"They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to keep things moving, as well.”
— Gail Severson, Moffat County United Way’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year recipient
When Gail Severson’s son, Dan, invited her to lunch in the middle of the week, she was somewhat surprised.
When they arrived at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion instead of a restaurant, she was curious.
When the two of them met up with her daughters, Julie Baker and Terri Jourgensen, she was downright suspicious.
As she later found out, she had good reason to be.
Severson was named the 2011 Volunteer of the Year on Wednesday afternoon during a banquet in her honor at the Pavilion. Craig City Councilor Joe Bird made the announcement in a speech detailing Severson’s many efforts in improving the community.
“Everything she’s done for the community has come straight from her kind and generous heart, backed by a stiff spine that allows us to describe her as warm and energetic as well as a force to be reckoned with when she attaches herself to a cause she believes in,” Bird said to the crowd.
The list of causes and groups Severson has been involved in the past three decades is a lengthy one: Moffat County Parks and Recreation Board, Craig Planning and Zoning Committee, Yampa Valley Golf Association, Craig Promotional Committee and more.
It wasn’t until Bird joked about a different kind of cause that Severson realized she was the only possible subject of the speech. A mention of her efforts to oust deer from within city limits brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
“The (Craig) Kiwanis Club will be forever grateful to her for providing material for their annual play,” Bird said above the laughter of the crowd.
Bird made his way into the crowd to bring the award winner to the forefront, presenting her with a crystal trophy and bouquet.
“It’s such a wonderful honor and makes all my years of volunteering worth it, although it is worth it anyway,” Severson said. “I just love doing it, and being rewarded for something you already love is really terrific.”
When her family moved to Craig in the 1970s, Severson wasted no time getting involved, eventually becoming executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce in the mid-1980s, moving the organization to its current location out of smaller past offices like the Centennial Mall and the Marcia Car. She also worked on painting, decorating and providing the landscaping for the building.
As much as a Volunteer of the Year has done in the past, receiving the award often comes as recognition for their most recent work.
Moffat County United Way Director Corrie Ponikvar said she, along with voters representing Craig and Moffat County, must whittle down a list of potential winners.
“It’s tough to decide because there are so many people here that volunteer their time,” Ponikvar said.
Ponikvar, who first worked with Severson on the Craig Beautification Committee, said Severson’s involvement with The Memorial Hospital Finance Committee and Foundation Board and her work with St. Michael’s Kitchen helped put her over the top.
“She’s done such a broad spectrum of things, and I remember somebody saying once that her energy is contagious, and I just have to agree,” she said.
Severson said working with the soup kitchen for the past two years has been a joy because of the amount of food donations from local businesses, being able to help the unfortunate in need of a good meal and providing a place for people to get together.
“A lot of people who come there can take care of themselves, but they like to come for the fellowship, and we like having them,” she said.
Severson said she was still in shock by the end of the banquet, surprised she was picked instead of many other worthy community members.
“The people we pick for this award are usually very humble, so it’s nice to be able to honor them this way,” Ponikvar said.
Severson said the number of people who have helped her in her endeavors proves how well the community functions.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to keep things moving, as well,” she said.