While some gray rain clouds formed in the distance, approximately 170 Mystic Seaport Museum volunteers, staff, and guests gathered in the River Room and on the outside patio at Latitude 41° Restaurant & Tavern to participate in the 2019 Celebration of Volunteers Awards on July 17.
EveAnne Stouch, associate director of Volunteer Services, welcomed everyone to the awards ceremony, an event that has been held since 1998. At that time, there was one award to present, while the number of awards has now risen to six. Stouch handed over the microphone to Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport Museum, who was happy to see so many gathered for this year’s celebration. After a few words, White introduced the new Chairman of the Museum Board, Michael Hudner. “Mike is a great friend of the Museum,” White said.
Hudner could feel the warmth of the volunteers, “who seems to feel so comfortable here tonight,” he said. “I would like to propose that we change the name of this group to the ‘Salty Dogs,’” a remark that was met with laughter from the assembled volunteers.
First up at the award presentation was Paul O’Pecko, vice president of Research Collections and director of the G.W. Blunt White Library, who spoke warmly about this year’s first recipient of the Volunteer Special Recognition Award, Martha Murphy, who volunteers in the Rosenfeld Collection.
Chris Gasiorek, vice president of Watercraft Preservation and Programs, who was presenting the second Volunteer Special Recognition Award, joked that he still feels like a stranger when he walks into the Museum’s Boathouse to talk to the volunteers working there. “They sometimes give me a cookie,” he said, “before I leave them to their task.” The second Volunteer Special Recognition Award went to Boathouse volunteer Andy Strode.
Molly Kulick was the 2019 Junior Volunteer Special Recognition Award winner, an award that was presented by Susan Funk, executive vice president and COO of the Museum. Molly is a dedicated and hard-working volunteer in the Sailing Center, Funk said. Funk read some of the remarks that Molly’s co-workers had mentioned about her, and one, that Molly always had a smile on her face, everyone among the gathered volunteers could see – Molly was beaming when she received her award from Funk.
Laura Hopkins, senior vice president for Advancement, spoke enthusiastically about the recipient of the Special Staff Recognition Award, her co-worker Chris Freeman, director of Development and Legacy Giving, who for the last 10 years has run the Museum’s PILOTS program. “Chris is a strong ambassador for the Museum, Hopkins said. She continued, “and who knew that PILOTS is an acronym for Passion, Integrity, Loyalty, Optimism, Tenacity, Service?” Chris Freeman was met with kindhearted applause when he went up to receive his award from Hopkins – many of the gathered volunteers this evening are also PILOTS in Chris’s program.
Left for the evening were the two most prestigious awards: the William C. Noyes Volunteer of the Year Award and the Rudolph J. Schaefer III Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award. Susan Noyes, daughter of Bettye Noyes who for many year’s presented this award, which is named after her husband, was proud to give this year’s award to RJ Lavallee, a member of the Watercraft Gung Ho Squad. He is the one who has received most nominations throughout the years for this award, Susan Noyes said. According to his co-workers: “He’s always cheerful, a team-player, and truly unique,” Noyes mentioned.
When Steve White, who presented the 2019 Rudolph J. Schaefer III Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award, read out the name of the award winner, the volunteers cheered loudly. The award went to Rebecca “Becky” Jackson, who has volunteered at the Museum for 35 years, the recent years in the Membership lounge. White went over to the table where Becky was sitting to escort her to the front where she received her award. With Becky’s consent – as one is never to ask or reveal a lady’s age – White informed the volunteers that Becky will turn 100 years old later this year! Becky was a more than worthy winner of the Museum’s volunteers 2019 Lifetime Award.