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Volunteer Recognition Banquets and Parties with a Twist

A Volunteer Thanksgiving
"Thanks for giving your time and talents" We used this theme this fall and held our volunteer banquet at a colonial venue serving the lunch portion of their turkey dinner. Our favor was an orange and brown, tumbler with cornucopia design.
Submitted on 10 November 2012 by Laura Dilts

A Gold Medal Luncheon
This year we are hosting an Olympic themed volunteer luncheon: GCMH Volunteers Go for the Gold. Each table at the luncheon will be decorated for a different country. Volunteers will be treated to a dessert from the country of the table they choose.
Submitted on 23 March 2012 by Erin S

No one is left out of the left/right game. Right?
Here's the game we played at our volunteer recognition luncheon this year to see who would get the centerpiece at each table. It was modified from another left/right story that I saw somewhere but I have no idea who the original author was.

The idea is that someone from each table is given a small item to hold before you start reading the story. Then, each time you say the word left, the item is passed from the person holding it to the person on his/her left. When you say the word right, the item is passed from the person holding it to the right. Whoever is holding it at the end of the story goes home with the centerpiece. Here's the story:

Oh no, I thought. I looked right at the calendar and realized that there were only a few months left until it would be National Volunteer week, which also meant that the volunteer luncheon was right around the corner. There were so many things to do! And since I like everything to be done just right, I was left with no choice but to get cracking. I knew I could not delay. I had to get right to it!

I had to come up with a theme so, right away I grabbed some of my party planning magazines and starting searching. What theme was left after so many years? I needed the right inspiration and I needed it fast. And then, it came to me, it was like it struck me right between the eyes. I called a good friend, Nancy Leftwich, and ran my idea past her. She said: You're right on the money. You've chosen a great theme! So, once I had the theme, I started to write a list of everything else that needed to be done. Decorations, program, entertainment, gifts, and speech, to name but a few. Even this left/right game. Lots to do, right? I mean, I didn't want to be a nervous wreck for the next couple of months worrying that something important would be left out or left to chance.

Right off I went to my file cabinet to check to see if there was anything left from last year that could be used. And right away I realized there was not much left. It was time to search for the right items to make this luncheon just perfect. No stone would be left unturned in my quest to make it perfect for my special volunteers.

When it was time to select the right invitations and make sure that the right people, that is the right volunteers and the right paid staff members were invited and that no one was left out, I went right to the computer and ran a list. When I was almost finished addressing the invitations, I realized that I had left June Cartwright off the list. How could I have forgotten her? I rightfully addressed her envelope right that minute.

A month or so later, I finally finished with all the planning and was left with a feeling of great accomplishment and pleasure. Nancy Leftwich called the night right before the luncheon wanting to know if I was ready. I told her there was nothing left to do. Everything got done right on time! And, I told her, if I'm really as good at planning as I think I am, there will be nothing left over at the end of the luncheon. (although I'm hoping there's some lunch leftovers so I can take my lunch home for dinner). So now I'm left with nothing to do but get your feedback. It was a great luncheon that has left a lasting impression on you and there was nothing missing or left out. Right?

Submitted on 10 May 2011 by Susan Smith

A Social Tea with a Special Guest
This year we decided to have a social tea for our volunteers. Our recreation staff will be dressed in blue and white to celebrate this years colour theme. We are serving different kinds of tea, along with tea sandwiches, salads, and to top it all off we are serving ice cream cake. What a treat it will be for the recreation staff to see our volunteers in a different "activity" as we usually see them working with our residents. What an fun time for our volunteers. We will end the celebration by offering entertainment with "Elvis" what a cad he is smoozing with the audience. I must say this is going to be a great event.
Submitted on 20 April 2011 by Lucy Parasiliti

Old Time Pizza
Each year for volunteer week, we plan an event to thank our volunteers, this year we are having a pizza party with our facility decorated like an old time pizza resturant.  "Our Volunteers are Supreme" will be the theme, four flavors of pizza, sodas, coffee and hand dipped ice cream with an assortment of toppings.  We are having two young boys play accordian music for intertainment, drawing for 40 door prises and giving each guest a round pizza cutter as a Thank you gift.  Each year we have an event and each year the volunteers talk about it for the rest of the year.
Submitted on 05 April 2011 by Susie Kapelovitz

This Luncheon is for the Birds!
We have our recongnition luncheon in February as that doesn't seem to be a busy month. I wanted to give my volunteers something they would use. Most of my volunteers don't need another item to dust. I went to a Wild Bird Center and bought everyone a bird feeder and feed to go inside. They loved it and I asked that everytime they feed the birds they think of those they serve and how they feed there hearts by giving their time. It was fantastic!
Submitted 10 March 2011 by Kathleen Gallagher

P.S. We Love You!
Our Auxiliary Appreciation Luncheon was themed "P.S. (name of your organization
Loves You." I waited for the after Valentine Day Sales, getting lots of Valentine decorations, and saved them until this year. Used glittered hearts for walls, placed garland down middle of tables, placed lotions and body spray in Valentine gift bags (which I also got "on sale" and saved til the event). Then tied blue, red and pink foil balloon hearts to the gift bags which were used as centerpieces, and were later used as door prizes. Entertainment was a local musician who sang love songs throughout dinner. Of course the meal had to have chocolate dessert.
Submitted 23 February 2011 by Colette Barth

