Announcing the Volunteers of the Year

A few days before the Feb. 7 deadline to nominate a Tri-Lakes Volunteer of the Year, we had just two submissions. That was a little worrisome, so on Feb. 5 we published an editorial reminding readers of the need for nominees.

Maybe it was that editorial or maybe a bunch of you were just waiting in the wings, but you came though big-time. We went from two nominees to 10, plus more we couldn’t consider because they were submitted after the deadline had passed.

Thank you, all of you who nominated people. To do that requires a lot of hometown care, human kindness and a desire to give credit where it’s due.

Plus, your nominees were wonderful — people with such deep and broad backgrounds of community service that we were amazed they hadn’t already had the honor. It left our newsroom staff with a hard choice, as well as some amazing role models and a renewed appreciation for the number of wonderful people who live around here.

And now (drum roll, please) we’re proud to announce that the 2018 Tri-Lakes Volunteer of the Year is actually plural — volunteers Vance and Maggie Mortensen.

The Mortensens moved to Saranac Lake in spring 2013 and threw themselves into a wide variety of community service projects. The quickness and comprehensiveness of their involvement makes their work even more remarkable.

We’ll interview them and publish a feature story in March in our Community Resource Guide, but in the meantime, here’s a summary of some of their volunteer activity, according to the person who nominated them.

Together, the Mortensens lead the Grace Pantry, which is based out of Baldwin House at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and gives household supplies to people in need. They also took over the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program in Saranac Lake, which helps roughly 50 local families a year. They are deeply involved in the Communty Lunch Box hot meal program at St. Luke’s and emergency food boxes for people in need.

Separately, Maggie helps with the local rescue squad, is a regional food bank liaison and coordinates both a biannual coat drive and a drive to distribute winter clothes to children. Vance is a volunteer chaplain and pastoral counselor at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers, the Lake Placid nursing home and the Boy Scouts’ Sabattis Adventure Camp. He also is a board member of the Saranac Lake Ecumenical Council.

Clearly, these two are role models in our Tri-Lakes community. We’ll be curious to hear what they have to say about how and why they break away from people’s natural selfishness and find ways to do good for their neighbors. Look for that story in late March in the Community Resource Guide.