APPLETON, Wis. — It's National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate those who donate their time and talents to make a difference in our community. One of those generous people is an Appleton student who just won a big award for her service.
The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region is getting ready to host its 22nd annual Celebrating Volunteers Community Gala. Volunteers in seven categories will be recognized for their outstanding service, including 18-year-old Sydney Olmsted who is this year's Youth Scholarship Award winner.
At the crack of dawn, when most teens are still snug in their beds, you'll find Appleton East High School senior Sydney Olmsted cooking and serving breakfast for the homeless who are staying at Pillars Adult & Family Shelter in Appleton.
"It is really cool to see them all come in and just be really welcomed by a good smell of a yummy breakfast and just have a hot meal prepared for them, kind of talk to them and get their day off to a great start. It's a really good feeling," she explained.
Olmsted is a 4.0 student, a three sport athlete and she works a part-time job, yet she still makes time to volunteer as a member of the National Honor Society, the Key Club and DECA.
"We rake the lawns of elderly and the disabled in the community. We donate lots of canned goods to St. Joe's Food Pantry. I volunteer at Feeding America where we package food that goes directly into the community as well, Special Olympics and just so many other things."
It's this juggling act and dedication to helping others that compelled Olmsted's Senior Communications teacher, Kathy Marx, to nominate Sydney for the Celebrating Volunteers' Youth Scholarship Award. Marx describes getting the phone call confirming that Olmsted won.
"I was so happy and so humbled. I cried a little bit, just because I'm so proud of her."
Olmsted admits she was surprised. "I was so shocked, but I'm just really appreciative of this opportunity overall."
As the Award recipient, Olmsted will receive a $1,500 scholarship to put towards her education at UW-Madison. She wants to study to become a speech pathologist. Olmsted will also receive another $1,000 from Community First Credit Union to donate to the charity of her choice.
"I love that she chose Pillars, because it's close to her heart," said Marx.
Pillars' Director of Community Engagement, Scott Peeples, said he's grateful for the donation that will help support their mission.
"We're getting people off the street, into shelter, and then from there working on their plan to getting them case management, so they can be back in workplaces, in their own apartments and being productive members of society like we all want to be."
While Olmsted prefers to stay out of the spotlight, she hopes this recognition will inspire others to carve out time to make the community a better place.
"I think the feeling in general is just the reason why I volunteer. I love every time, you feel so much better about yourself. It makes your day better and it makes someone else's day better, and there's nothing really more great than that."
Since 1998, nearly $700,000 has been given to local charities through this event. The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Post-Crescent are the main sponsors of the Celebrating Volunteers Community Gala. It's set for May 1st from 5:15pm-8:00pm at the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley in downtown Appleton. The deadline to register is April 19th.
NBC26 is proud to be a partner for this year's event.