A Special Holiday Party
I started a tradition last year of having our Volunteer Christmas party in our home and giving out plaques and Christmas presents to our volunteers. They get to met other volunteers that work in different departments and different shifts and we have Administration come and present plaques, also department heads that give a word of appreciation. It is a festive affair and everyone brings dessert, We also have a formal recognition during National Volunteer Week but the volunteers do not get the chance to really talk to each other because time is limited for everyone. I enjoy it because I love to decorate for my favorite season!
Submitted January 10 2011 by Alicia Armstrong

An Important Piece
Every year I put together a breakfast banquet during Sunday School in October for our volunteer Sunday School teachers. Last year my theme was "An Important Piece." I made silk corsages with a puzzle piece glued on, decorated the tables with candles and scattered puzzle pieces, and for a recognition gift, gave each teacher a hand-decorated photo frame from the dollar store with antique buttons and puzzle pieces.
Submitted October 21 2010 by Anna Borders

Sundaes on Wednesday
For volunteer appreciation week this year I am planning an ice cream sundae party at a local ice cream parlor. The invitation will say...Sundaes on Wednesday...You are important to us every day of the week! It will be a "drop by" function and I'll be there to treat them to an ice cream sundae!
Submitted March 5 2010 by Becki Swindell

Southern Hospitality
As a new southern-born volunteer coordinator at a historic site in Pennsylvania, I felt it was important to connect with my volunteers and make them feel comfortable with me. So for our recognition event this year, I held a "Southern Comfort" reception which included southern-themed decor, homemade southern desserts, sweet tea, even hand-cranked ice cream! Favors were bandanas and beautiful folding fans (period correct so they can use them on tour!). This way we could all have a good laugh (they love the accent), good food, and they can get to know me while still having a fun time.
Submitted by Hannah

Volunteers Make a World of Difference
We usually set up a theme for each year so that we might set our recognition luncheon and our small gifts for the volunteers around the theme. This year we have decided the them should be, "Volunteers Make a World of Difference." We're inviting the volunteers to dress in their dress of heritage to blend diversity into our program.
Submitted February 15 2010 by Maria Strmsek

Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness
This year we chose the theme "Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness." We served a breakfast themed brunch and had our director sing a few songs to our guests. On the appreciation certificates that each volunteer was presented with, we printed the words, "Volunteers plant the seeds of kindness, thank you for planting yours with us!" As a gift to each of our volunteers, we had a wildflower seed packet, a lapel pin with flowers on it, and a personalized chocolate bar. To decorate the room, we had a photo of each volunteer in a flower frame on the wall, vases with brightly colored flowers on each table, and white table clothes to make the room bright, inviting and festive. Everyone had a great time!
Submitted August 11 2009 by Amanda Reid

Wizard of Oz
This year's banquet we did a take on the "Wizard of Oz." Everything we did we did around the story. We had a skit that the staff performed; "Looking for home". Dorothy was looking for a home to volunteer and along the way met the scarecrow who needed committment to volunteer, the tinwoman was looking for the heart and compassion for volunteering and the lion needed courage. It was fun and if you want more on this please feel free to email me at: kaenan @
Submitted on May 5, 2009

Volunteer "All Stars"
We honored our all star volunteers with a baseball themed event. Everyone got a t-shirt that said "Children's Ministry All Stars." The tables were covered with green and then a masking taped diamond and bases were used to decorate. We had hot dogs, nachos & cracker jacks with vendors yelling "ice cream." Tickets were drawn for a local baseball team.
Submitted on May 5, 2009 by Jamie Barwikowski

"A World of Thanks"
was the theme for our volunteer dinner last year.  I ordered globe balloons that we filled with helium and tied to logoed mugs and used those for table centerpieces and door prizes.  I filled the mugs with fortune cookies and swiss chocolate. The dinner buffet featured foods that represented different countries:  a stir fry bar, an Italian pasta bar,an American barbeque station and French dessert samples complete with an Eifel Tower. For personal favors I found molded chocolate in the shape of a globe. For entertainment, I had a high school teacher present a travelog slide program of her recent trip overseas.  When we presented awards I recognized our volunteers "World Class" service to our guests. Our volunteer of the year was presented with items made in other countries. Many volunteers said it was the best meal and program we had ever had.
Submitted on February 6, 2009 by  Jayne Rice

"A Year to Celebrate" Recognition Event
I themed our annual event as a Birthday Party for all the volunteers, I set up twelve tables, each themed for a month of the year. The volunteers were seated at the table for their birthday month. January was a New Year's theme, February was Valentine's Day, September was "Back to School" with books and rulers, and so on. The gift bag for each table fit the month using colored lunch sacks and appropriate treats or small items in each one.  I ordered birthday items from Oriental Trading Company including rubber duckies with appropriate themes or birthday party hats on them. I hired a clown to pose for pix with the 'birthday kids' and she also provided wands, balloon hats and balloon animals that she created.  Photos were taken in front of a 6 foot blow-up birthday cake also ordered from Oriental Trading.  Of course there was a birthday cake and cupcakes for dessert!  This event was inexpensive because of advance planning and being able to purchase the tablecloths, holdiay or seasonal napkins and table decorations on clearance.  I also brought decorations from my own home to use, too. It was great to see the volunteers running around to each table to look at them and check out other people's birthday bags!
Submitted on September 30, 2008 by Tammy Nodland

