Tammy DeCicco, Second Harvest’s Volunteer Coordinator, wrote this story and nomination of two incredible volunteers, Gwen Blane and Warren Kelly, for the 2018 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. Read on to learn more about Gwen and Warren and why we feel you should vote for them this year.
Warren Kelly began volunteering for Second Harvest Food Bank in March of 2013 and was soon joined by his caregiver, Gwenetta Blane, in 2014.
Warren and Gwen reliably and religiously come to the food bank every week like clockwork. However, they are also flexible and generous with their time by their willingness to be at any location any time we need them– filling in holes in our schedule, stepping up when other volunteers might be out, volunteering at our many events, and always, always doing so with grace and a smile.
Throughout their time with us, they have touched many lives in many ways. Warren’s charming personality and eagerness to communicate (through Gwen) with everyone he encounters is inspirational. Be it staff member or volunteer, when interacting with Warren and Gwen you are captivated and infected with happiness and love. Even if in their presence for only a few moments, no matter your mood, you can’t help but smile and feel warm inside when you meet this duo.
Most people who meet Warren for the first time are surprised to learn he is deaf, until Gwen begins to speak for him. Warren has been deaf and unable to speak since birth, however, he is very, very good at reading lips. Gwen encourages and often challenges Warren. She says: “Just because he has a disability doesn’t mean he can’t achieve his goals in life.” It is Gwen’s “can do” attitude that won her the 2017 Dream Maker Award from Monarch Services.
Warren and Gwen are a very special team at Second Harvest Food Bank and our lives are better by just knowing them. They breathe life into those who need strength to keep going and power on.
A bit about Gwen:
Gwen has been a Developmental Specialist with Monarch CHOICES at the Ridge since 2010 and began working with Warren August, 2014. She also volunteers for the Food Bank on her own time, in addition to her work with Warren. Gwen has been a great advocate for Warren. She introduces him to new volunteer opportunities as well as recreational and leisure activities. Gwen says Human Services must be in her DNA. Her mother worked 20+ years for Goodwill of NWNC. As a child she recalls playing pool in the activities room with residents.
Both Gwen and Warren are skilled at signing and they are willing to teach anyone who wants to learn. Gwen’s creative ability to come up with interesting activities to present to Warren is one of her many talents, and how, every day, she helps him grow.
A bit about Warren:
Warren graduated from Carter Vocational High School in 2005 and began attending Monarch CHOICES Day Program in September that year. Warren has been brought up by his grandmother and attends church with her regularly where he sings in the choir. He is very active in a variety of events, such as playing basketball, participating in the Special Olympics Spring Games, and bowling. He attends Pole Night annually through Special Olympics. He participates in Silent Dinners held by the NC Association of the Deaf, where both the deaf and hearing communities can socialize. He has attended NC Self-Advocates Annual Conference for the past 4 years. If you stop by Monarch from time to time you may even catch a glimpse of Warren volunteering there too: filling the vending machines with product. His dream is to marry one day and to become a wedding planner. Warren has a lot of style. His is always well dressed; his friends refer to him as the “Fashion Police”.
Warren’s ability to adapt to any task asked of him is one of his many wonderful qualities. But his most outstanding quality is the impression he leaves on you after meeting him — best described by Second Harvest’s former volunteer coordinator, Debbie Clark as she prepared for Cochlear Implant surgery for her own hearing loss: “He gave me personally that shot in the arm that if the Cochlear Implant did not work, I could make it. I could learn sign language and keep smiling. He taught me so many words and phrases in sign language and helped me make a video for a friend’s birthday using sign language. Always with that smile, never giving up. He is such an example of perseverance through the storm. I thought of him recently when I had to run a nine mile run with no hearing equipment because of rain. I ended up splashing in puddles realizing that sometimes dancing in the rain is the greatest gift. It washes away your worries and fears. I realized I could do it deaf, just like Warren. It was just overcoming the fear.”
“Everyday Warren faces obstacles and he continues to smile and dance in the rain with no fear that he won’t succeed. What a testament of courage, love, and blessing.”
A bit about them together:
It is the combination of Gwen and Warren where the real magic happens: they work seamlessly as a team, as friends, as partners. Gwen and Warren both bring out each others skills and talents, and we are fortunate, every week, to see this at Second Harvest Food Bank.
These are only SOME of the reasons why we have nominated Gwen and Warren for the 2018 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. We hope that you will join us in honoring them by voting for them here.