, they are invaluable to our organization,” Makransky said. “Each auxiliary member brings something unique and special to our organization. However, each one also has the same common drive in mind; the passion to serve an organization that they value and believe in.”