Direct Energy Honors 2014 Pittsburgh Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award Winners

2014 Pgh VCOY Winners_ResizeOn Tuesday, April 1st, 2014, Direct Energy, along with media partner Trib Total Media, honored the 2014 Pittsburgh Volunteer Citizen of the Year award winners in both the adult (18+ years of age) and junior (6-17 years of age) categories. Eugene Meidinger of Aliquippa, PA was named the 3rd annual Pittsburgh Volunteer Citizen of the Year, while Juliana Kochis of Kennedy Township, PA was named the first-ever Pittsburgh Junior Volunteer Citizen of the Year.

Eugene’s Story

Crisis Center North (CCN) is a nonprofit that provides counseling, referral, and an educational resource center serving victims of domestic violence, their children, and teens involved in violent dating relationships in the northern communities of Allegheny County. In 2007, CCN proposed the Western Regional Training Initiative (WRTI) to help combat state and federal funding cuts to domestic violence and sexual assault center. WRTI allows participating programs to share trainers and training materials, maximizing the use of already scarce resources.

A website hosting streaming video and other important training modules was developed, in part, by CCN’s volunteer Eugene Meidinger. As a senior at Penn State University, Eugene single-handedly created the website’s interface to access the training videos, developed necessary back-up systems, and much more that enabled the WTRI website to build bridges in the Penn State University community, engage students in social change work, and house vital training materials in one convenient location. The site also provides increased outreach to individuals with disabilities. WRTI has seen extensive benefits as a result of this website, including a savings of more than $100,000 per year in training costs.

To date, 527 users accessed the website with an age range of 18-73, illustrating the ease and intuitiveness of the website. According to Grace Coleman, CCN’s executive director, none of this would have been possible without Eugene’s technical talents, as they assisted domestic violence and sexual assault centers in Southwestern PA to make communities safer. Eugene’s impact extends beyond CCN to twelve domestic violence and sexual abuse programs which collaborate and participate in WRTI.  WRTI was the first online training resource developed for domestic violence and sexual abuse programs in Pennsylvania. As a direct result of his efforts, hundreds of additional volunteers and staff are now available and trained to assist victims.

Juliana’s Story

Juliana Kochis is currently ranked #1 in her graduating class at Montour High School. She is also a four-sport scholar athlete, President of the St. Vladimir’s Youth Group, and President of Montour High School’s National Honor Society. However, aside from these impressive accomplishments, Juliana’s true passion is mentoring children in an underserved community. From a young age, Juliana has enjoyed volunteering, and as she’s grown older, the gratitude she experienced by doing so inspires her to develop projects and involve others so that more of the less-fortunate can be helped.

Of those projects, Juliana’s most meaningful time is spent at the Ambridge Center for Hope, a faith-based community center dedicated to ensuring the well-being of Ambridge residents through education, service, and outreach. Concerned by the challenges the Center’s children face, Juliana helps mentor the children at their summer lunch program with hands-on activities that focus on healthy eating, exercise, and the importance of hard work in school.

Juliana’s goal is to make a lasting impact on children’s lives and strives to meet this goal by engaging other community members and fellow classmates. She recruits volunteers to help with annual family carnivals, a “Santa Shop” during the holidays, and other fun activities for the Center’s children.

By organizing these initiatives, Juliana wants to give children a chance to experience how rewarding it is to give back in the hopes that they will inspire others to do the same. Juliana says that her experiences and accomplishments at the Ambridge Center for Hope have given her the ambition to carry on her goodwill throughout her lifetime.

At this special award event, both winners received a commemorative trophy and a $2,500 donation from Direct Energy to their charities. Paul Karem of Direct Energy served as the event’s spokesperson with other remarks made by Trib Total Media and the winners’ friends and family. Further, representatives from Pennsylvania Senator Tim Solobay and Pennsylvania Representative Nick Kotik’s offices were in attendance to present each winner with a personalized proclamation from the state.

Congratulations again, Eugene and Juliana!

This post was written by Julie Hendry, External Relations Specialist for Direct Energy in Pittsburgh, PA.