Casual Barbecue Offers Time for the Personal Touch
For our Volunteer Appreciation event, we had a fun and casual BBQ.  We hired a great Marimba band that added a lively vibe to the BBQ.  The band invited audience participation so people could try out the marimba or congos, dance, or just listen. We had door prizes (gift cards to local restaurants, movie theaters, bookstores, and coffee cards, as well as some nice wine from local vineyards.)  We did not include a formal recognition ceremony due to feedback we had received from volunteers at previous events.  We felt it was important to recognize EVERY volunteer rather than single people out.  So we presented the awards to them individually.  It really worked out well.  No one felt left out if they didn't receive a reward because we all expressed our appreciation to them personally.  Staff and volunteers really had time to mingle and get to know each other better. We had done formal banquets in the past - but everyone loved the relaxed and fun atmosphere so we will definitely do this again!
Submitted on August 8, 2008 by Sarah Varick

Angelic Celebration
I work as an educational assistant at a public school.  We wanted to acknowledge the work from our volunteers.  I held a volunteer celebration with the theme "Volunteers are...our Everyday Angels." It was all angel-themed--even the door prizes!  I used cotton batting as clouds, blue table cloths as the sky, and purchased small angel things from the dollar store for each table. It was a POPULAR theme and a hit!
Submitted on 29 April 2008 by Tammy Chambers

Winter WONDERland
For our annual Cheers for Volunteers Dinner, our theme was "Our WONDERful Volunteers."  We turned our multi-purpose room in the museum into a winter wonderland filled with fake snow, icicle displays, a snowman and other holiday-themed decor.  We had a photographer on site that took pictures of each of the volunteers and placed them in a keepsake frame with our logo as their special gift. I had snowglobes with an image of the museum inside created and we contacted a number of local businesses for gift donations like gift cards, mugs, tickets, etc. We even received items from the local sports teams to use as giveaways. Finally, I had a chocolatier make chocolate-covered apples for each volunteer and they also received a personalized, dated Christmas ornament. Starting early with the planning allowed me to get several items donated which made me come about 25% under budget.  I have already started for this year's event.
Submitted on 12 March 2008 by Kimberly Moore

Magical Moment
"Celebrate the Magic of Volunteering" was the theme to our 2007 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. I'm sure it wasn't my original idea, so THANK YOU to whomever shared it! Our colors were red, silver and black with stars as accents, we made centerpieces out of top hats with curling ribbon, onion grass and crumpled foil picks (they looked great!), had star-shaped memo holders as favors, and our entertainment was a magician! It was a hit!
Submitted on 15 January 2008 by Traci Lato

Books Make Themes Memorable
Our volunteer rescue squad was established in 1940, but just last year we began using a "theme" to spice up our annual Banquet & Installation of Officers. The theme that year was "Volunteering." I ordered 200 copies of "Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul" at the non-profit cost directly from the publisher, and a local business was kind enough to fund this purchase. Each squad member and guest received a book, and the keynote speech was geared around volunteering. This was a hit!

This year our theme was "Mentoring to Make a Difference," and this year's book was "Mentor: The Kid & the CEO" (the purchase funded once again by a local business.) Tables were decorated with candle-lit hurricane lamps, surrounded by rings of live greenery and fresh mint sprigs for the centerpiece--the "Mentor" theme smelled wonderful! We also spread Andes' mints around the centerpieces. Our speakers both gave outstanding speeches about their personal mentoring experiences and encouraged everyone to become a mentor, whether in a volunteer agency, in a school, at home, etc.

The gift of a book as a memento makes our event's message/theme more personal and remembered. Plus we encourage our members and guests to "pay it forward" by giving their book to someone else after they've read it.  
Submitted on 15 October 2007 by Barbara Branham

Good Fortune
At our annual dinner this year we went with the theme "Volunteers: Our Good Fortune Since 1972!” I was able to order fortune cookies with personalized messages, and 1/2 pint takeout boxes from Fancy Fortune Cookies. Each volunteer received a box with two cookies (two different messages), a sticker with our logo and theme, and some ribbon to add a little color. I would definitely recommend Fancy Fortunes -- they have reasonable prices, allow you to create five free messages per order, and are very easy to work with!  Plus, being able to track my order on-line was a great stress reliever.
Submitted on 27 April 2007 by Eva Treuer

Special Themes, Donated Desserts
Our nature center is occasionally rented out for special events. For our volunteer party, I have one of the caterers donate an hors d'oeuvre party with desserts for 150 guests. This year our theme is ponds, and the round tables will look like giant lily pads. Our preschool will make giant bugs to put on the pillars. Because I freed up the budget for food, I now can give a better gift to the volunteers. I always look for something useful, so this year we have a local artist/member make pottery plates with a turtle on them.
Submitted on 17 April 2007 by Laurie Haig

