Honoring Volunteers in Birmingham through Ignite

“Volunteers are not paid…not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”

This quote has been around for some time and I’ve heard it spoken over the years.  I’ve even used it myself when thanking volunteers for the work they’ve done to help at an event, nonprofit or other special occasion I’ve headed up or lead.  When people step up to help, they may not think it at the time, but they are making a difference that can be felt and seen in our communities.

Inaugural Ignite Volunteer Awards Ceremony on April 25, 2017 at The Club in Birmingham, AL.

Last year, Hands on Birmingham, United Way’s volunteer arm, created an event they named Ignite, to recognize and celebrate outstanding volunteer service.  Because it was a brand new event, I hadn’t heard much about it until my sweet friend Vanessa Vargas mentioned she had been asked to be on the host committee by the executive director, Benga Harrison.  Now, Benga is a powerhouse in our community and a great friend to me.  She is someone with so much passion that when she speaks to you, your own passion is ignited!  I kid you not!  When I heard the name of the event I thought it was a perfect reflection of her!  So, when I found out she was the driving force behind this event, I knew it would be a hit!

What I didn’t know at the time was that Vanessa was going to nominate me in the corporate/company category for this awards ceremony.  There were quite a number of people nominated in this category.  I surely wasn’t expecting anything to come of the nomination but to my surprise, I was one of two finalists!  The two finalists in each category received a special medal to wear at the brunch so they could be recognized to attendees, which was really a nice touch.  The other categories included Hands on Birmingham volunteer, government/community volunteer, nonprofit volunteer, student volunteer, small business volunteer, and faith based volunteer.

It was thrilling to be in a room filled with such wonderful community servants.  It was even more wonderful to actually know so many of these people who give so much.  Another reason for my excitement was due to the number of Hispanics nominees!  Hispanics were definitely represented at this event and of the six, three were finalists (me, Theresa Deleon, and Jairo Vargas) with one going on to win his category!  I was so pleased when Jairo Vargas, Publisher of Latino News, was announced as the winner in the small business category!  I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving and it was great being able to celebrate this honor with Jairo, his wife Lucero and of course, his daughter Vanessa!

For a first time event, the turnout was tremendous and the number of nominees in each category was so diverse.  I know Benga and the organizers were thrilled and ready to jump into year two of Ignite!  And on that note, Benga recently asked me to serve as the Chair of the Host Committee this year and I said yes!  I can’t think of a better way to give back to our community than to help nominate those who do so much to make it a better place for us all.

If you are in the Birmingham area and want to nominate a dedicated volunteer who has made a significant difference in Central Alabama, you have until November 30, 2017 to do so!  Click here for more information on how to submit your deserving community volunteer!  Then mark your calendar for the 2nd Annual Ignite Awards on April 17, 2018 at The Club Birmingham!

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