Citizen of the Year
Published 9:35 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The chairman of Freeborn County’s disaster action team, under the local American Red Cross chapter, was named Citizen of the Year on Tuesday during a special ceremony at Riverland Community College.
Nominated by fellow Red Cross volunteer Kathy Oothoudt, Steve Bonine said he was “speechless” to hear he won the award.
Bonine, who moved to Albert Lea in 2005, started to volunteer for the Red Cross the same year.
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“I volunteer in the Red Cross and in my community because I always get something back,” Bonine said.
He is the 36th recipient of the award, which is given by a committee of the Albert Lea School District.
The Citizen of the Year award began in September 1976 and is expected to continue through May of 2076. The purpose of the award is for students to seek out examples of good citizenship and good role models, said Nancy Royce, chairwoman of the citizenship committee.
Each spring, nominations are gathered and the winner is chosen by the district’s citizenship committee, which is made up of four students from each of the elementary schools in the district, plus a few adults.
Royce called Bonine an “outstanding” example of good citizenship.
The nomination letter by Oothoudt described Bonine as a “coordinator, teacher and volunteer extraordinaire.”
She said he has a tireless commitment to the Red Cross Disaster Action Team and has helped the responders be prepared to face the aftermath of disasters.
“I’ve just been so impressed with his commitment to help others,” Oothoudt said. “It’s people like him who make it work.”
In a short speech after accepting the award, Bonine explained how he got involved with the Red Cross.
He said he has responded to not only local disasters, but disasters across the country as well.
Sometimes, when he’s in the middle of nowhere, responding to a disaster, he said he questions why he is there.
“But something always happens to make it worthwhile,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding thing to help out your community.”
Bonine said before he moved to Albert Lea he didn’t know anything about the American Red Cross. But after Hurricane Katrina hit, that’s when he got involved.
He asked people in attendance to step up and think about how they can help out their communities.