"Most anyone I speak to about Claudette describes her as 'Juneau's angel,' an angel walking among us, the most amazing person, so sweet, precious, giving, gracious, loving, and caring, and much more. ... She's the volunteer of the century. She just loves to give of her time. That's her passion - giving."
- Mary Schlosser, friend of Claudette Curtis
A longtime Douglas resident was the only Juneauite recognized this month out of 13 individuals by First Lady Sandy Parnell as a Volunteer of the Year. Yet, among her friends and neighbors, the award came as no surprise.
"It is an honor to participate in this wonderful program that recognizes citizens who have given their time and talent to help others," Sandy Parnell said. "Our state is blessed to have so many Alaskans committed to helping their communities and fellow citizens."
The First Lady's Volunteers of the Year awards are given to those who engage in unpaid volunteer activities within Alaska, show remarkable personal commitment to long-term volunteer service and have made a substantial impact on their community or the state.
Claudette Curtis, in a nutshell.
Although she is honored to receive the award, Curtis' modesty prevented her from speaking to the Empire about it. However, many community members were willing to chime in.
Lee Sandor, a friend for more than 30 years through the Douglas Community United Methodist Church, said Curtis is a wonderful lady who "never refuses anybody anything." Curtis also has, on occasion, house-sat and provided care for Sandor's special needs daughter, Mary.
"She's the most generous person," Sandor said of Curtis. "You ask her to do something, and she's always right there to do it. She's one of these people where the most menial task she would assume. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty."
An Aleut Alaskan from Seward, Curtis moved to Juneau soon after secretarial school and has since dedicated her life to serving the capital city and its people.
"I always say Claudette is the richest lady I know, because everybody loves her, and she's just so wonderful," Sandor said. "She's so giving."
Mary Schlosser has known Claudette for more than 25 years and says Curtis still calls her "little girl."
"Claudette sort of adopted me when I moved to Juneau," Schlosser said. "She became kind of an auntie or surrogate mom to take me to fun things and help me be involved in the church."
Schlosser describes Curtis as one of the most patient people she's ever met.
"She saw me as teenager and was incredibly patient through my normal teenage rebellious stage," she said. "She also has spent many hours with many children of other folks just being their support, going to their dance recitals, soccer games or plays, and just making people, especially children, feel very special."
Not to mention, Curtis does just about everything, from serving breakfast every morning at Gastineau Elementary School to helping serve senior lunch every Tuesday and Thursday at Juneau Senior Center and her church.
"Since Claudette retired from the state about 17 years ago, she is much busier with all her volunteer work than when she had a full-time job," Schlosser said. "She goes to the senior centers, spends time there and helps with their fundraisers. She buys raffle tickets, wrapping paper and Girl Scout cookies from everybody in her neighborhood. She goes to every single fundraising event."
As the Glory Hole's secretary for many years, Curtis will likely be at the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser next Sunday. Not to mention, she helps greet the cruise ships every tourist season, attends nearly every spaghetti feed and is always willing to buy a special auction dessert, Schlosser said.
"It seems like with whatever nonprofit organization in Juneau, Claudette is somewhere there in the background," Schlosser said, "whether it's just buying a ticket and being at their main fundraiser for the year, or whether she's intricately involved in a part of a team."
As far as Douglas Community United Methodist Church Pastor Imelda Ramos and her husband, Bob Woolf, are concerned, Curtis is a blessing.
"I've often joked about whether or not Claudette is a saint or angel," Woolf said. "She is both! She is humble to a fault, always minimizing her contributions."
As a teacher at the Methodist Camp, Woolf was touched when he overheard teenagers talking with each other about how much they love Curtis.
"She is down to earth, very easy and joyous to be with, for all ages," he said. "Claudette is a truly forgiving soul, very understanding.
Woolf believes much of Curtis' contributions to others is at least in part because so many people volunteered to help make her life good.
"I think Claudette might feel honored to speak of her own volunteerism in that context," he said. "That is the sort of person she is, always valuing others with great sincerity and with a purity of lovingness that is wonderfully uplifting. That is a huge part of what her volunteerism offers to others."
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 pr firstname.lastname@example.org.
The volunteers will be recognized at a luncheon and ceremony on May 6 in conjunction with AmeriCorps Week May 8-15.