"Oui" appreciate you!
A way for managers to show appreciation for support staff! Set up the breakroom or lunchroom with tables and chairs, using real tablecloths and real dishes. Use stemware for juice, etc. Serve quiche, fresh fruit and croissants, and have the managers serve these items wearing berets. Borrow a cd of French music from the local library and play that during the breakfast. This is a personal touch to let staff know how much you appreciate them! And if everyone chips in (all the managers), it should be inexpensive to do as well!
Submitted on 10 April 2007 by Crystal Brown

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
In Louisiana, food is everything to my volunteers. Each year I throw a crawfish boil for my annual volunteer recognition party. I'm afraid if I decided to serve something different, there would be a riot because everybody looks forward to the traditional fare. This year additional foods have been added to recognize our culture -- jambalaya and fried catfish. We don't have a special theme other than Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!). I usually have around 150 volunteers show up, which includes our volunteer Board members. It gives everyone the opportunity to socialize in a relaxed enviroment.
Submitted on 3 April 2007 by Bonnie Bordelon

Where Were You In '72
This was the theme of our annual volunteer banquet. Our organization is 35 years old this year. We dressed up in the 70's. The programs were just like a 1972 yearbook. Our place mats were a collage of volunteer pictures with the other side written notes from the staff just like we did in our yearbooks. We had a "pet rock" for a favor. I was able to download a box from the internet and put our logo on it. We put them together and put in rocks and instructions. We also made a set of the "Price is Right" and gave away a door prize for the winner.
Submitted on 13 March 2007 by Mindy Sakmar

A Feather in Your Cap
Last year for our Annual Meeting and Recognitions Dinner we used the theme
"put a feather in your caps ". On each table we made top hats out of
construction paper with fabric bows, and under the hats there was a fabric
square to match the bow on that particular hat. We had feathers in each
hat. The following items were weaved into our presentation throughout the
evening. 1) "The Recognition Committee would also like to let everyone one
to know that we are presenting pins for Membership Milestones for 25 years
and up. It has been a custom of many different groups of people all over the
world, including Native Americans, to put a feather in the headgear of the
warrior for each enemy defeated in battle. So we honor our volunteers for
their victories large and small in service to the girls of Montachusett
Council." 2) We have over ___ volunteers who need to put a "feather in
their cap" for helping girls reach their dreams.
Submitted on 6 March 2007 by Laura Dilts, Manager of Adult Development Girl Scouts of Montachusett, Council, Inc.

Volunteer Carnival
This year, after thinking about what I could do special for our volunteers, I decided to do a Carnival Theme. I'm going to have Carnival games with lots of prizes. The volunteers earned the tickets for the games by their volunteer hours last year: beginning with five tickets just for being a volunteer, and then one ticket for every 50 hours of volunteer time. I made little ticket books for each volunteer with their names on them and the appropriate number of tickets in each book. I then coordinated with our Nutrition Services to provide carnival type food at the party. I'm hoping to find a resident clown in our midst to show up unannounced to have more fun with our volunteers. After the food and games, we will present the year awards.
Submitted on 2 February 2007 by Melissa Maxon

Themed Power Point Presentations to Highlight Honorees
Every year at my recognition luncheon, I make two powerpoint presentations. The first is a slideshow of pictures that relate to the luncheon theme. For instance at our luau, pictures of the Hawaiian islands were shown on a screen as guests were arriving. The next slide show highlights the individuals receiving Years of Service Awards. This slide show is playing while that person is being honored. On this show, I feature a picture of the volunteer, where they work, and I also have the volunteer submit some individual quotes about volunteering that is included on their slide. The guests love the tidbits about the volunteer, and it also allows me to highlight all the honorees, even if they cannot make the event.
Submitted on 25 October 2006 by Amy Wade

"Treasuring" Volunteers
Our Volunteer Appreciation was super successful again this year. I chose a theme which was "You are a Treasure." The tables were decorated with small treasure chests filled with gold coin candies and Mardi Gras beads (bought at 75% off). The invitations were made on a scroll with a treasure chest on the bottom corner. Best of all, our event was held at the Treasure Ship Restaurant, which is really a large replica of an old pirate ship sitting on the lagoon! I had a large treasure chest filled with gift certificates for each volunteer -- nice gifts such as dinners, movies, car washes, haircuts, manicures, etc. Several volunteers were honored with certificates and plaques for longevity also. Now to top that for next year!
Submitted on 4 August 2006 by Susan Champion, Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Emerald Coast Hospice, Panama City, Florida

Hats Off To You
The Volunteer Services Department paid tribute to our valuable volunteers by honoring them at our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast -- “Hats Off To You” -- April 4, 2006. Crazy hats decorated by the West Palm Beach Specialized Adult Day Center were suspended from the ceiling, while beautiful orchids in black top hats complemented the theme. Our volunteers were arrayed in decorated hats to add to the festivities, and a gift certificate was awarded for the best decorated hat. We feasted on strawberry crepes topped with cream, and lox and bagels while viewing highlights of volunteers over the past year.
Submitted on 21 July 2006 by Beverley Penver

The Essential Piece
This was the title of our volunteer recognition dinner this year to celebrate the connection our volunteers have to our organization and the contribution they make to our business. Banquet tables were decorated with white table cloths and black napkins. Scattered in the center of the table were pieces of jigsaw puzzles that I had gotten at a local thrift store. Favors were gold puzzle piece pins along with ink pens from our business that were used to fill out the crossword puzzles at each place setting. I had created the puzzle using trivia clues about our business and its founder. The puzzles were easy to create using the help of a free website for making personalized puzzles. During the recognition I had asked department leaders to briefly talk about the support their departments receive from our volunteer staff.

