By Jen Butson
Gov. Jim Douglas recently held a reception for 57 of the state’s outstanding volunteers. Among them was Ruth Painter of Williston, whose lifetime of community service brought an honor with a long and weighty title: the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteer Community Service.
Painter has lived in the Williston area more than 50 years and has volunteered continuously. She worked part-time at Pine Ridge School helping children with reading, writing and spelling until 1995, when she started a private tutoring practice.
Now retired, she said that work never stopped her from volunteering. “I’ve been volunteering my entire life,” she said. “This isn’t something I just started doing now that I’m retired.”
Painter has combined her passions with helping others in many different volunteer programs. One of her favorite hobbies is gardening, and she has served the town’s Williston in Bloom program, which is in its third year and has twice took second place in national competitions.
Painter also works with Vermont Master Gardeners, visiting the Vermont Respite House in Williston every Wednesday evening. The group’s objective is to beautify the landscape around the facility, which serves terminally ill patients and their families. Painter said the group has been meeting for more than six years and always welcomes new volunteers.
“We want there to be a beautiful view from every window, and that takes a lot of work,” she said.
Painter’s volunteer activities include working with numerous local groups. She is a member of the Old Brick Church Board and helps out at Dorothy Alling Library, the Williston Historical Society, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity. She is a Justice of the Peace, serves on the boards of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, Vermont Campaign to End Hunger and Interfaith Affordable Housing.
At first, Painter was reluctant to receive her volunteer award and did not want her efforts publicized. She said she volunteers not for praise, but because helping is just an inherently good thing to do. She views herself as just another volunteer.
”Look at all the fathers and mothers working just as hard being coaches or soccer moms,” she said. “They’re volunteering too, and they do a lot of good.
“It about the common good, it’s not about the award,” she added. “I really enjoyed the people who attended (the ceremony). They had wonderful examples of efforts being done in their communities. I see volunteerism as the strength of America, and it is healthy here in Vermont.”
Douglas thanked and shook the hand of each volunteer at the ceremony.
“Every Vermonter has something valuable to share with his or her community,” Douglas said at the ceremony. “From time, money, skills or experience — there are an unlimited number of ways which each of us can contribute. In your service, many of you demonstrate much more than the ability to give.”
The award is sponsored by the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service.
Painter said everyone should volunteer. She said a lot of people feel like they don’t have the time, but when they combine their interests with an effort, they are dually rewarded.
"People who volunteer are generally happier people," she said. "Identify your interests and choose a program that suits you."