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2011 Pioneer Excellence Awards
Diane Rodger Recognized for Communication Excellence

Diane Rodger, a past council and chapter president of William J. Denver, received an Individual Excellence – Life Member award for her effective communication skills and ability to help run the chapter’s operations, service programs and administrative systems. Rodger immersed herself in website development, researched technologies, sought the advice of experienced webmasters, and partnered with other chapters’ leaders to apply what she learned. As a result, 16 Verizon chapters have websites.Rodger was asked to expand Denver’s web capabilities to support chapter projects like “Where’s the Pioneers Van?” The interactive mechanism Rodger devised makes use of Verizon’s Thinkfinity® programming to help students learn about geography and their world. In addition to Denver’s new web page, Rodger made sure that the chapter’s good news was promoted and reported through traditional and social media.Under her leadership, Hug-a-Bear has become a household name among members, state police and first responders across Massachusetts. She personally crafted thousands of teddies, inspiring other Denver units to do the same. She also worked with school administrators, teachers and parent groups to paint playground maps throughout the state – 20 in the last year alone.
Christine Casino Saluted for Service

Despite a very busy work and home life, William J. Denver Chapter President Chris Casino stepped up to the challenge when the chapter was having an extremely hard time finding someone to take the leadership role. Casino, who received the Individual Excellence Award – Regular Member, not only jumped in and took charge, but also continues to lead the membership and increase volunteer interest.Known as an out-of-the-box thinker, Casino has created several new projects, including “Operation Cookie Drop” and the “Day of Caring.” Her leadership of “Day of Caring,” a multi-state, multi-location project, required detailed planning, acquiring grant funds and coordinating four simultaneously held events. A large project, “Day of Caring” showcased the Denver Chapter during the Pioneer’s Centennial.With “Operation Cookie Drop,” Casino engaged local unions and the Girl Scouts to provide boxes of cookies to our troops overseas. Using her collaboration skills, she has partnered with other organizations on projects such as “Tools for Schools”, Verizon’s school supply drive; Homework House, an after-school tutoring program, and Hopeline®, Verizon’s service source for domestic violence shelters.
VFFT Chapters Receive Project Excellence Awards
Pioneer Centennial Logo

Congratulations to the eight VFFT chapters that were recognized at this year’s Centennial Annual Meeting! In addition to being recognized for supporting Verizon’s commitment to ending domestic violence, chapters were acknowledged for their work in education, life enrichment, health and human service, military and reporting individual hours. Following are the VFFT chapters that received awards:Excellence in Education
Paumanok – Teachers on Wheels

When fire devastated the Riverhead Charter School (RCS), 235 kindergarten through 6th grade students and 17 teachers became orphans. “Teachers on Wheels” was Paumanock Chapter’s quick response. More than 300 Pioneers jumped in to replace the damaged and outdated equipment, providing new, mobile, 21st century technology such as digital whiteboards with matching USB audio systems and rolling floor stands, LCD projectors, smart slates, interactive response systems, and smart document cameras. Unable to secure grant funding for the project, Paumanok Pioneers contributed and raised more than $11,000 for the purchases. Members provided additional learning tools, including dictionaries, a U.S. map rug and Mother Goose for the kindergarten kids!Excellence in Health and Human Service
Liberty Bell, Germantown Council – Northern Home for Children
For kids caught up in the court system, school disciplinary action, or a Philadelphia city agency, the Northern Home for Children offers a critical safety net. With a multi-building campus serving 100 children, Northern guides them to becoming self-sufficient adults with responsible family behavior and effective conflict resolution skills. To address Northern’s many needs; Germantown worked with administrators to prioritize a wish list, and then engaged Pioneers across Liberty Bell. The continuing project has provided more than $23,000 in donations of cash and materials for Northern’s “Generations Program,” a supervised housing facility for young mothers (16-18) who have aged out of foster care placements; curriculum improvements at the Early Learning Center, which focuses those young women on academic advancement and employment opportunities; and student backpacks, school supplies, books, a U.S floor map, games and clothing for Northern’s residential and emergency shelter for young boys who have been abuse.Liberty Bell, Northeast Council – Laurel House
After their initial visit to deliver backpacks as part of the Verizon Pioneers’ partnership with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Northeast Council Pioneers realized a much greater level of support for Laurel House was needed. Through $15,000 in Verizon Foundation grants, $20,000 from Verizon Pennsylvania, and $15,000 in goods and services from community businesses, more than 30 Pioneers partnered with others to keep Laurel House’s 24/7 hotline in operation; provide a new security system; enhance the community intervention/outreach program; upgrade hardware, software and network technology for administrators and field agents; and provide a new heating system for residents’ accommodations. Members also initiated a “Shower for the Shelter” program and made contributions of food, clothing and bedding, household and personal care items, cell phones and school supplies, including Verizon Student Dictionaries and the introduction to Thinkfinity®.

