Energy and enthusiasm characterize the volunteer work of both Oreana ‘Rene’ White and Jean Srodes.
Governor Earl Ray Tom-blin will honor White and Srodes Wednesday, July 30, for their dedication to service at the annual Governor’s Service Awards banquet at the Charleston Civic Center. The banquet is held as a part of Faces of Leadership, the annual state volunteerism conference.
Presented since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors individuals, families and organizations that exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. White will receive her award in the Lifetime Achievement category, and Srodes will receive hers in the National Service category.
In the community of Minnehaha Springs, the “go-to” person for projects large or small is often Rene White. Whether it’s last minute cookies for the 4-H meeting or stepping up to chair the Opera House Foundation, she’s the one to count on.
For 42 years, White has been involved with 4-H in her community touching the lives of hundreds of young people helping them use their head, hands, heart and health to improve themselves and the world around them. She still volunteers for 4-H today, helping with project books, Christmas plays and fairs, and sometimes raising funds to send someone to camp. She has been a tireless worker at 4-H frozen food sales, made pizza for the 4-H Achievement Night, and encouraged participation in public speaking contests. She has also served on the Pocahontas County 4-H Foundation Board.
For the past 15 years, White has also been involved with the Pocahontas County Opera House helping to make it the ‘cultural heart of the community.’ As a member of the programming committee, she has been dedicated to ensuring that the Opera House remains a family-friendly place where everyone feels welcome. She has always advocated for performing artists who can offer hands-on experiences for students during the school day. While maintaining this important vision for programming, she is never afraid to get her hands dirty doing some of the less glamorous tasks of cleaning, mopping floors and washing tablecloths. She is always ready to bake refreshments for intermission – making this part of the evening an event in itself.
White’s other volunteer activities include work at New Hope Lutheran Church, leading the congregation’s quilting ministry, making sure that people affected by disaster are given a quilt. White always acts as her community’s first responder – never waiting to be asked.
Cara Rose, who nominated White said, “Few people have the capacity to give without any expectation of receiving something back – Rene White is one of those people, making so many lives richer through her volunteerism.”
Jean Srodes believes in positive change for Pocahontas County. As an AmeriCorps member, she has worked to expand the mindset of middle and high school students. Her goal is to help the teens she works with understand the importance of success in school in finding employment. She has reached out to organizations in the area that are willing to share information about what it is like to work with them. She has arranged short field trips to businesses in Marlinton so that students can see firsthand what people actually do.
When Srodes heard of a musician in Pittsburgh who would teach students to write songs and put them to music, she campaigned to raise funds to pay the fees involved. At the end of the week spent with the musician, the students held a concert, which became a benefit for those impacted by the devastating Main Street fire in Marlinton.
She has organized a Radio Club where students travel to WVMR to record public service announcements and learn to operate a radio station. She has also volunteered to be the middle school golf coach. The school is across from the Country Club, but had no team. To be a member of the team, students must have a 2.0 grade point average and have good behavior.
Srodes meets students before school for her Hot Chocolate and Homework Club. They work on assignments and have a cup of hot chocolate together. She involves all her students in community service projects, whether it’s Christmas cards for the hospital, blankets for wheel chair residents of the nursing home, or volunteering at the animal shelter. Everyone has an opportunity to give back.
“Jean is passionate about helping her students. They not only improve their academic skills, but they also take pride in their community,” said Susan Anderson Borror, who nominated Srodes. “Her program is ongoing and expands every day with her new ideas!”
The Governor’s Service Awards are administered by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. A volunteer review committee reads and selects the recipients on the basis of achievement, community needs, continuing involvement, innovation and impact of service.