The Volunteer Connection at Foothills United Way recognizes five Outstanding Community Volunteers who were nominated by a partner agency in Boulder or Broomfield Counties. The five, Nancy Bronson, Diane Przygocki, Gary Sobol, Kay Thomas, and Richard (Dick) Jonsen have different passions, skills, and ways of interacting with the community. Bronson and Przygocki, for instance are passionate about animals; Thomas is highly invested in helping seniors and people with disabilities; Jonsen’s role teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants led him into teaching inmates and then working with released inmates; and Sobol, has found a second career serving people with neurological diseases through his advocacy for a system of exercises which he devised after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Yet they also have much in common. All speak highly of the organizations they have worked with. Sobol credits the YMCA of Boulder Valley with making his exercise program happen and additional working with the National MS Society. Jonsen’s journey has led him from teaching at Front Range Community College and Intercambio to JET (Jail Education and Transition Program) to where he is now serving, FOCUS Reentry. Some, like Thomas, Bronson, and Przygocki, have worked in multiple roles in one organization over the years. Thomas, a volunteer Client Intake Specialist at Boulder County CareConnect, also works events, supports other volunteers, and has been the organization’s rock through transition. Przygocki specializes in dog behavior as a Canine Coach and in human behavior as a volunteer trainer at the Longmont Humane Society. Also at the Longmont Humane Society, Bronson started socializing dogs, helped out with events, and now visits foster homes, a role she loves.
More than anything, they all take satisfaction in their volunteer work, especially in hearing stories of successes or lives (human and canine) changed. Jonsen recruits mentors to work with soon-to-be-released inmates to provide the support and help they need in reentering society. He uses former inmates to speak about the program. He recalls a woman in jail numerous times for meth-related charges. She got connected to a mentor and tells people with no exaggeration, “That woman saved my life.” Przygocki adores teaching new volunteers about canine communication, i.e. how to think like a dog. After instruction and hands-on experiences, “I get to see the light bulb go off in them—it changes the way they interact with dogs.” Sobol tells of seeing a woman, severely disabled and wheelchair-bound four years earlier, get up and walk backwards across the room. “It makes you say, Wow!”
We say Wow! to all our Outstanding Volunteers, who have given years to our communities through their willingness to grow, learn, change, give—to be transformed and to transform the world around them. We say, Thank you and Don’t Stop!