10 named as Alaska’s top volunteers

First Lady Walker will honor their service to their communities, state in Juneau in late May

First Lady Donna Walker has announced the 2017 recipients of the 2017 First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards, honoring those whose volunteer service has made a major impact on their community or state.

The group includes Robert “Bob” Morris, Anchorage; Joel Buchanan, Coffman Cove; Erick Mountain, Nulato; Bob “Ziggy” Szewe, Eagle River; June Degnan, Juneau; Clarke Brown, Anchorage; Michelle Overstreet, Wasilla; Shirley M. Springer Staten, Anchorage;
Dan Rodgers, Anchorage; and Bobbie Anne Barnowsky, Old Harbor.

Morris was nominated in recognition of his tireless effort to raise awareness of the Sugpiag language and traditions of the Chugach region of Alaska. He has been volunteering with Chugachmiut since the late 1990s.

Buchanan was honored for his dedicating to helping Southeast Alaska Natives in recovery of their heritage. He is a volunteer with North of Hope, which invests in projects that preserve the culture and heritage of Alaska.

Mountain was praised as “a good, sober, role model” for youth he mentors and a compassionate helpmate and companion to elders.

Szewe has volunteer his time for over 20 years to bring his sing-a-long music and entertainment to those residing in assisted living situations statewide, and volunteers on other levels, including with the Lions Club.


Degnan is the founding president of the board of Haven House Juneau, a transitional home for women exiting prison, and has presided over the board since its inception in 2007.

Brown has mobilized youth and church groups in large scale food drives and is a leader at LDS Church for implementing the annual Feeding Our Neighbors city-wide food drive in Anchorage. He also has volunteers with The Children’s Lunchbox Weekend Food Program, Anchorage Project Homeless Connect and JustServ.

Overstreet is the founder of My House, a non-profit organization that helps homeless youth in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. The drop-in center offers food, clothing, showers, laundry services and case management for youth ages 17 to 24.

Staten is a long time volunteer in many programs, including Hiland Mountain Correction Center’s Success Inside & Out Program ASD Multi-Cultural Leadership Conference, Brother Francis Shelter Board, youth mentoring and more.

Rodgers has served as a pro bono attorney since 1998 and since retiring from the legal profession in 2008 has been a full-time volunteer for the Alaska Institute for Justice’s Alaska Immigration Justice Project.

Barnowsky has been a driving force to bring positive change to her community, from cleanup and beautification projects to support for victims of domestic violence, child neglect and alcohol and drug abuse.

The awardees will be honored with a luncheon and ceremony at the governor’s house in Juneau in late May.

First Lady Bella Hammond began the annual recognition in 1975. The First Lady’s volunteer of the Year Awards recognizes Alaskans who have displayed an extraordinary personal commitment to volunteer service, and have made a major impact on their community or state.

More than 70 Alaskans were nominated for the 2017 awards.