AKRON — The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank welcomed more than 150 of its closest friends to its annual Volunteer Celebration April 9, where the inaugural Riley P. Counahan Scholarship awarded.
The event recognizes the dedication and support of the Foodbank’s extensive volunteer force and is conducted during National Volunteer Month. In 2018, the food bank hosted nearly 11,000 volunteers who donated more than 66,000 hours of service, the equivalent of 31 full-time employees.
"We all do our little part. I do mine, you do yours, and together, our collective efforts turn into extraordinary things," said Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Foodbank. "Hopefully in the process, we’re finding connections and community with one another. I hope you feel the gratitude we have for you today, and all year long. Thank you for all you do."
New to this year’s program was the awarding of the Riley P. Counahan Memorial Scholarship to Olivia Litvin from Copley High School. The scholarship is in honor of Riley Counahan of Hudson, who died unexpectedly last year at age 16 and was an avid volunteer of the food bank.
His parents, Chris and Michelle Counahan, worked closely with the food bank and local school guidance counselors to identify eligible seniors who have volunteered with the food bank 20 or more hours. The Counahans awarded the $3,200 scholarship at the celebration.
"I am overjoyed and so grateful to receive this generous scholarship in remembrance of Riley Counahan. It will help tremendously with my college tuition at The Ohio State University," said Litvin.
The awards ceremony also recognized the food bank’s top volunteers for 2018, including Synchrony as the Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year award recipient. Synchrony contributed more than 440 hours of service from 160 of its staff members last year. The organization helped sort and repack nearly 63,000 pounds of food, helping provide more than 52,000 meals to the local community.
Kent State University was presented the Organizational Volunteer Group of the Year award. Volunteers from a variety of programs ranging from the Kent State Stark nursing program to the Kent State Order of Omega, worked to provide 800 hours of service by 255 volunteers.
Rick and Lavonne Neale of Norton were awarded the Volunteers of the Year award. Together, they accrued nearly 450 service hours in 2018. They have volunteered during the food bank’s Neighborhood Distributions, at Taste of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and baked items for a food bank bake sale.
"They are always willing to jump in to help wherever needed," said Gina Campbell, development director at the food bank. "They come in to volunteer with spunk, enthusiasm and a great sense of humor, and we’re so thankful for all they do. They’re truly part of our food bank family."
The awards ceremony also honored the food bank’s Hunger Super Heroes, students with developmental disabilities from area high schools. In 2018, they volunteered at least once a week for nine months accumulating more than 2,600 hours of service.
The celebration took place in the food bank’s warehouse. Tow motor traffic, pallets of food, deliveries and pickups ceased to make way for life-sized Jenga and hula hoops. Barbeque was brought in from Mission BBQ, and a local cotton candy spinner offered sweet treats to guests.
To learn more about the food bank’s volunteer opportunities, visit akroncantonfoodbank.org.