Our volunteer of the year (the one who donates the most hours during the year) received a jigsaw puzzle made from a picture of our facility.
Submitted on 19 July 2006 by Jayne Rice, Honeywell Center

May 2005 Hot Topic provides ideas
The topic of banquets was addressed in our May 2005 hot topic, visit the responses to receive additional ideas.

"Mmmm, Mmmm, Good"
Our theme was based around the Cambpell's soup theme. We purchased red and white coffee mugs printed to look like a soup can, with the title of our agency at top, and "Cream of Volunteer Soup" printed on the front, with special directions for volunteer use on the side. We served two different types of soup with our dinner, placed soup cans on the tables with red and white carnations, had red napkins and white table cloths, and one of our staff made a life size soup can for the stage. We photocopied pictures from the Campbell's Soup web page, our participants colored them and decorated our walls. Our volunteers receiving special recognition received a copy of the book, Chicken Soup for the Volunteer Soul.
Submitted on 13 March 2006 by Cindy Blackstone, The Janet Pomeroy Center, San

Restaurant Samplings
For the past two years we have had a very successful dinner called a "Taste of the Town".  I contact many local restaurants explaining the wonderful event and who the event is for, and fortunately many have agreed to participate, for free!!!  The first year we had as many as 16 restaurants including everything from gourmet lamb chops and seasoned shrimp, to different ethnic foods such as vegetarian lo mein, to meatball sandwiches, to the most delicious bread pudding. 

The restaurants are asked to donate any item from their menu and are welcome to participate and serve in the event.  The guests are served a small portion from any restaurant station. There are small plates provided at each station, staff and/or restaurant employees serve the volunteers. Volunteers can return to any station as many times as
they want. 

As for decorating, we have used red and white checkered tablecloths and asked the staff to wear white aprons with a chef hat. We have also had a French theme with pastel colors and each server wears a scarf with their apron.  All in all, everyone leaves very satisfied, including staff and the restaurant employees. After the event I always send a certificate of appreciation to the participating restaurants. The event does take some work, but has been well worth the effort.
Good Luck!
Submitted by Rose Lynch

Any state bordering Louisiana seems to celebrate Mardi Gras--so for my volunteer recognition lunch we did a Mardi Gras theme. This is fabulously inexpensive--beads, coins and masks are really cheap decorations that can be bought in bulk on-line. I made centerpieces by planting pansys (which are conveniently Mardi Gras colored) in hand-painted green and purple terra cotta pots (which took me only one afternoon to do) and then displaying coins and masks on the tables. Each volunteer got beads as they walked in the door and we had zydeco music playing in the background. The volunteers loved it!

We "raffled" off the centerpieces to a person at each table by asking an organization-related trivia question to each group. The person with the closest answer took home the planter. This helped the volunteers learn about our nation-wide program as well as how important their service is to our organization.

For gifts, I took iron-on transfers and placed a volunteer related design on tote bags bought in bulk inexpensively. We filled these bags with donated goodies from area merchants (e.g. note pads from a printing company, pens and keychains from an insurance company and sweets donated by a distributor). Hand-making things really doesn't take that much time and can save you tons of money. I also think the volunteers were touched by the hard work put in to recognizing them.
Submitted by Susan, Director, RSVP, Arkansas

My Volunteer Valentine
We host several recognition events each year, but one of the favorites is our annual "My Volunteer Valentine" Tea Party which began last year. This year, I started out by sending nomination forms to all staff in the medical center asking them to submit the name of a volunteer who exemplifies extraordinary caring and commitment, along with a brief explanation of why this person is deserving of this "Volunteer Valentine" honor.

I designed the invitation on Microsoft Publisher, and sent it to all our volunteers, as well as to our Hospital Executive Team, and everyone who nominated a volunteer. We hosted the event in our main auditorium, complete with assorted finger sandwiches and mini desserts, as well as several types of hot and cold teas. At each table we placed a special gift: we purchased sets of demitasse cups with saucers at our local 99 cent store and filled each cup with three different flavored tea bags, and valentine candy. We wrapped them in pink cellophane tied with ribbon. We covered our tables with white table cloths and used pink and red runners. Red and pink Valentine stuffed Teddy Bears (purchased at our local Big Lots store) were our centerpieces, and pink and red paper hearts of all sizes filled the room.

When the guests arrived, they were given a "Volunteer Word Search" game to play just for fun. The completed games were collected by one of our staff members, and served as their entry into the prize drawing which took place later in the event. We had music playing overhead (including Frank Sinatra's "My Funny Valentine") and topped it off with entertainment by a harpist who was an employee. After all the food and socializing, we awarded the "My Volunteer Valentine" honorees with certificates and a gift, by reading the words that had been submitted by employees during the nomination process. We also drew names for the several prizes that we had, and the stuffed Valentine Bears at each table were won by those at each table who's birthday was closest to Valentine's Day. It was a great event!
Submitted on 27 February 2004 by Liz Mirzaian, Director, Volunteer and Senior Resources, Glendale Adventist Medical Center, California

"Our Volunteers Rock"
Our theme was the 1950's. From decorations of black and white checkered tablecloth, fold out ice cream floats, and pink place mats and plates. We traditionally have a breakfast. Staff that helped were encouraged to wear their poodle skirts and 50's garb. We also invited volunteers to do the same. We had a guitarist and vocalist play and sing music of the era. Our certificates kept the theme with "You Rock".
Submitted on 20 January 2004 by Betty Coyle, Hiawatha Care Center, Iowa, USA

Shining Stars
Deciding on a theme can be a treat for a Volunteer Coordinator.  One year we decided to recognize our volunteers with a late luncheon titled, "Our Volunteers are Shining Stars".  The theme took on a Hollywood/Academy Awards motiff.  The colors chosen were black, gold and white.  A long red carpet (a remnant) was laid out for our stars to walk on as they entered the event.  We even had a "paparazzi" there taking pictures (staff simply taking pictures to record the event). Bouquets of black, white, and gold latex balloons were placed everywhere.  Black tablecloths with gold overlays (gold lame cloth purchased from a remnant store) decorated each table.  For the backdrop, a "hill" was cut-out of donated ply-wood and painted black, white letters cutout of foam board were placed on the hill spelling out "HOLLYWOOD".  Our Christmas lights were strung out to resemble twinkling stars.  Each of our volunteers was given a T-shirt with a star shooting across the front stating "I am a Shining Star Volunteer of the Costa Mesa Senior Center". They all seemed to enjoy the shirt.  We chose a shirt as that year's gift so that they could be recognized in an everyday setting. Those being specially honored for their services were given a certificate and an "Oscar" statuette, inexpensively purchased from a local party store.  All in all the was a gala affair that has yet to be forgotten.
Submitted on 16 November 2003 by Karyn Canett, Senior Center/Volunteer Coordinator, Costa Mesa Senior Center, CA/USA

Volunteers are Gems
For our Volunteer Recognition Dinner last spring, we used the theme, "Our Volunteers are Gems!" We used jewel tone colors to decorate. The centerpieces were jeweltoned candle holders with the battery operated candle lights inside. At each place setting, we decorated with a bookmark that had plastic jewels glued to it and read: "Our Volunteers are Like Gems!"

Amethyst-Volunteers are like amethyst because they are vivid and sincere.  They create stability, calmness and tranquility, even in the midst of a rowdy group of children.
Diamond-Volunteers are like diamonds because they are brilliant, courageous and tough. Volunteers are highly prized and loved.
Emerald-Volunteers are like emeralds because they are intense and soothing. They reflect growth, remove weariness and soothe the soul-they are highly valued.
Ruby-Volunteers are like rubies because they are glowing and intense.  They are wise, creative and peaceful.
Sapphire-Volunteers are like sapphires because they are clear and precious.  They are brilliant, precise, happy and bring blessings.

Above all, our volunteers are valuable, beautiful, tough, priceless and truly treasured. It was a huge success as the volunteers truly felt valued and appreciated.
Submitted on 14 October 2003 by Bethany Swickrath, Membership and Community Education Manager, Girl Scouts of Appleseed Ridge, Inc., OH, USA

Beach Party
We used a beach party theme for our annual meeting and decorated beach pails with the names of each out-going board member, along with the agency's name. The we filled them with bright, inexpensive sunglasses, candy bars, bottles of bubbles, and a water gun with a note that said "Thanks for all your hard work! Now it's time to play!"
Submitted on 20 June 2003 by Katherine Scoggins, Executive Director, Shepherd Center of Kingsport TN, USA

Treasures in the Sand
Our theme this year was "Treasures in the Sand." We handmade the invitations which are always a hit. Volunteers appreciate a personal invitation. The tables were decorated with blue paper, as the ocean. In the middle, brown sugar spread out with all the treasures (peanuts, gummy worms, frog candy, hard rock candy--for the gems,) We made treasure boxes out of cakes..spilling out were candy necklaces and gold coins. This was also on the tables. We made personalized placemats (tan color with a sea shell and waves on, scalloped edging) and we wrote the theme on the mat. Staff and students wrote their thanks on them and we laminated the mats. We also made little bottles of bath salts to go by their place settings. The school staff donated a dish for the luncheon. Every year I give out a "life saver award." The principal buys a plant for each one of the volunteers. We have a couple kids come in and read a poem, choir comes in and sings a few songs. We invite the Volunteer Coordinators from the District Administration, as well as a School Board Member.
Submitted on 27 May 2003 by D Nevala, Volunteer Coordinator, Roosevelt Elementary, Washington, USA

