San Francisco — The Corporation for National and Community Service today honored outstanding three Senior Corps volunteers and four AmeriCorps members with Spirit of Service Awards at the National Conference and Volunteering and Service. The awards are given annually to volunteers and members who have performed exemplary service in their communities.

The awards were presented at the National Service Town Hall meeting in front of 1,000 service leaders and more watching online through a live webcast sponsored by Symantec. The annual conference, the world's largest gathering of volunteering and service leaders, brought together more than 5,000 attendees from across the United States for training and networking with the aim of expanding the ranks and effectiveness of America's volunteers.

“These honorees represent America at its best and are living proof that service is a solution to some of our toughest problems,” said Acting CEO Nicola Goren. “They have gone above and beyond the call to serve and are a shining example of the power of individuals to make a difference.”

The honorees are:

Senior Corps

Senior Companion Sharon Padula, Minneapolis, MN, provides companionship to three clients, serving about 12 hours each week, in addition to supporting the needs of her 17 fellow Senior Companion volunteers in Anoka County. She handles new client assignments for the other companions, introductions to new clients, and communications with case managers and nurses. She approaches this role with more than 40 years of experience in the health care field, bringing great knowledge of working with elderly clients and health care professionals. The other Senior Companions frequently seek Sharon's advice on handling difficult situations and for ideas of what to do with resistant clients. In the community, Sharon represents the program through her professional contacts with public health nurses, outreach workers, and families of clients. She also represents the program at quarterly trainings and at community functions where she recruits new volunteers to the program.

RSVP Volunteer Newt Hardie of Spartanburg, SC, is a master gardener who serves as executive director of the Kudzu Coalition, which manages 64 kudzu control sites. At 21 of those sites, the coalition's volunteers have achieved total eradication of the pesky plant, saving hundreds of trees. The eradication activities have spread into four neighboring counties and Charlotte, NC. The organization experiments with non-herbicidal methods to control kudzu infestations and has developed a method of killing kudzu with hot water and demonstrated the effectiveness of mowing. Newt's experiments have been cited in scientific papers, and he combines a gardener's knowledge with the management skills of a volunteer recruiter and coordinator. The coalition's success is attributable to Newt's ability to accomplish three important tasks: recruiting and managing volunteers, eradicating kudzu, and focusing on education. By making sure volunteers enjoy themselves (they refer to themselves as “Kudzu Warriors”), Newt has developed a system that attracts and holds them.

Foster Grandparent Visitacion Custodio, Milpitas, CA, has served at Cassell Elementary School with the Santa Clara County Office of Education for more than five years. Currently, she assists two developmentally disabled students with reading and writing skills. A caring and loving person, Visitacion interacts with the students on their own level. Grandma Visitacion also has been an example to other volunteers. She is an active member of the Advisory Council and helps in planning annual recognition events, holiday events, and monthly in-services. She shares her experiences with others and has referred new volunteers.


AmeriCorps member Zenaida Solano, Pahrump, NV, serves with the Nye County School District's Even Start Family Literacy Program. She provides interpretation and translation services to members of the Hispanic community using the agency's services. The agency believes that to help the community they must bridge existing communication and cultural gaps. Zenaida grew up in a Hispanic community and wanted to use her bilingual skills to make a difference. Hundreds of people in Pahrump, NV, have benefited from her skills and commitment. At least five people completed the process of becoming U.S. citizens because Zenaida helped them with their paperwork. Several children were able to start kindergarten after Zenaida helped their parents get immunizations for their youngsters. Having Zenaida as an AmeriCorps member has allowed the program's family advocates to focus more time on meeting the educational and literacy needs of participants.

AmeriCorps VISTA member Tanequa Neale serves with the White-Williams Scholars in Philadelphia. She handles alumni and media relations for the organization, which supports high-achieving Philadelphia public high school students of limited financial means to fulfill their potential. WWS serves over 1,000 students each year by providing monthly stipends, academic enrichment and college prep support. Tanequa joined WWS in August 2008 with a dual goal of helping alumni re-connect to the organization and exploring media opportunities to increase the organization's visibility.Tanequa works with college students in an effort to build communities of White-Williams Scholars on area campuses and reaches out to current participants to plant the seed of the importance of giving back. Through the use of Facebook and the White Pages, she has found numerous alumni in the area and connected them back to the organization with volunteer opportunities. These alumni now help with student interviews for new programs, scholarship opportunities, tutoring, and community service projects.

AmeriCorps NCCC member Eddie Brown of Orange County, CA, is serving at the Denver campus. His commitment to service started early: he watched and learned from his mother, who had learned similar lessons about serving from her own parents. This intergenerational influence resulted in Eddie serving as a tutor and teen mentor while in high school. Eddie has taken on additional duties with NCCC, serving as assistant team leader and media representative for his team. As assistant team leader, Eddie works to motivate his peers, organize team events, and manage the team when the team leader is absent. On his first NCCC assignment, Eddie helped people who were displaced by Hurricane Ike, which wiped out most of the Texas Gulf Coast. Conducting pre-placement interviews, he helped hundreds of families find places to live while they rebuilt their lives. He conducted more pre-placement interviews than any other NCCC member is his department. On another assignment, Eddie and his teammates served in a low-income elementary school in Denver. He helped students in second and fifth grade improve their literacy skills as well as acting as a mentor to all the students in the school. His outstanding efforts earned him the admiration of his fellow NCCC members, who voted him Corps Member of the Round, an NCCC distinction that that highlights the accomplishments of those members who exceed expectations both on the worksite and in their daily lives.

AmeriCorps Alum Seth Marbin, San Francisco, who served as an AmeriCorps member in Puerto Rico, and Corvallis and Seattle, WA, embodies the words of the AmeriCorps pledge to get things done “this year and beyond.” In Seth's case, “beyond” is the way in which he has expanded his role as a learning and development specialist with Google, Inc. His job at Google is to train the sales and operations group on products and skills they need to succeed in their roles at the company. But he recognized that he could also play a part in engaging the broader Google network in community service. Seth presented his idea, “GoogleServe”— a day for employees to join together to do community service—to the internal ideas board. It quickly became one of the top-rated ideas. With employee support, Seth's vision has grown and with his leadership became an international week of service in 2008. GoogleServe 2009 is expected to engage 1,700 Google employees in meaningful service throughout the Bay Area. Additionally, the International GoogleServe initiative will expand, engaging as many as 5,000 volunteers across 60 offices worldwide.