WESTFIELD – Andrew Robitaille may be young, but the 13 year-old already understands the importance of giving back.
Robitaille, a Westfield native and student at Academy Hill School, has been volunteering for several years with Link to Libraries and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament parish.
From updating the Link to Libraries website and labeling books to donate to children in need, to serving on his church’s youth advisory committee, Robitaille said he gives back because “it’s the right thing to do.”
This selfless teen is being honored for his good deeds with the The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Western MA Chapter’s Outstanding Young Philanthropist/Fundraiser of Hampden County.
Robitaille, the son of Laura and Daniel Robitaille, said he also volunteers because he recognizes he is lucky.
“I’m so fortunate,” said Robitaille.
A member of the YMCA swim team for six years, Robitaille is interested in becoming an architect.
Robitaille will receive his award tomorrow afternoon, along with several other award recipients.
“Over 40,000 people across North America join in this AFP-sponsored celebration of the generosity, time and financial support of individuals and companies,” said Gary Coombs, Board President of AFP, Western Massachusetts. “Their exceptional efforts inspire others to become involved.”
Julie Cowan, a vice president at TD Bank, will also receive an award for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of Hampshire County. Cowan, of Northampton, was nominated by the Clarke School for Hearing and Speech where she is a volunteer. The Clarke Schools’ campus in Northampton is attended by students from all over western Massachusetts with various ranges of hearing ability. The Schools’ mission is teaching children who are deaf and hard of hearing how to listen and talk using the latest technology, such as hearing aids.
Cowan also serves on the board of The United Way of Hampshire County and said that volunteering – especially in the area of education – is very important to her.
“I have a full career and other volunteer commitments, but if you want something done, you ask a busy person,” joked Cowan. “I’m fortunate that I have the ability to give back and I have the resources to give back.”
Cowan said growing up on Cape Cod, her grandparents showed by example that giving back was something people should do whenever possible. Cowan said they were simple, hardworking people who were “quiet givers” and led by example.
Five years ago, Cowan was introduced to the Clarke School by a friend who gave her a tour. After seeing the preschoolers sing, third graders strive to succeed, and the confidence of eighth graders bolstered, Cowan was hooked on Clarke.
“Clarke’s goal is to put itself out of business,” said Cowan. “Parents are given tools to support their children and students are given the skills necessary to be in mainstream classes. I feel strongly about mainstreaming.”
Cowan volunteers in the areas of fundraising and resource development at Clarke’s six campuses, which include the one in Northampton, in New York, and in Florida. She said Clarke is an amazing place for children who are deaf and hearing impaired.
“The windows of opportunity for a child are wide open there,” Cowan said.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will also receive an award for its dedication to feeding those in need in the four counties of western Massachusetts.
Director Andrew Morehouse said he and the staff were honored to be recognized for the work they do. Much like Clarke, The Food Bank is hoping to put itself out of business when the day comes that everyone has food to eat.
“The Food Bank warehouse is in Hatfield and serves 300 local pantries and shelters,” Morehouse sad. “There are 135,000 people who rely on emergency food every year in western Mass. One in eight people rely on emergency food here.”
The Food Bank was founded in 1982 and is in its 30th year of providing food to those in need. Morehouse said half of the Bank’s funding comes from federal and state funds and the rest comes from individuals and businesses. He said donating money is the best way to help feed the hungry, but The Food Bank all accepts donations of food.
‘We can always use healthy, shelf-stable foods,” said Morehouse. “And for every dollar donated, it provides about $9 worth of food.”
Morehouse said The Food Bank welcomes visitors who want to learn more and are always looking for volunteers.
The awards will be presented during the AFP Philanthropy Day Luncheon at the Log Cabin.
Awards will be presented to the following individuals, corporation and non-profit organizations:
Michele and Donald D’Amour, nominated by Patricia Burden, AFP member Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of Hampden County
Ron Copes, nominated by Western New England University
Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of Hampshire County
Julie Cowan, nominated by Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech
Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation Chicopee Savings Bank, nominated by Elms College
Outstanding Young Philanthropist/Fundraiser of Hampden County
Andrew Robitaille, nominated by Link to Libraries, Inc.
Outstanding Young Philanthropist/Fundraiser of Hampshire County
Amherst Regional High School-Future Business Leadership Group, nominated by Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Outstanding Professional in Philanthropy
Dr. Carla Oleska of the Women’s Fund, nominated by Lynn Korza and Eileen Kirk
Agencies that feed the hungry in the Pioneer Valley.
The President’s Award recognizes the following non-governmental organizations that prepare and serve meals to needy individuals, without restrictions, on a daily basis:
Lorraines Soup Kitchen, Chicopee
Kate’s Kitchen, Holyoke
The Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield
Loaves and Fishes, Springfield
Parish Cupboard, West Springfield
Amherst Survival Center, North Amherst
Food Bank of Western MA, Hatfield, MA
Rachel’s Table, Springfield
“These individuals and organizations exemplify the ideals of community service, philanthropy, and volunteerism within each of our award categories,” said Pat Burden, Philanthropy Day Chair and an AFP board member.
AFP Western MA Chapter recognizes philanthropic efforts, and provides networking opportunities and trainings for development professionals in Western New England. Its members include executives, fundraising professionals and program managers from area non-profits including social service organizations, colleges, hospitals and professional associations.
For more than 50 years, AFP has been the standard-bearer for professionalism in fundraising. The association fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession.