RAVE Erie Awards to recognize student, adult volunteers

Erin McGarrity, Staff writer

On April 19, the Junior League of Erie and Get Connected will host the fifth annual RAVE Awards at the Ambassador Banquet and Conference Center.

RAVE stands for Recognize Achieving Volunteers in Erie. The event serves to thank and acknowledge volunteers in the community for all of their priceless contributions. The awards have honored over 100 volunteers with an aggregate total of over 50,000 service hours.

Awards are split into four categories: Junior (ages 7-12), Teen (ages 13-18), Young Adult (ages 18-24), and Adult (25 and over). Each winner receives a prize of $1,000, which he or she then donates to a charity, or charities, of his or her choice. Last year, the awards recognized over 30 nominees, including Michelle Ahrens, a member of the class of 2016.

Bethany Brun, the coordinator of Service Learning at Mercyhurst, nominated Ahrens in the Young Adult category, and she donated her entire prize to the House of Mercy in Erie.

Community sponsors, including Mercyhurst University, fund the event each year, and various other outlets help to spread the word. Among these outlets is Erie Together, a county-wide initiative that works to increase education and decrease poverty in Erie with help from local non-profits.

Nicole Wethli, assistant facilitator of Erie Together at Mercyhurst, spoke about the movement’s role in spreading the word about the RAVE awards.

“We work with a lot of social service agencies to collaborate and make sure good things are happening in the community,” said Wethli. “We always make sure to send all of our connections the information about these awards, because it’s a free opportunity to recognize volunteers.”

Wethli, a former member of the Junior League of Erie, said that each awards coordinator takes a certain number of nominees each year and personally calls them to inform them of their honor. Each nominee also receives a short biography in the booklet that is distributed at the awards dinner.

For Wethli, the biggest payoff of working with an event like this, first with the Junior League of Erie and now as a facilitator of Erie Together, is being able to give back to the volunteers that give the Erie community so much.

“That is really the biggest reward — being able to thank them publicly and let them know that we really do appreciate the time they give is huge,” said Wethli. “We would not be able to do what we do without our volunteers. They are the reason we exist.”