Magic of Volunteering
A few years ago you may remember that a popular theme for volunteer recognition was "The Magic of Volunteers". To use the theme in decorating we bought black plastic top hats and fanned red, black and white paper out of them. We always need to name the groups of children and the volunteers to be seated at a particular table. The table markers were in the shape of a white-gloved hand where the name was written and from the hand came a magic wand. Red table clothes and black placemats set off the room. This was one of my favorites.
Submitted by Lynn Guerra, Volunteer Coordinator, Holy Family Institute, Pennsylvania

Picturing Volunteers
This past year at our Volunteer Banquet, I created a PowerPoint program (which is similar to a slide show except you use a computer) with pictures of our volunteers. I began by searching and locating many old photos of our volunteers and ran around the hospital taking new ones. I also took pictures of staff members holding signs up that said "Thank You Volunteers". We had enough pictures to go along with three songs. The songs used were POINTS OF LIGHT by Randy Travis, HEAL THE WORLD by Michael Jackson and YOUR SIMPLY THE BEST by Tina Turner The presentation basically three parts. The first part had pictures then a slide came up that said, We couldn't do it without you. Then we had several pictures that we had created as if we didn't have volunteers. We had the gift shop closed with a person peering in. We had the adult day center closed. We piled up mail. Showed empty escort seats. Things like that. Next slide was We Couldn't do it without REALLY! Then we went on to more pictures. The last section of pictures was for the song "Your simply the best". While this song played, pictures of employees ran with them holding up the sign "thank you volunteers". The last said, Thank you Volunteers for all you do. And then this was the end.
Submitted by Susan Senglaub, Manager of Volunteer Services, Holy Family Memorial

Four Goals
When I plan my yearly Volunteer Recognition Breakfast I keep four points in mind that must happen: 1.Educate 2. Inspire 3. Recognize 4.Have fun. Each year this event is the most successful!
Submitted by Dee Martin, Director of Volunteer Services, Bedford, NH

A Royal Thank You
Each year, we honor our dedicated volunteers with a dinner, hence the "Volunteer Recognition Dinner." This year I really struggled for a theme. I came up with "A Royal Thank You." A bit hokey, I know, but it really turned out great. I stuck with royal colors, red, blue, purple, gold, & green. Centerpieces were crowns, beads, tiaras, and large cracked glass vases with royal colored Betta Fish and gemstones. I would have liked to find a "Court Jester" as entertainment but settled for Period music. Lovely royal beads also added a rich touch. In addition I recognized volunteers that were exceptional "Knights in Shining Armor!"
Submitted by Crystal Lybarger, Youth & Volunteer Director, American Red Cross

Volunteer Tea
This year, for the first time ever, our school district held a volunteer tea. All district volunteers were invited, and we had enough special mugs and book bags on hand for everyone. We assumed a maximum attendance of 100, but only really expected about 30 people or so. Each elementary, junior high and administrative department selected two "extra special" volunteers to receive additional recognition at the tea. The high school was allowed to select four people due to their much larger volunteer population. We called the additional recognition the "Starfish Award", presenting each of those volunteers with a personalized certificate (featuring the "Starfish Story") and a starfish pin. The event was held in our school district's board room and we decorated using a beach theme, playing Jimmy Buffet music in the background. As each person was called up to receive their award, I read a brief bio about them, submitted by the school or department that nominated that person. Our superintendent gave them their certificate and pin, and another person took a picture of them. We had a very good turnout (over 60 people), everyone enjoyed the "heavy hors d'oeuvres," and people were thrilled to be recognized.
Submitted by Therese Caldwell, Volunteer Services Liaison, North Kitsap School District, Poulsbo, WA

As part of the annual luncheon, we developed a video showing pictures of all the volunteers. We included short interviews with new, working, senior and youth volunteers. The video opened with wonderful music showing areas of the hospital affected by volunteers. We closed with pictures of our volunteers in the chapel. It was very moving. The volunteers loved the new idea.
Submitted by Patricia A. Chambers, Director of Volunteer Services, St. Mary's Hospital, Huntington, WV

Goals for Successful Recognition Event
This isn't a success story but rather a way to look at "success." I think there ought to be SEVERAL goals for a "successful" recognition event, especially since we are busy people and can't afford for our time to be spent on an activity that accomplishes only one thing! So, how about these for a start? A successful recognition event needs to:

    1. Say thank you for anything and everything volunteered to the organization during the past year (the organization's obligation).
    2. Have everyone volunteering the above feel appreciated (the volunteers' perspective).
    3. Recommit (re-enthuse) volunteers to the coming year of work and, potentially, to recruit new volunteers for vacant positions.
    4. Educate everyone attending--frontline volunteers, paid staff, executives, board-level volunteers--about the scope, meaning and value of volunteer services to the organization, and about the diversity and skills of who volunteers.
    5. Acknowledge the contributions of (some) paid staff supervisors to the success of volunteers.
    6. Report the outcomes of volunteer effort (not just to proclaim the hours spent in effort).
    7. Challenge all volunteers through recognition of the special accomplishments of a selected few.
    8. Gain publicity for the organization and for the volunteer program.
    9. Allow volunteers a chance to have fun and meet one another (something they do otherwise only with people on their shift).
    10. Gain respect for the volunteer program and the director of it.

Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Court Capers
One of the most unique volunteer recognition events I attended was "Court Capers". Volunteers were arrested for "giving freely of their time, talents, and treasures." The invitation was a warrant for their arrest, the event took place in a court room. There was a judge, a jury (of staff), a police officer (with a wonderful voice who sang a personalized song to the tune of "Thanks for the memories") and a baliff who sang "Here come the judge - Here come the judge". There were a few outstanding volunteers who were asked to stand and the volunteer coordinator (in the witness stand) would state how they were guilty of the crime. The jury then voted "guilty" and the judge sentenced them to a free dinner with door prizes. (The banquet room was right next door decorated with police hats, badges, etc. on the tables.) It was very different but very comical and enjoyable.
Submitted by Debra Cheek, Volunteer Coordinator, Moffitt Cancer Center

For the past several years, we have conducted a volunteer potluck supper for our volunteers. The theatre provides beverages and paper utensils and each volunteer contributes a dish. It's a "stand-up" meal so everybody mingles and tries lots of new things. We publish the favorite recipes in the theatre's newsletter.
Submitted by Jill Rafferty, Education & Volunteer Coordinator, Capital Repertory Theatre

The ABC's of Volunteerism
The first volunteer recognition dinner I planned had the theme of 'The ABC's of Volunteerism' (Appreciation, Benevolence, Chocolate!) I had a chalkboard in the room with the ABC's written on it and an apple drawn on with chalk. Used as centerpieces on the tables were small school slates, a wooden ruler, pencils, and bottles of glue and crayons. At each place setting were two pieces of chocolate candy--a Hershey Kiss and a Hershey Hug. I told the volunteers that 'A' stood for the Appreciation we felt for their wonderful service; 'B' represented Benevolence (an inclination to do charitable or kind acts--what they gave with their donation of time); and 'C' represented Chocolate, the sweetness of their contributions and we were giving them a hug and a kiss.

With a theme of ABC's and school, I told the volunteers their assignment for the evening was a quiz entitled 'Getting To Know You'. I gave them 10 minutes of Mix and Mingle time to gather signatures from fellow volunteers to fill in the spaces on their quizzes. The quiz had 20 items listed and each person had to find someone an only child, had a fried egg for breakfast this morning, is allergic to penicillin, volunteers for more than three organizations, was born in the same month as you, uses the same brand of deodorant as you, has been a volunteer for more than 10 years, likes grits and fried okra, has had their picture on the front page of a newspaper, always twists an Oreo apart and eats the icing first, etc, etc, etc.

It was a bit zany, but was a good ice breaker and many didn't want to stop when I said time was up. I gave a shiny red apple to the volunteer who had the most lines filled in. Volunteers were then recognized and thanked for their valued gift of time in serving others. One volunteer's name was drawn to receive our grand prize of the evening--'a brand new washer and dryer' (washcloth and towel!). The evening was lighthearted and fun for the group.
Submitted by Jayne Rice, Director of Community Programming and Volunteers, Honeywell Center

Photo from "Younger Years"
I asked volunteers to provide a photo of themselves in "younger years" and had photos made into slides. I wrote a little "hint poem" about each slide, relating the hint to the volunteer's service position, and we played a guessing game at the National Volunteer Week Recognition Luncheon. Big-band music played in the background as each slide was shown and the "hint poem" read. Prizes were given for the most correct guesses. Our volunteers had such fun seeing themselves and others in the slides and enjoyed guessing "who's who". The photos were returned.
Submitted by Kelley Perkins, CDVS, Volunteer Coordinator, Seven Rivers Community Hospital, Crystal River, Florida

Theme for Recognition Dinner
We select a theme for our annual volunteer recognition banquet for our Senior Center and Mealsite volunteers. This year our theme is " Volunteers are worth a million." In keeping with the "so you want to be a Millionaire" craze we are going to have our own version of the game show, with the questions relating to volunteerism, nutrition or aging. Our placemats, nutcups, table decorations, program covers and volunteer certificates will all have a " money" motif. And of course we'll decorate with the color of money--green!
Submitted by K. Schutte, Mealsite Manager, Marinette County Elderly Services, (Wisconsin)

Invitations Colored by Kindergarten Students
We were looking for a way to invite our volunteers to our annual Volunteer Recognition. We wanted something special but not expensive. We enlarged some graphics with simple designs from our computer. We used the computer and copy machine to put the text on the invitation with "colored Mrs.....'s kindergarten class" at the bottom. They were then sent to the schools to be colored by the children and then they were mailed to the volunteers. They were a huge hit and now our volunteers look forward to receiving one each year. Submitted by Ruth Anne Bleakney, Senior Center Director, Milford Senior Center

Ice Cream Sundaes Show How Volunteers Help a Program
I work for a Community Action Agency and we rely on volunteers for everything from filing to riding school buses. We celebrated an event two weeks ago, where each of the program directors discussed how volunteers helped to run the programs. While each director talked, their staff helped to build brownie sundaes. One program started with the foundation (plates), the next put on the brownies, then the whipped topping, cherries and nuts until we had 150 sundaes. It symbolized visually how our volunteers affect each part of our organization and by working together we can accomplish great things! It was very well received and the brownies even tasted great!
Submitted by Teresa Miller Keck

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