NIAGARA FALLS - The Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club will honor a long list of volunteers who have helped the organization at its 27th annual Award Celebration at noon Thursday, Jan. 19.
The club is giving its top award, Humanitarian of the Year, to Anne Marie Dimino-Hepfer, who this month will become the chief volunteer officer, leading the club's board of directors. She is succeeding Anthony Eugeni in that post.
Dimino-Hepfer has been a longtime volunteer with the club, with nearly 30 years of service as chairman of its auction and 20 years on the club's board of directors.
Dimino-Hepfer said she got involved through her parents. Her father, Alfonso Dimino, in his role as a Tops Market franchise owner, was a strong believer in community involvement.
"I was very fortunate in my upbringing. We went to private schools and on family vacations. We had food, clothing shelter. I didn't know much about the Boys Club," said Dimino-Hepfer. "When I got involved I just had a magnetic attraction to the club and it's mission to help others. I just love what they do there and I'm so happy there's a place for kids to go after school."
She noted that it was different when she was young, growing up in Niagara Falls, when kids played on the block and rode their bikes to Canada or to Fort Niagara from her Deveaux neighborhood.
"Nowadays you can't do that," said Dimino-Hepfer. "The Boys Club offers kids (programs such as) gymnastics - I put my kids in the program when they were three and four."
But Dimino-Hepfer said kids have to deal with tougher issues now.
"Unfortunately, Niagara Falls has a lot of poverty," she said. "Nowadays single parents are common. Growing up with one parent in jail. It's not all the kids, but (the club is) a safe environment and it provides stability and help with their homework. It's structured."
She said as the Boys and Girls Club moves into the future there will be a major capital campaign to expand its services and its facilities. She said the club is planning to build a science/technology/math lab and purchase computers for the staff.
She also noted there's a need for more volunteers, noting that the club had to turn away the growing number of kids who want to attend.
"We just got a major grant from the governor and will be putting in new windows. There is also no air conditioning. We are going be updating the building and get more activities for the kids to do. We are also trying to up the teen program - teaching cooking and basic things they need when they get older - like job interviews," said Dimino-Hepfer.
At the awards ceremony at the Como Restaurant, Eugeni will also be honored. He will receive the Gary P. Hall Award, which is named for Hall, a current board of directors member who was instrumental in building the Niagara Community Center. The award, one of the top awards from the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club, is given for longtime service and caring within the organization. Eugeni is the fourth person to receive the annual award.
Eugeni came to the Boys and Girls Club as a child. He has served as chairman of a number of club events, said Diane Quarantello, director of program quality.
Other award winners are:
- Karen Beltrano, will receive the Good Neighbor Award. Beltrano worked for many years as volunteer program and camp director. She also took it upon herself to help out children on the streets near her Pine Avenue business and buy clothing and provide transportation to the summer camp bus.
- Roberta Fraser, the Friendship Award for befriending the club and the children through her Niagara Falls company, American Hoganas, buying and wrapping Christmas gifts for children.
- Diana Bianco, an assistant principal at Niagara Street Elementary School, will receive the Academic Appreciation Award for helping out children at the organization's program site in the school.
- Jennifer Stachowski, will receive the Shining Star Award for her volunteer work at the organization's G.J. Mann Elementary School site.
- Rick Dumas, an employee of the Niagara Falls School District, will receive the Helping Hand Award for his work aiding the program site in Hyde Park Elementary.
- Lana Zahn, a registered nurse and the group's volunteer health director, will receive the Caring Award.
- Barbara Fallon, a former Niagara Falls physical education teacher, will receive the Youth Advocate Award for her volunteer work teaching lifesaving skills to young people who want to be certified as lifeguards.
- Target employees will receive the Appreciation Award, the Niagara University Plunge will receive the "Community Service" Award and the Niagara Falls Police Community Relations Department will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award.
- Ron Campbell, a board member and retired vice president of Washington Mills, will receive the Champion of Youth Award for his work to bring a new playground to the club site on 17th Street. Also honored for their work on the playground will be Mark Rowe, who will receive Special Recognition Award as project manager and John Kozlowski of National Vacuum who will receive the Stepping Up Award.
- Steve Brady and his company, Chiampou, Travis, Beshaw and Kershner, will be recognized for their work for the summer day camp and donations of Christmas gifts with the Making a Difference Award.
- Lewis and Angel Ligammari will receive the Spirit Award for their work on the extended day program at Cataract Elementary.
Tickets for the event are $20 per person. Reservations for award celebration can be made by calling the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club at 282-7181, prior to Jan. 16.