Volunteer Superstars

Behind the scenes of every nonprofit or community organization, there is a horde of volunteers donating countless hours of their time to ensure these organizations have success.

Their tasks can include helping out around the office, coordinating events, helping with fundraisers and everything in between. Many leaders behind these organizations have said they wouldn’t know what to do without their volunteers, who are invaluable members of the team.

The Advocate asked local nonprofits to recommend some of their superstar volunteers —the people who went above and beyond to give back. Below is a list of these superstars, who shared how they got involved and why they think volunteering is such an important part of their lives.

Caleb Cooperrider

• Age: 29

• Volunteer resume: Big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Licking and Perry Counties; front desk volunteer at St. Vincent Haven

• How he got involved: In 2010, Caleb Cooperrider attended a golf outing with a friend, which he later learned was a fundraiser for St. Vincent Haven. At the end of the event, he noticed a man holding a clipboard asking for names of anyone interested in volunteering. Cooperrider decided to sign up and the rest was history.

• Fun fact: Grew his hair out 12 inches to chop off and donate to Locks of Love.

“I feel like the call to action is hard for people; it’s easy to come up with excuses not to volunteer. But I feel like anyone who has the time should do it. It is time-consuming in a way, but there’s nothing better I could be doing with my time.”

Zac Cooperrider

• Age: 29

• Volunteer resume: Tax preparer for the Licking County Coalition for Housing VITA program; member of fundraising committee for United Way of Licking County; AmeriCorps participant

• How he got involved: During his sophomore year of college, Zac Cooperrider was looking for something to do. He didn’t have a job, so he decided to start volunteering. His first experience as a volunteer was at the United Way of Licking County, shredding paper, cleaning up around the office, and doing other odd jobs. Eventually, it grew into something more.

• Fun fact: Twin brother of Caleb Cooperrider

“It would surprise you how much you can get out of (volunteering). You get back tenfold what you put into it. You just have to find your niche with what you want to volunteer in; it has to be something you care about.”

Barb Benjdi

• Age: 60

• Volunteer resume: Disaster Mental Health volunteer for the Licking County chapter of the American Red Cross

• How she got involved: Benjdi got her first experience at the Red Cross when she began teaching swimming lessons while attending high school in the Cleveland area. Her volunteerism fell to the wayside during her college years, but after 9/11 she was inspired to get involved again.

• Fun fact: The Red Cross has deployed Benjdi to four disaster zones during the past nine years, ranging from the aftermath of floods in Mississippi to tornadoes in Alabama.

“I think for me, (volunteering) keeps me grounded. It makes me thankful I guess for the things I have after I see the devastation people go through.”

David Aschenbeck

• Age: 61

• Volunteer resume: Tax preparer for Licking County Coalition for Housing VITA program; committee chair for Cub Scout group; The Works

• How he got involved: Aschenbeck’s wife saw an ad in the newspaper for the VITA program and pointed it out to him. He had been preparing his own taxes for years and helping out a few friends, so he decided to use his skills to help people in need and signed up to be a volunteer.

• Fun fact: He helped The Works with a project involving an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

“There’s so many things in our society that are volunteer-based, and if nobody volunteered, there’s a lot of things that would come to a grinding halt. So if you’ve got a skill that other people don’t have and you’ve got time, pitch in and help.”

Mike Schroder

• Age: 63

• Volunteer Resume: Habitat for Humanity; Honor Flight escort; tax preparer for Licking County Coalition for Housing VITA program

• How he got involved: One of Schroder’s friends always said, “If you rest, you rust.” When he retired, he decided he didn’t want to rust, so he jumped on the volunteer train.

• Fun fact: Outside of Licking County, Schroder volunteers every year at the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp.

“Just do what you can. You don’t have to do everything; Just because I’m retired and can do it all doesn’t mean you should. Just pick out what you would enjoy … there’s lots of things you can do out there. All of volunteering is worthwhile, so I would definitely encourage everyone to try it out.”

Marianne Perine

• Age: 75

• Volunteer resume: Buckeye Lake Historical Society Museum docent; Salvation Army volunteer; chairwoman of the Buckeye Lake Parks and Recreation Committee; volunteer for the Buckeye Lake Area Humane Society

• How she got involved: Volunteerism is in her genes, Perine said. Her mother was active in the Columbus community well into her 80s and often took Perine and her siblings along to various volunteer projects. When she got older, Perine wanted to make sure she followed in her mother’s footsteps and started volunteering on her own.

