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Volunteers recognized for community service work

With National Volunteer Appreciation Week under way, Washington County and the Community Thread presented four individuals and one group of volunteers with plaques of appreciation for continuous community service.

Two Woodbury residents and a recently deceased community leader were honored, in addition to others from Washington County, at Tuesday's Washington County Board meeting.

Dixie Ewing, a longtime Woodbury resident, received the Lifetime Volunteer Award, while Dick Stafford, who died last month, was also recognized in the same category.

The decision to name the two was unanimous by a selection committee, said Community Thread executive director Valerie Jones.

"Her overall enthusiasm for being a good steward for the community" and the breadth and number of roles she has played for good cause, were reasons for Ewing's award, Jones said.

Stafford's years of service to Woodbury, which included his participation in the Woodbury Community Foundation and at least a dozen organizations, made it easy for the selection committee to name him a lifetime volunteer.

"Certainly he had a long history of involvement," Jones said. "It was important to honor that."

Ewing was also one of the founders of the Woodbury Community Foundation, she's a Woodbury Chamber of Commerce director, she serves on the Woodbury Yellow Ribbon Network, Woodbury Christian Cupboard, the Wilder Foundation and others.

Currently, she's the chair of the Woodbury Community Foundation but her leadership roles don't stop there.

"I'm very passionate about raising funds for children's hospitals and clinics," she said.

She heads a number of fundraising opportunities for the Children's Hospital Association- Woodbury Guild, including a fashion show fundraiser taking place Thursday at the Prom Center.

Ewing is a local real estate agent and mother of three grown children who help her regularly with fundraisers and public service events.

Although leading a busy life, she makes it a point to find the time to volunteer in Woodbury.

Yet, she said she was still surprised to get the award.

"I don't know why I deserve the award, I just volunteer," she said with a laugh. "It's a very high honor. I appreciate it a lot."

In the four categories awarded this year, 23 volunteers were nominated.

The Outstanding Youth Award went to Samyuktha (Sammie) Melachuri of Woodbury, and the Outstanding Volunteer Award was given to Susan Edseth of Forest Lake.

Melachuri was recognized for her work at the Minnesota Children's Museum and Feed My Starving Children organization.

"The committee was so impressed by (Melachuri's) ability to stay calm and cool in her volunteer work," Jones said.

At the Children's Museum, her tasks range from doing arts and crafts with children to helping with preparations for parties and checking in at the museum.

"She has some wisdom beyond her years," Jones added.

Edseth has been an AmeriCorps volunteer with Family Means for the last two years. Her work includes Hospice Care and helping families with disabilities.

The group that was named the Outstanding Group Volunteer is STORM in the Valley, a servant mission of St. Croix Valley United Methodist Church. The group provides labor to assist people in need with projects that include moving, painting houses and organizing garages.

Community Thread and Washington County have collaborated to recognize volunteers every year since 1975. This year's awards highlight a variety of community and public service efforts in various parts of the county.

"(Awards) show the importance of volunteering and the fact that everybody can volunteer. There is something that everybody can do to help other people," Ewing said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.