Two Larchmont women are among the eight volunteers being honored for their service on Friday, April 23 at a Volunteer Spirit Award Celebration hosted by the Volunteer Center of the Westchester United Way. Jennifer Jensen was nominated by the Sheldrake Environmental Center and will receive the Going Green Award. Monica Gray was nominated by the Mental Health Association of Westchester County and will receive the Social Justice Award.
The United Way featured the two women on their website with the following accounts:
Volunteer Has Snowball Effect on Composting and Recycling in County
Jennifer Jensen is passionate about many things, including improving the environment, gardening, composting, recycling, yard and food waste, and helping others reuse construction materials. She has followed her passions at Sheldrake Environmental Center, where she created and runs a Master Composter and Recycler’s Training Program.
Over 25 students have now taken Jennifer’s free course. In return, graduates promise to volunteer 30 hours “giving back the training” to people in their local community and to pursue other environmental initiatives that benefit their area. The program has had a snowball effect, with graduates doing everything from setting up information booths at local farmer’s markets, to teaching children in schools about composting.
“I wanted to take my interests in composting and recycling and use my volunteer time to make an impact in Westchester County that is meaningful and lasting,” said Jennifer. “Reduce, reuse and recycle are the foundation of what I teach at Sheldrake Environment Center – the goal is to reduce waste in landfill.”
Maria R. Venezia, Executive Director of the Sheldrake Environmental Center, says that Jennifer shows “professionalism, initiative and integrity – personal qualities that matched with her knowledge and time commitment which exemplify the spirit of volunteerism that this small not-for-profit depends on to have a broad environmental reach.”
Jennifer’s ambition led her multiple times to the University of Rhode Island to gain the most comprehensive information about composting and recycling. She also has created an International Master Composter blog that brings together people from all over the world to communicate and share best practices.
Giving a Child a Voice and an Advocate
Monica Gray has been a volunteer for five years in the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Westchester’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, which trains laypeople to be advocates for abused and neglected children.
As an advocate, Monica is dedicated to helping children involved in the Westchester Family Court. In order to make informed decisions, Monica spends time with the child and contacts everyone involved with the case – birth parents, family members, teachers, lawyers, caseworkers, doctors, mental health professionals, foster parents and more. She then determines what problems the child faces and advocates for a safe, permanent solution in the child’s best interest. “As a CASA volunteer,” Monica said, “you can be a constant person in a child’s life – a friend and their advocate.”
One of Monica’s notable cases involves a girl who has been moved over the years to a variety of institutional psychiatric settings. While many would have given up on such a difficult case, Monica has visited her every week for the last five years when only a monthly visit is required by CASA. Her dedication helped this young child to not become lost in the impersonal bureaucracy of the court and childcare systems.
“Monica will continue to fight for this child’s rights to be a normal child,” said Jackie Boissonnault, program director for MHA of Westchester County. Thanks to Monica and the other dedicated CASA volunteers, neglected children can find personal guidance and strong advocates, just when they need them most.