The Long Island Volunteer Center has collaborated with Bethpage State Park to create a new home for great humanitarians, by installing benches with inscribed plaques at the Carlyle on the Green clubhouse grounds of the Blue, Green and Yellow golf course tees of Bethpage Park. This commemoration of the founders of nonprofit organizations is known as the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame.
The official 2006 induction ceremony will take place on Feb. 5 at the Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage Park.
The Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame has been in existence since 2001, but not until recently did they have a permanent home where Long Islanders can get a chance to truly appreciate the work of these unsung heroes. Prior to this, the 38 current inductees were on display for a short time at various events, fairs, parks, banks and the like.
In addition, the Long Island Volunteer Center has launched its own website - www.livolunteerhalloffame.org. A list of past inductees, judges, program sponsors and organizers can be found on the site, along with the hall of fame's history and future.
An inductee is selected out of 12 different categories of volunteer activity including cultural arts, environment, philanthropy, homelessness, hunger and many others. In order to be elected, the founders of these nonprofit organizations must be selected unanimously by 12 judges, who are community leaders. Some of this year's inductees will include the Nassau-Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless, the United Way of Long Island and Splashes of Hope.
All this has been made possible by a number of people, but none more than Long Island Volunteer Center Executive Director Diana O'Neill and New York State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro. "It was her vision," O'Neill said of Castro's desire to bring this whole idea together. "The Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame is so grateful."
However, O'Neill is no slouch herself. She works full-time and has a family, but has still found time to put this whole organization together with her only compensation being the feeling of making others happy.
The Regional Director of State Parks John Norbeck was also instrumental in the creation of the Hall of Fame at Bethpage Park. He worked very closely with Castro and said, "Most people don't realize how many volunteers we actually have. It's not just the recognition. It provides service to the public with the benches."
According to O'Neill, this Volunteer Hall of Fame is the first of its kind, and she believes that a greater appreciation on the national level would add significance to the cause. However, she is tremendously proud of all that's been done since the program's inception on Long Island.
The idea for this revolutionary Hall of Fame came out of the United Nations International Year of Volunteers in 2001. So, there was a great initiative for that year, but as all the nonprofit leaders came together, they decided they wanted to keep the humanitarian spirit going. The idea was sprouted by Len Rotsderg who is ironically, not a nonprofit leader, but a media consultant for the EGC group. Since then, there has been a great team effort to build a foundation on that idea, with the culmination coming next month.
O'Neill has said many times that these volunteers are society's glue, and that their organizations' success is so significant to them.
"These leaders watch their organizations blossom and grow like a baby," she said.
But, she also emphasized that is not the reason they engage in this community activity. It's not for their own personal fulfillment, but it is to give back to society, and make this world a better place for everyone.