Volunteer of the Year teaches independence

Posted Feb. 25, 2009, at 9:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — April Bowley, local Working Opportunities Unlimited leader, works at The Salvation Army’s thrift store, teaching her volunteers a skill and about interacting with others in the community.

Her “peeps,” as she described them, are people of varying backgrounds and skills who are getting adjusted to jobs and independence, she said.

For her work, Bowley was named The Salvation Army’s Volunteer of the Year during the annual volunteer recognition brunch on Wednesday.

Bowley and nine volunteers were honored, but for privacy reasons, their names were not released. They come to volunteer from Winterport, Hampden, Old Town, Milford, Brewer and Bangor, she said.

“Some have used the skills they’ve developed here [at the thrift store] and moved on to other jobs or at other volunteer sites,” she said after the ceremony.

The volunteers play a “vital role with the family store,” Capt. Josh Kyle said during the presentation.

The group primarily takes care of the thrift store’s toy department, cleaning, fixing and displaying donated items.

“Since they took over, we can track a significant jump in sales,” Kyle said.

The volunteers take “great pride” knowing the toys are going to children, Bowley said, adding her volunteers also work in other areas of the shop, and two are in the process of learning how to cook.

Their volunteer work is only part of the story, Kyle said.

“You bring smiles to our faces,” he said to the group, who sat in the front row. “It wouldn’t be the same without [one volunteer’s] high-fives.”

Each volunteer was given a Salvation Army medal, and the service dog of one of the volunteers was given a Salvation Army patch.

“We’re very proud of you,” Kyle said.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

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