Earlier this week, during Volunteer Florida’s third annual emergency management partner convening meeting in Orlando, the organization recognized Heather Mazurkiewicz, Sonja Sanders and Bill Wealand for excellence in volunteerism.
Volunteer Florida CEO Vivian Myrtetus said, “Last year’s Hurricane Irma caused widespread devastation across the state. During this time of loss, we saw communities come together and we were reminded of the power of selflessness as so many people left behind their own families and homes to come to the aid of others. That spirit is reflected in the emergency management volunteers honored this week who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.”
Volunteer Florida Emergency Management Director Ken Skalitzky said, “Volunteers are critical to every community’s ability to respond to an emergency. They are at the front lines of an emergency situation from the time a threat emerges to well into the recovery phase. They are an integral part of the support systems that must be provided to those in need before, during and after an emergency situation. I commend Heather, Sonja and Bill for their exceptional commitment and dedication to their communities.”
The third annual emergency management partner convening meeting brought together more than 150 government, nonprofit and private sector emergency management leaders from more than 60 organizations across Florida.
About the Volunteers Recognized:
Heather is the Public Education Officer for the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District in Naples. She is the Program Manager for their Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Before, during and after Hurricane Irma, Heather led her team to volunteer more than 2,000 hours. The volunteers were used to evacuate elderly persons to shelters, they also staffed shelters, phone banks, food and water distribution sites, conducted community assessments and distributed community safety messages door to door. Additionally, she has trained more than 200 new CERT volunteers since the hurricane and has more than 70 people attend her monthly alumni meetings. Heather also serves as a volunteer firefighter.
Sonja is a volunteer with the American Red Cross. She began as a volunteer in 1990 at Eglin Air Force Base Hospital specializing in administrative support and patient care. She continues to volunteer with the American Red Cross serving as the disaster chair for the entire Disaster Leadership Team in the 10 northwestern counties of the Florida Panhandle. As the lead liaison to the Florida SECO, Sonja has deployed and responded to over 30 National Disaster Operations. Sonja was deployed in Tallahassee for Hurricane Irma for 13 weeks. She is also a nationally recognized Red Cross Disaster Instructor for multiple exercises that include training.
Bill started a disaster ministries program in Ohio through United Church of Christ (UCC). In 1998, he began a disaster ministries program in Florida through UCC. That same year, Bill became the UCC representative for the Florida VOAD. After Bill retired from United Church of Christ, he continued part time as the disaster ministries coordinator until 2017. In 2017, Bill began the emotional and spiritual care program through the Florida VOAD and coordinated his efforts through FEMA.