Thursday January 26, 2017
When it comes to making a positive change, it doesn’t necessarily require a grandiose gesture. A simple act of kindness goes a long way.
For Sue Alenick, a volunteer with the United Way of Northwest Vermont, that gesture has been the power of prose; she writes a weekly column listing local volunteer opportunities for the United Way which gets distributed to online platforms and newspapers, including The Other Paper. Due to her love of writing and her 21 years of dedication with the United Way, she has landed a respected accolade in the world of volunteerism: The Daily Points of Light Award.
Points of Light is an international nonprofit organization designed to inspire more people to volunteer, increase the impact of volunteer service, help volunteers tackle social issues, and develop a culture that encourages volunteerism. The organization works with 70,000 companies and nonprofits as well as 250 affiliates from across the globe. Points of Light recorded 250,000 service projects in 30 different countries translating to 30 million hours of volunteer service a year and $635 million as an annual dollar value of volunteer hours.
Its origins trace back to President George H.W. Bush, who served from 1989 to 1993. Throughout his term, he frequently encouraged citizens to become engaged in their local communities and strive to become “a thousand points of light.” Eventually, he established the Daily Point of Light Award in 1990 to formally recognize the generous work of over a thousand volunteers.
“Points of Light are the soul of America,” he said in a report to the nation in January 1993. “They are ordinary people who reach beyond themselves to touch the lives of those in need, bringing hope and opportunity care and friendship. By giving so generously of themselves, these remarkable individuals show us not only what is best in our heritage, but what all of us are called to become.”
The Points of Light Foundation was founded later that year in 1990, now just called Points of Light, and has taken up the task of selecting points of light to highlight on a daily basis. There have been nearly 6,000 honorees to date.
On Nov. 24, 2016, Thanksgiving Day, Sue Alenick became a point of light.
“I opened it up on Thanksgiving morning and just burst into tears,” she recalled gleefully.
Alenick was nominated by fellow friends at the United Way. All nominees are judged based on a set of criteria: the activity must meet a community need or concern, the nominee must have been volunteering for at least six consecutive months, the activity must demonstrate real impact, and it must demonstrate innovation or unique approaches to solving social issues.
When she was selected to be a point of light, the United Way threw her a party, but the celebrations were far from over. Once the word got out, it spread like wildfire, she said.
“People have come out of the woodwork I haven’t heard from in years! It’s very exciting,” she said. The Volunteer Management Report picked up on it and will have a page dedicated to Alenick, as well.
Her light extends even beyond the United Way borders. For those who have attended city council, planning commission, development review board, or other city meetings, you will likely find Alenick scribing the minutes. She’s been doing so for almost 36 years, and because of it, she received a 2016 Vermont Public Service Award presented by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos last spring. Every Election Day, she volunteers in the Ward 1 District in Burlington where she resides. When she’s not volunteering or working for South Burlington, she helps run the Island Craft Shop, which she co-founded in 1991. To top it off, she’s also an avid organist and Red Sox aficionado.
To view Alenick’s Points of Light story, visit www.pointsofligt.org/programs/recognition/dpol/awards/5878.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent