Lake Placid’s Volunteer of the Year: You
LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid’s Distinguished Volunteer of the Year is the entire community.
Local volunteer organizations, nonprofits and members of the community gathered to celebrate Lake Placid Community Day on Sunday. Each year, one youth and one adult member of the community are given a Distinguished Volunteer of the Year award at the event, but this time the event’s organizers had something different planned.
Valerie Abraham-Rogers, chair of the Lake Placid Community Day Organizing Committee, praised the community for adjusting their volunteer efforts to include things like shopping for neighbors, and for complying with new public health protocols to keep each other safe.
As a result, Abraham-Rogers said, the committees chose to recognize the entire Lake Placid community as Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.
“We all pulled together, we all stepped up. And so, we honor that collective effort,” she said.
Some scattered showers in the early afternoon gave this year’s Community Day a slow start, but as the clouds moved out, crowds moved in. Under the North Elba Horse Show Grounds Pavilion, tables carrying new brochures, food and some interactive activities from more than 30 volunteer and nonprofit organizations lined the walls. Big Slide Brewery served complimentary drinks; the Lake Placid Garden Club set up a tea-style array of cookies and treats; the Uihlein Foundation brought a piece of a tree trunk with tapping tools, so kids could practice tapping for syrup; the Lake Placid Fire Department brought red plastic fire caps for the kids to wear.
Shelley Reynolds, who works at the Lake Placid Ecumenical Food Pantry, said the number of volunteers and community members in attendance spoke to the extraordinary volunteer presence in Lake Placid.
“It’s interesting to see all the different things that fly under the radar,” Reynolds said.
Abraham-Rogers also spoke to the wide variety of volunteer organizations.
“I think people who have lived here for a long time, or new people, would be surprised to know that there are over 30 organizations here that are set up and looking for volunteers,” she said. “It’s a great way to get everybody here in one spot and let everybody see what there is to do.”
Community Day was canceled last year because of the pandemic, so Abraham-Rogers said everyone was happy to be back.
“We had to kind of remember all the details after having a year and a half in between, but it’s been good putting it together,” she said, noting that the weather was more cooperative this year, too.
Though many volunteers wore masks for safety, vaccinated members of the community enjoyed the open air and conversation with visible smiles for the first Community Day since 2019.
As the day pressed on, community members moved outside in preparation for the volunteer recognition ceremony. Local musicians Scott Sileo and Jim Cushman played sing-a-longs for the kids, who played percussion with shakers from the Lake Placid Public Library staff.
Once Abraham-Rogers started the ceremony, her introduction focused on the local response to COVID-19 and how the community banded together to help celebrate, feed and communicate with each other during the pandemic.
“This past year has been challenging to say the least. We were asked to stay home. Zoom became a normal part of our life. Many of our events were put on hold or canceled, and volunteering took on a new spin,” she said.
Abraham-Rogers said the committee chose to recognize the entire Lake Placid community as Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.
The committee selected a few members of the community to speak on behalf of Lake Placid volunteers, including Melanie Megliore and Aubrey Hayes of Lake Placid High School, who spoke about their peers’ experiences during COVID. Jason McComber, owner of Fitness Revolution, also spoke. He read several comments that the community sent to a Facebook group — formerly called Lake Placid Unites, now called When Communities Unite — which McComber created to spread positivity during the pandemic. In a post before Community Day, McComber asked the group members to send in their feedback about the group and over 140 people responded.
Of all the feedback he received, McComber said the most frequent comments were ones expressing gratitude for the page as an outlet to communicate with one another when the community was forced to stay apart.
“Everyone here has been affected in some way by the pandemic,” said McComber. “Your business, your finances, your health … We had to relearn how to do things. And the only way we did that … is because of all of you, because of this community.”
After the ceremony, folks headed inside for drinks and more conversation. And, perhaps inspired by the community speeches, some attendees approached sign-up sheets at various volunteer tables.