When Thunder Mountain High School senior Lillian Bannerman heard she had won an award for her volunteer efforts, she was a bit confused at first.
“When you volunteer, you don’t expect anything from it,” Bannerman said.
Bannerman was one of two individuals to receive a Vocational Service Award from the Juneau Rotary Club on Tuesday, joining along with three local organizations receiving honors as well.
Saralyn Tabachnick, the executive director of Juneau’s domestic violence shelter, Aiding Women in Abuse &Rape Emergencies (AWARE), received the Individual Vocational Service Award. Bannerman, the president of the TMHS National Honors Society, received the Individual Youth Vocational Service Award.
Rotary honored the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center for its work in the public sector category, Western Auto Marine in the business category and the Sealaska Heritage Institute in the nonprofit category.
Sally Smith, the chair of the Rotary Awards Committee, said she enjoys giving these awards and recognizing people who don’t often get attention.
“This is, for some of us, one of the highlights of the year,” Smith said, “because we get a chance to get to know someone or some organization in the community we don’t know as well as we should.”
AWARE shelters and supports people who have been subject to domestic or sexual violence, providing services to 10 communities in Southeast Alaska. Tabachnick has been the executive director of AWARE since 2002, also spearheading the formation of the Juneau Violence Prevention Coalition that looks to stop violence before it happens.
Over the years, Tabachnick has traveled around the country to ceremonies honoring those helping provide shelter for victims of domestic or sexual violence. Getting local recognition, she said, is much different.
“Locally are the people who, I think, know me best,” Tabachnick said, “so it holds deeper meaning because of that. It’s more personal.”
Bannerman, who moved up to Juneau from California as a sophomore, has taken roles in student government all three years she’s been at TMHS. As president of the school’s chapter of the National Honors Society, she has helped organize volunteer events working with the Glory Hole homeless shelter, Family Promise, the school’s blood drive and a single mothers’ group.
Bannerman, who first volunteered because it was a requirement at her former high school, said she enjoyed serving at the Glory Hole the most.
“Anything you can do to help someone get back on their feet is important,” Bannerman said. “Even if it’s the smallest thing, it can help them a lot.”
The awards ceremony, which took place at the Baranof Hotel, recognized organizations as well as individuals. As Rotary presenters explained, Western Auto was selected in part for allowing organizations to use its land for events, providing scholarships for the Salmon Derby and supporting various local events. John Grant and Carla White of Western Auto were on hand to accept the award.
SHI was honored for its wide-spanning efforts to promote Alaska Native values in Southeast. In particular, Rotary members were impressed with SHI’s educational focus that includes books, applications and games that make learning Native history and languages easy for children. SHI’s Carmaleeda Estrada accepted the honor on the organization’s behalf.
The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was selected in part because of community partnerships with organizations such as Discovery Southeast, the University of Alaska Southeast and others. Visitor Center Director John Neary and Forest Service Juneau District Ranger Brad Orr spoke briefly after accepting the award, saying that the visitor center is more of a community center than just a place where tourists stop by before they hike around the glacier.
“Juneau matters a lot. …We’re not just a national organization,” Neary said. “We’re very much also a local organization, so this matters a lot. Getting this award is very appreciated.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.