The gift of time |

The gift of time

Advocates board members honored as Volunteers of the Year

Nicole Inglis

Around Renae Virden's neck, attached to a gemstone given to her by her husband, hangs a small silver charm.

"Live life, be brave," it reads.

She received the charm as a gift from Karen Aragon, Advocates-Crisis Support Services executive director, about four months ago.

Her friend and fellow board member for Advocates, Lynette Running, also received a charm.

Running's charm reads, "laughter."

"It was because of all of the support the two of them gave me in particular," Aragon said. "For Renae, it was teaching me to not be afraid and take steps and to try something. Regardless of what happens, it's good to just live life and be brave.

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"And both of them always reminded me to laugh."

Virden, secretary/treasurer on the Advocates board, along with Running, the board president, were named 2009 Volunteers of the Year at an annual volunteer luncheon Tuesday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.

The city of Craig, Moffat County and Moffat County United Way sponsored the event.

Virden and Running were surprised into tears when United Way Executive Director Corrie Ponikvar announced the honor.

Before the luncheon, Aragon and Ponikvar had told each of the women that the other one had been chosen for the award.

"It's been a very interesting week for me," Aragon said. "They both respect and think so much of each other they kept trying to help put things together for the other's award."

Aragon said no two people deserved the award more than Virden and Running.

During a speech introducing the honorees, Ponikvar said the two gave a combined 2,500 hours of their time last year to support Advocates.

"Their availability is the biggest thing I always think of," Aragon said. "They're there for me 24 hours a day for my questions, concerns, suggestions. …They help me work out things in my mind. They've gone out of their way to know each of us individually and be supportive."

Advocates is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing services to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and other crimes that might leave a person or a family in need.

Virden said the scope of Advocates' impact on the community is normally hidden beneath the surface.

"These people are the most helpless, the most unspoken for," she said. "I feel fortunate that nothing like this has ever happened to me, but a lot happens in the community that people don't know about."

In 2009, Advocates saw more than 500 new cases of domestic violence and abuse.

Running, who has a family of her own and a full-time job, said she feels touched to know she has helped make a difference in so many lives.

"It's good to see you've made a difference," Running said. "Just knowing that you've helped give people the strength to leave a bad situation and find a better life."

Advocates' employees and board members voiced support for Running and Virden as Volunteers of the Year.

Anngie Sparks, youth services coordinator and Moffat County Victims Assistance Program coordinator, said the agency has learned incredible amounts about administrative and agency functioning.

"They have taught us that even though we're a crisis agency, we don't have to work in crisis mode," Sparks said.

Aragon said the two have become more than just the backbone of the organization.

They have become friends, even through changes Advocates faced in 2009.

"We've been like anyone else — funding limited, funding cut," Aragon said. "We've had client cases dramatically go up, and they're more complicated than before.

"But for me personally, I am so lucky to work with a group of totally amazing people."

At the conclusion of the event, Mayor Don Jones summed up the theme of the Volunteer of the Year honor.

"It takes a village to raise a child," Jones said. "But it takes a group of volunteers to raise a village."

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