• Fun fact: Spearheaded the Salvation Army’s summer lunch program for youths in Buckeye Lake.

“I think where you get the most satisfaction in life is by helping others. And I think now with all these (budget and funding) cuts to local communities, volunteerism is so important.”

Brian DeGarmo

• Age: 55

• Volunteer resume: Mental Health America of Licking County

• How he got involved: DeGarmo’s mother used to volunteer at MHA when he was younger, and actually was named the volunteer of the year at one time. He jokes he is his mother’s replacement.

• Fun fact: His favorite place to volunteer is the Together We Grow Garden.

“They need the help, they need dependable people, and I’m that guy. … I like volunteering. It raises your self-esteem and it helps others’ self-esteem. It makes them feel better because they know they’re helping someone.”

Ray Bower

• Age: 80

• Volunteer resume: Volunteer at Newark branch of Licking County Library and First United Methodist Church

• How he got involved: Bower was looking for something to do when he asked the library if it needed any volunteers. He always had like reading and thought it would be a good fit, but at the time the library wasn’t taking anyone. Bower said he nearly fell out of his chair when he heard that. But when he tried again a few years later, the library put him to work.

• Fun fact: Narrated the videos for the library’s Pearl Harbor and D-Day projects.

“This library does so much more than the general public realizes, and I’m so happy we have it. So the reason I volunteer is so I can do my part to keep it open.”

Tom Mullady

• Age: 71

• Volunteer resume: United Way of Licking County; Newark Rotary Club; board member for Licking County Board of Health; former volunteer coordinator for Babe Ruth World Series; community volunteer for Newark City Schools’ levy campaigns; member of Licking Memorial Hospital’s development council

• How he got involved: Mullady had done some volunteer work while he was working, but really started getting involved after he retired. He saw all the free time had and knew he wanted to do something meaningful with it.

• Fun fact: Received United Way’s Ken Johnston Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013.

“It’s a win-win-win for someone to volunteer: It’s rewarding to them personally, it’s rewarding to the organization they volunteer for, and it’s rewarding to the individual who receives the help they needed.”

Holly Graham

• Age: 47

• Volunteer resume: Lakewood Local School District; Lakewood Education Foundation; Future City mentor; Jacksontown United Methodist Church volunteer

• How she got involved: Graham was inspired to get more involved in her community when she came across a quote by Erma Bombeck, who said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.” She had become a stay-at-home mom after having children, but as they started school she began to wonder what she wanted to do with her career going forward. After reading that quote, she felt called to give back and started looking for ways to do so.

• Fun fact: Helped found the Lakewood Education Foundation.

“I think it’s a humbling experience to volunteer. As a Christian, I feel like we’re called to help other people and to do something that’s sacrificial. And a lot of times those are the most rewarding jobs.”

Bill Snider

• Age: 83

• Volunteer resume: The Works; Newark Maennerchor; St. Francis de Sales Church

• How he got involved: Snider started as a docent for The Works when it opened in 1996 and never left.

• Fun fact: With help from his friend Bob Andrews, Snider has built the majority of the wooden item, displays and shelves found around The Works, including the Tyke Lab.

“There really is a lot of talent out there. If people would use their talents to do things like volunteer, I think we would all be better off.”

Bob Andrews

• Age: 89

• Volunteer resume: The Works; Newark Maennerchor; St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

• How he got involved: Andrews has been best friends with Snider for more than 60 years. After his wife died, he decided to start volunteering as a way to get out of the house and joined his friend at The Works.

• Fun fact: Since joining The Works, Andrews and Snider have been nicknamed “Billy-Bob,” as the two always are working together.

“I like volunteering because I like to keep busy and not just sit around. You get old when you sit around.”

Honorable Mentions

Tony Adams

Lori Brown

A Call to College Staff

Deane Drury

Jim Johnson

Doug Kullman

Patricia Lanker

Mary Kay Martin

“Sonny” Rollins

Jeff Walker

This Article appeared in the Newark Advocate August 3, 2014


Seasons of gratitude and service

With the season of giving thanks behind us and the season of giving in full force, let’s reflect upon gratitude…

Hold on, pain ends; we can prevent suicides in Licking County

Ahhh, fall. The crisp mornings and changing foliage set against a backdrop of blue skies are signs that we’re back…

Practical mental health information

Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number are starting…

Navigating the unexpected challenges during COVID-19

The ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, wreaking havoc for school and parents’ work schedules, causing disruptions in…

Follow by Email