As we witness some of the most catastrophic natural disasters and relief efforts since Hurricane Katrina, The Salvation Army is making sure to set aside time to recognize some of our most valued volunteers.
Last night, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Center’s warehouse made a surprising transformation into a beautiful banquet space for the Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. The evening’s program focused on honoring EDS volunteers’ contributions during 2017, including service during major floods in McHenry and Lake Counties, the World Series Cubs’ Win, search and rescue efforts for missing persons, and – of course – the recent disaster relief work following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Jeanne Malnati, who serves on the Chicago Advisory Board as an EDS Committee member, returned in her role as Mistress of Ceremony and pulled heartstrings with her sincere remarks about the importance of volunteers and her adoration of the Majors Dalberg.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Major Bergie Strand 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award. Major Debra Dalberg shared a bit about about Major Strand before inviting the awardee to the stage. “If there was a disaster in the middle of the night, it was Bergie who was ready to serve whomever came to the window…. Our awardee this year exemplifies that today. Donna Ceglarek. Today, Donna, we thank you.”
The event provided a rare opportunity for First Response agency representatives to personally share their deep appreciation of EDS. Members of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Cook County Department of Homeland Security, the Chicago Fire Department, the Downers Grove Police Department, and the Des Plaines Police Department also piped up with messages of gratitude. To read quotes from esteemed first responders, visit the EDS website.
Later, Lt. Colonel Charles Smith, Divisional Commander of The Salvation Army in Greater Chicagoland, addressed the volunteers. “You’re setting the example of what the world should be like… doing the work that you do,” he said. “Today we say thank you to all of you here for the services you rendered in the past, currently doing, as well as in the future.”
The final part of the program honored recently retired Father Tom Mulcrone of the Chicago Fire Department with a special EDS award for his 30-plus years of service and ministry. Father Mulcrone recounted personal anecdotes about his experience when he first spotted The Salvation Army Red Kettles as a child, and later saw the mobile canteens as a young chaplain reporting to sites of emergencies.
“We are only as strong as our volunteers,” emphasized Major Dalberg. “Whether it’s an hour or a day – every moment in time that’s given, it’s given in a special way. So I have to say on behalf of The Salvation Army to our volunteers: a very special thank you for all that you do.”
More photos will be posted when available on the EDS website.