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Top honors: Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteerism surprises recipients

People by: Joanne Kountourakis, May 10, 2023

Rob Ingraham and Donna McNaughton were surprised with a President's Lifetime Achievement Award at a surprise event last Wednesday, May 3. Photo courtesy of YDA.

A significant honor was bestowed on two community members last Wednesday, when Youth Directions & Alternatives surprised Rob Ingraham and Donna McNaughton with the President's Lifetime Achievement Award for their volunteerism in Northport and East Northport. Together, Ingraham and McNaughton have volunteered for over 8,000 hours, dedicating their time to a wide variety of organizations and the communities they serve.

“I was very honored and overwhelmed to be recognized,” McNaughton told the Journal a few days after the event. “I never expected anything like it, and I am very appreciative. I think volunteering time and energy is just what you should do when you live in a great community.”

In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, in cooperation with AmeriCorps, founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action.

Fifteen years later, the award became local when Northport resident Tom Berger approached Youth Directions & Alternatives (YDA), a community youth agency serving approximately 1,500 kids per year through a variety of social and recreational programming in the Northport/East Northport, Elwood and Harborfields school districts, about becoming a certifying agency for the Presidential Volunteer Community Service Award.

The following year, in 2019, YDA held its first Presidential Volunteer Community Service Award ceremony. Earlier this year, Berger approached YDA about presenting a Presidential Service Lifetime Achievement Award to highlight the many contributions of people within the community and encourage more youth/adults to volunteer and apply for the award, YDA Assistant Director Michelle Burnham told the Journal. “The Lifetime Achievement award recognizes individuals who have volunteered for a minimum of 4,000 hours,” she added. “Rob and Donna were natural choices because of their dedication to Northport/East Northport.”

Both Ingraham and McNaughton also take part in charity work behind the scenes, and hold more visible positions in other organizations. Ingraham is the founding member of the Northport/East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and FRIENNDS (Foundation for Resources in East Northport Northport District Schools). He is a former member of the Northport/East Northport Board of Education and, along with his wife, completed training to become a host home through the Town of Huntington’s Youth Bureau Sanctuary Project.

“This is a community of givers, and thanks to the example set by my parents, I’m proud to be among them,” Ingraham said. “I’m most grateful for this unexpected honor.”

McNaughton is a founding member of the Northport/East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and FRIENNDS as well. She is also a member of the Northport/East Northport Board of Education, and has spent countless hours serving on numerous Parent Teacher Associations and the PTA Council.

On Wednesday, May 3, the evening Ingraham and McNaughton were surprised with the award, YDA Executive Director, Rod Miller, spoke about the generosity of the community and YDA’s roots in getting involved with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Proclamations from the Town of Huntington, Northport Village and State Assemblyman Keith Brown were also presented as visitors learned about the volunteer work being done at the Northport Food Pantry, located at First Presbyterian Church (where the event was held), from Donna Galluccio, chairperson of the Ecumenical Lay Council. She also gave a tour of the pantry to anyone that was interested. Julien Euvrard, a junior at Northport High School, volunteered to play the piano during the reception.

“The whole theme of the evening was to acknowledge the community's generosity and that many people are doing great work through volunteerism,” Birnham said. “Rob and Donna are shining examples of that and hope to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

To learn more about the YDA and its many programs, click here. Those interested in applying for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, contact YDA at 631-261-7901