On Wednesday, May 19, the town of Millville hosted Delaware’s First Lady, Carla Markell. Mayor Don Minyon extended an invitation to Markell during the Sussex County Volunteer Day on April 24, to come back, spend more time with volunteer groups in the area and learn more about their work.
“When I shook her hand and said, ‘I’d like to see you and show you around,’ you know, most politicians or most people would blow you off and you’d never get that call,” said Minyon. “I got that call the next Monday and she said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
“First of all, I love Sussex County,” said Markell. “I love the beach, the natural beauty, the people here, and when I met the mayor of Millville on volunteerism day, he said, ‘Come on down and visit us again,’ and I thought, ‘I’m going to do that when I can spend more time and not have to rush.’”
Markell on May 19 first met with the Millville Volunteers (MillVols) at Millville Town Hall. She sat in the audience with the volunteers while coordinator Steve Micciche gave a brief description of the group and how they are involved in the local community.
The Millville Volunteers started in January of 2009 with 15 members and has since grown to 23. Members were trained in CPR, defibrillation, Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT) and took an AARP safe drivers class.
“Our idea was to have a neighborhood watch program, along with other areas. So, during the course of the year, we had emergency preparedness,” said Micciche.
Last year, the volunteer group clocked more than 1,200 hours of volunteer work. Micciche noted that group member Trudi Lombardi, who recently received Volunteer of the Year Award from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Persons (RSVP) of Delaware, alone contributed more than 100 hours, through her work with Meals on Wheels and in local libraries.
After the volunteers introduced themselves, Markell voiced her appreciation for all of the group’s work.
“I’m grateful to all of you for what you’re doing every day to make your community safe and a desirable place to live and to feel connected — that human spirit. It doesn’t exist in a lot of places. So many people don’t know their neighbors. There’s so much value and richness to that. And I think what we have here in Delaware is so special, and it’s not everywhere,” said Markell. “I give you a lot of credit for staying active and getting involved and making a difference.”
Millville Volunteer Rosemary Parsons said Markell’s visit to town hall was a special way to show that their efforts are recognized.
“I thought it was a wonderful gesture, and everyone really appreciated it. It lets you know that we do count,” said Parsons.
Markell then traveled to the Beebe Imaging Center in Millville to meet with the volunteers there. After introductions, she was given a small tour of the facility. Beebe volunteers have gone through training at Beebe Medical Center on conduct and procedures and assist patients with such tasks as paperwork.
The First Lady then traveled to James Farm to meet with volunteers from the Center for the Inland Bays. There, she took a ride down to the beach area, where she was introduced to volunteers and CIB officials. She was told about the group’s efforts to tag horseshoe crabs in order to assess their population. While on the beach, Markell also met some horseshoe crabs and diamondback terrapins.
Markell herself has been involved in volunteer groups for many years, through mentoring and other non-profit organizations.
“I just think that volunteering is a win-win, because it gives people a lot of meaning in their lives to be able to go out and help other people that require help,” she said. “But it’s also a huge way to help fill the need a lot of the challenges or positions that need to be filled in the state.”
“So, for instance, with this group, to go down and count the horseshoe crabs, it’s a vital statistic we all need to know and understand, and if we had to pay somebody to do that, it would cost the state or the county or the city a lot of money,” Markell continued.
“If you have people who want to find meaning in their lives and they can match it with a need in the community that really needs to be filled, it’s just a win-win all around. I just think it’s a way to help us overcome our economic challenges and a simultaneous way to give people meaning in their lives and also fill the needs in their community.”
In local libraries, free bookmarks can be found with a list of 10 reasons to volunteer and 10 ways to volunteer put out by the Governor and Mrs. Markell. The bookmarks, which were donated, are designed to help promote volunteerism throughout the state. Residents who are interested in volunteering may also visit volunteerdelaware.org to find local opportunities to help their community.
Markell said she hopes that Delawareans will become more active in their communities through volunteering for something that they are passionate about.
“I wouldn’t do what people say you should do. I would do what your heart tells you to do and get involved in something that you really find personal meaning in,” she said. “It’s a great way to meet people and connect to your community and also make a big difference.”