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Celebrating the 2020 VIVAs

Dec 29, 2020 | Newsletter, Foodbank Blog

Each year, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier hosts a special event called VIVAs, Very Important Volunteer Awards. This event is an opportunity for the Food Bank to recognize and thank our valued volunteers for all of their time and assistance in achieving our vision of creating a future without hunger. While we could not host our annual VIVAs celebration due to the pandemic, we are proud to recognize the following Hunger Heroes.

Volunteer Duo Award – Amy & Tony Bo

This award is presented to Amy and Tony Bo, a pair who are making significant contributions to the community through their collective time volunteering together at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. They are role models for compassion and service; striving to make the world a better place through volunteering.

We asked the Bo’s what the term Hunger Heroes meant to them, and they responded, “Hunger Heroes selflessly give their time, money, or other resources to help fight hunger in their community. They often invite others to join them in this fight.”

These words are exemplified is the actions of the Bo’s. Whether they are volunteering with their church group or are course marshals for our annual Selfless Elf 5K, the Bo’s have made the fight to end hunger in our community a family affair, encouraging their children to get involved with us here at the Food Bank. The Bo’s are not only Hunger Heroes, but they inspire others to be as well.

Junior Volunteer of the Year Award
Laela, Kingston & Miles Inthanongsak

The Junior Volunteer Award is presented to volunteers under the age of 18 who have demonstrated a high level of commitment and dedication to our volunteer program and have volunteered regularly throughout the year.

With almost 175 hours under their belt, the Inthanongsak children have proven themselves more than worthy of this award. Although the siblings have recently moved away from the Southern Tier Region, they all have very fond memories of their time spent with us.

We had the opportunity to ask them about their time with us. Laela said, “I love being a part of helping meet the needs of people in our community and showing them, they are valued.”

“It’s great to be able to make people smile by helping,” shared Kingston.

“Volunteering at the Food Bank is a fun way we were involved in our community,” said Miles. It is the sense of community that stands out in all their answers and how much joy and happiness can be created by helping those in need.

Full Circle Award – Dave Radin

This award is presented to Dave Radin, as he exemplifies the spirit of the Full Circle Award. Dave shows a commitment and dedication to our volunteer program, contributes financially regularly, and advocates for social change to help end hunger in our communities, while actively promoting the Food Bank to a wider audience.

Dave is a champion to our cause and that can be seen through his own words, “ I have been affiliated with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier for 15 years, including as a consultant, committee member, board member, Vice Chairman of the Board, and now committee member again. I cannot imagine any charitable organization being run as well and with such a devoted and high-performing staff. I consider this experience to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, not just for myself, but for the thousands of clients we help. This is one powerhouse team doing incredible work.”

Dave embodies this award and it is safe to say we appreciate him as much as he appreciates us. Through the years, he has done so much for the Food Bank and this award is just a small token of the appreciation he deserves.

Excellence in Collaboration
Elmira-Corning Board of Realtors

This award is presented to an influential group whose contributions and partnership have resulted in a greater collective impact. By leveraging combined resources, we have achieved greater results than one organization could achieve on its own.

The Elmira-Corning Regional Association of Realtors has been fervent supporters of ours for 20 years. Their dedication and passion for our cause can be felt when speaking with their President Lisa Lilly.

“We feel strongly about supporting the Food Bank. We look forward to our Holiday Open House and Charity Auction every year! This is the 20th year and although we cannot do it in person, we are looking to be just as committed by providing donor incentives. We love to do this every year and have raised over $118,000!”

Their organization is so committed to making a difference in the Southern Tier not only by collaborating with us, but by also supporting a litany of other charities in the region include the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter and Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport, NY. Their work in the community is outstanding and we are so lucky to have forged a partnership with them!

Volunteer Excellence Award
Heather Markowski

The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is proud to present this award to Heather Markowski. This award recognizes an individual who has shown long-standing passion and dedication to volunteering. Heather has made significant contributions of her time and efforts to volunteering with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. After the production closed in March due to COVID-19, Heather checked in with us frequently as she was so eager to get back to work. Th

Heather, and her friend Connie Breed, have been volunteering for more than four years at our Warehouse. Together, they have given more than 3,500 hours! Heather and Connie have become an institution in our repack program and are adored by everyone who works at the Food Bank.

“Heather has is a very important member of our team. She exemplifies the spirit of this award and is focused on helping the Food Bank of the Southern Tier serve its mission,” said Earl Leonard, production manager.

Volunteer Excellence Award
Big Flats Lions Club 

This award is presented to Big Flats Lions Club who has shown long-standing passion and dedication to volunteering. The Big Flats Lions Club has given back to our community in so many ways from house repairs to collecting eyeglasses and helping tackle hunger in our region.

The Lions Club motto, “We serve” is woven into their dynamic history. Last year, the group contributed more than 610 hours to the Food Bank’s repack program.

One club member, in particular, Gene Herber, has made significant contributions to our community. Not only has he given more than 225 hours to the repack program, but he has also taken care of our garden at the Food Bank.

“Gene has been a perennial FBST garden volunteer and is most famous for his raised bed of Swiss chard. Not your garden-variety volunteer, Gene jumped in this year and maintained multiple raised beds, ensuring that the Food Bank of the Southern Tier’s garden was productive despite the lack of available help,” shared Matt Griffin, director of Health and Nutrition.


The 2020 VIVAs is sponsorship by M&T Bank! For more information about volunteering, please click here.