Liberty Bell, West Council – Ronald McDonald House
Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House (PRMH), “The First House that Love Built,” is home away from home for some 800 families of critically ill children receiving treatment at local hospitals annually. Ninety percent of the support for PRMH comes from individuals or volunteer groups. West Council members have volunteered there for more than 20 years and have seen the home grow from 18 family rooms to 44, with full occupancy. They have prepared 240 meals. Some members serve as nutritionists, developing menus that are delicious, diet-sensitive and culturally diverse. Pioneers have hosted 20 holiday parties; donated 3,725 gift bags; provided toys, games, books, and sports equipment; adopted PRMH’s soda tab recycling fundraiser; and served as entertainers and big brothers/sisters. To purchase kitchen equipment, appliances and bedding, they obtained $15,500 in Verizon grants bringing the estimated 20-year value of their contributions to $58,000.

Excellence in Life Enrichment
William J. Denver – Happy Feet and Minds
More than 90 percent of the children served by “Happy Feet and Minds” are on subsidized school lunch plans. Denver Chapter wanted them to have the educational tools needed for success and new footwear to put a skip in their step for the 2010 school year. Financed by a $5,000 Verizon grant, chapter funds, individual donations from members, employees and the community, made via the chapter website, sneakers or shoes, socks and a set of educational supplies were given to children at eight area schools and one childcare center. Supplies included hundreds of Scholastic books, Verizon Dictionaries, atlases and thesauruses, and 25 gift cards. The footwear and supplies were packed in specially purchased Pioneer-branded bags. As part of the bag presentation, time was set aside for Pioneers to introduce Verizon’s Thinkfinity® website to school administrators and teachers. Supported by 75 Pioneers and the engagement of all nine Denver clubs, more than 300 children were impacted.

Excellence in Military
Maryland – Life’s Lesson One… “Just Say Thanks”
Maryland Pioneers believe that wounded servicemen and women are often forgotten, spending months or years in rehabilitation or living in lonely veterans’ facilities. A tribute to all veterans, “Life’s Lesson One…” engages middle school students to brighten the lives of these soldiers while learning to “Just Say Thanks” for the sacrifices veterans have made to protect our freedom. The project centers on the creation and presentation of no-sew Blankets of Honor. Four schools have taken part, with 250 students in fourth through sixth grades making 350 blankets. A smaller group of 24 students presented them as thank you gifts to veterans at a VA hospital residence and an injured soldiers’ retreat. Students reported to their schoolmates that they experienced a heightened awareness and a feeling of accomplishment upon seeing the appreciation their efforts had generated. The soldiers found the warm blankets useful. VA officials reported that the best medicine the veterans could receive was seeing youngsters in the facility and hearing them express their thanks.

Old Dominion – Operation Homefront Bedtime Stories
Research shows that children learn more in the first five years of life than at any other time. Unfortunately, it is during this same period that military parents are most likely deployed. It can be a confusing, frightening time for children. Just being able to hear a parent’s voice can make all the difference. “Bedtime Stories” makes that connection possible by bringing home the recorded voice of the deployed parent. The deploying parent receives two copies of a bedtime storybook, one to keep and one for the child. The parent records the book at Then, the child receives an email with the parent’s recording. Also, the child can record a reading as well. A $5,000 Verizon grant was used to purchase two computers, 200 books, advertising and brochures to educate families on using the program. The project is a follow-up to earlier work with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit providing emergency and other assistance to families of service members and wounded warriors.

Vice President’s Award
Nova 5 – Student’s Pledge Against Domestic Abuse (SPADA)
Nova 5’s dramatic new project, “Students’ Pledge Against Domestic Abuse,” is raising awareness of domestic violence across different community age groups, most specifically among teenagers. Based on the survey results and participant comments of 250 people ages 9-60 regarding their perspectives on domestic violence, the Pioneers developed a storyline for a short film to serve as a discussion starter at a subsequent series of community dialogs. The film doesn’t sugarcoat. It includes, for example, the death of a character involved in an abusive relationship. The shock of that event, however, opens the eyes of another victim, who comes to recognize her own abuse as something that cannot be tolerated. The film also makes use of the Verizon Wireless HopeLine®, an emergency service that immediately connects the caller to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The film was shown in a number of forums. Participants indicated they gained a new perspective on domestic violence and a heightened sensitivity to abusive situations they may have witnessed and ignored because they were not affected directly.

In addition to the Project Excellence Awards, Verizon West and Fort Pitt were recognized for reporting individual hours in “VolunteerNow!” Verizon West had a 2,300 percent increase and Fort Pitt had a 1,260 percent increase in individuals reporting hours.