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Celebrating kindness, caring and doing what you can

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | March 23, 2023 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Richard Jurvelin knows about volunteerism as he’s been doing it much of his life, so when he speaks, people listen.

Wednesday, he spoke at the United Way of North Idaho annual awards luncheon and about 100 people took in his every word.

“It doesn’t matter about what you can do, how big it is, how little it is,” Jurvelin said. “You can volunteer and you will help in a community.”

The real estate agent with Winderemere/Coeur d’Alene Realty received United Way of North Idaho's Volunteer of the Year award at The Coeur d’Alene Resort while Jessica Mahuron received the Nonprofit Professional of the Year.

“Jessica is the champion of those without a voice, the stigmatized and those in need,” said presenter Donna Brundage. “When she sees an issue, she develops a plan and mobilizes the troops."

The two-hour event was a time for United Way of North Idaho to highlight its work over the past year, which included serving more than 2,400 individuals in areas of housing, health care, employment, education and financial planning.

Others cited the organization's recent efforts in child care, with $526,490 going toward education programs, $174,162 to resources and materials and awarding 234 scholarships totaling $419,721.

Shelby Walsh, United Way's early learning coordinator, said since becoming a parent, she knows the challenges of finding quality, affordable and reliable child care.

“Centers are full, with yearslong waiting lists,” she said, "and price tags that will take your breath away.”

Thanks to United Way’s family friendly workplace, she said she can work from home and work flexible hours or even bring her baby to work.

“Not all parents have a family friendly workplace. Unfortunately, that’s not the standard,” she said.

Meagan, child care scholarship recipient, wrote that as a single parent she was working in retail and could not get any support.

“I was on my own to face the world with my daughter,” she said.

She said her vehicle, rent and day care costs were more than her monthly income.

"I was drowning in bills," she wrote.

It reached a point where she was in danger of losing her day care, which would mean having to quit her job and putting them at risk of being homeless.

“While I was facing the very real fear of losing everything, a blessing came along and changed our lives,” Meagan wrote.

She received help through United Way of North Idaho's ALICE Child Care Scholarship, which supports families who are attending school and/or employed and need assistance paying for the care of pre-K and school-age children.

It helped her get back on track with child care, access to resources so she could focus on her job, earning a promotion and got her finances under control.

“All because I was finally getting the support I so desperately prayed for from United Way,” she said.

Today, Meagan is attending college, working full time and hoping to buy a home.

"Without the child care scholarship from United way, I could have been homeless, jobless, without any income," she wrote. "The scholarship program truly changed our life for the better and I will be forever grateful."

Presenter KJ Brant said Jurvelin “continually shows up for the underserved of our community,” has a deep understanding of the community’s resources and regularly works to improve them. He donates his time and money to local and statewide causes.

Jurvelin’s past volunteerism includes serving with TESH, coaching football, Coeur d’Alene Toastmasters, chair of the Fernan Village planning committee and Military Officers of America and the American Legion.

“Richard, you truly have a generous spirit and a servant’s heart that shines through everything you do,” Brant said. “Your kindness and selflessness are a true gift to everyone around you and our community.”

Jurvelin said volunteerism is a matter of giving of yourself to help others, an act of love. Those who give more, receive more, too, he said.

“I commend you all here for what you’re doing,” he said.

Mahuron is passionate about community organizing. She is the former outreach coordinator with the North Idaho Pride Alliance, president of the Civic Engagement Alliance and is community engagement advocate for Safe Passage.

“Uniting any group, large or small, in pursuit of a shared goal is half the battle,” she said. “Progress on any front is the result of collaboration, tireless organizing and perseverance. Leaders don’t work in silos; they work alongside teams of phenomenal people who give their talents, resources and hearts to make an impact.”

But there is a battle ahead.

Mahuron said the community and institutions have become “increasingly under threat from incivility, bigotry, polarization and weaponized disinformation. It will be our undoing if the majority remains silent or willfully uninformed.”

Mark Tucker, United Way of North Idaho executive director, said there is a focused effort to change the way education works in the community.

“Right now, it feels like there’s a war on education in our community,” he said.

Tucker said moving forward, it’s time to come together and “fight for what’s right in our community.”

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Richard Jurvelin holds the Volunteer of the Year award he received from United Way of North Idaho at The Coeur d'Alene Resort on Wednesday.

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People attend the United Way of North Idaho annual awards luncheon at The Coeur d'Alene Resort on Wednesday.

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United Way of North Idaho Executive Director Mark Tucker speaks during its annual awards luncheon at The Coeur d'Alene Resort on Wednesday.