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Press Releases

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Three From SU Community Earn Governor's Volunteer Awards

Back row, from left: Delegate Jim Mathias, Sara Sutton, Matthew Heim, Crystal Scott, Jillian Williford and Dr. George Whitehead. Front row, from left: Erin Dean, Lynn Rising, Delegate Adelaide Eckardt, Liz Bellavance and Michael Piorunski.

SALISBURY, MD---From making sure local families have enough to eat to helping youth succeed in the classroom, three members of the Salisbury University community recently were honored for making Maryland a better place.

Longtime University supporter Liz Bellavance and ShoreCorps/PALS (Partnership for Adolescents on the Lower Eastern Shore) members Matthew Heim and Jillian Williford recently were honored as winners of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards.

Nominated by Michael Piorunski, director of SU’s ShoreCAN Volunteer Center, Bellavance received the Unsung Hero Award. She was instrumental in coordinating the organization’s annual Thanksgiving food drive, among other projects.

“Liz Bellavance was a force to be reckoned with,” said Piorunski. “With her assistance, 38 food baskets, along with 200-plus non-perishable and canned items, were distributed to people in Princess Anne (MD) and needy immigrant, migrant worker and Latino communities in Somerset County. Her service is unmatched and too often overlooked.”

As a member of Bienvenidos en Delmarva, an advocacy organization for immigrants serving as part of SU’s Business, Economic And Community Outreach Network (BEACON), Bellavance has long monitored legistlation affecting immigrant and Latino communities, working to protect their rights. She also has worked with ShoreCAN to develop a residential English as a Second Language tutoring program in Salisbury.

Nominated by Erin Dean, AmeriCorps program coordinator for ShoreCorps/PALS, Heim and Williford earned the National Service Award. A part-time member of Salisbury’s Promise alliance for youth, Heim has worked with the organization on several projects including one of its largest, “Gimme Five” Youth Day. He also coordinated the alliance’s first faith/school partnership open house at Oak Ridge Baptist Church, organized a holiday party for disadvantaged youth, and led a planning committee for a state park cleanup.

“Before joining AmeriCorps, Matt was already active in the Eastern Shore community,” said Dean. “As a graduate student of history, much of his volunteer experience has centered on preserving Maryland history.”

This included his time spent as a guest lecturer at Towson University, where he spoke on environmental threats to the distinct culture of Smith Island, MD, as well as his work as a historical researcher and archivist with the National Park Service at Assateague Island, MD.

Williford is a full-time staff member at Delmar Elementary School, where she assists teachers in fifth-grade activities and serves as a “coach” for small groups of students who need extra help. She is also an in-class mentor and has worked with an at-risk middle school girls group at Green Gate Farm in Princess Anne, MD.

“Jillian has been a wonderful asset to ShoreCorps/PALS as a cheerful, dedicated member with a heart for serving the community,” said Dean.

In addition, she has participated in activities including holiday parties for disadvantaged youth, a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless at Oak Ridge Baptist Church and several projects at the Holly Center, a state-run facility for people with disabilities.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at

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