RALEIGH — Clinton’s own Steve Stefanovich has been presented the state’s highest honor for volunteer service, receiving the Governor’s Medallion Award as one of the top 20 volunteers across North Carolina.
Governor Pat McCrory officially bestowed the distinction to 21 recipients during a ceremony at the State Capitol Tuesday, with volunteers recognized for dedication and outstanding service that enriches the lives of others and makes a difference in their communities.
Reached Wednesday, a modest Stefanovich said he was humbled by the award.
“A lot of people do what I do … I’m certainly not unique when it comes to volunteering and trying to help,” he remarked. “It was very humbling to be up there with these very interesting people from across our state. How they boil it down to 20 people with 9 million in our state, I sure don’t understand how my name was on that list.”
Celebrating its 37th anniversary this year, the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award program recognizes and celebrates the proud tradition of volunteerism in the state. Awards honor the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing individuals, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service.
In 2006, the N.C. Commission implemented the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service, recognizing the “top 20” volunteers in the state. Medallion recipients are nominated at the county level then evaluated by a panel of community service leaders from across the state.
Stefanovich credited his “wonderful staff” at Go Automotive, without whom he would not be able to volunteer his time with other community initiatives, he attested.
“They do what they’re supposed to do and that’s given me the opportunity to be involved in our community,” Stefanovich stated. “Without them, there’s no way in the world I could have been able to do some of the things I’ve done. They are the reason I’m able to do these things.”
Those “things” Stefanovich refers to are a laundry list of active community involvements, from Sampson Community College to the Clinton City Council, and the Sampson Arts Council to Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church, that many said have bettered the local community.
Honored in the category of lifetime achievement, Stefanovich has truly put together a life’s work in his roughly three decades in Clinton.
In all, he has donated up to 18 hours each month for 10 years at the Sampson Community College Foundation, serving as past president and annually co-chairing fundraising efforts that generate nearly $200,000. He has also volunteered 25 years with the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, 31 years at Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church as an usher, deacon and an elder, and served the past 14 years as a City Councilman.
McCrory said Stefanovich and the 20 other volunteers exemplified the state’s very best.
“Each of the award winners today represent the best of North Carolina,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “It was an honor to recognize top volunteers from around the state for helping us fulfill our goal of helping those who can’t help themselves while encouraging those that can.”
In her nomination of Stefanovich, Sampson Community College Foundation executive director Lisa Turlington cited his “infectious energy that motivates his peers to get excited about helping others.”
As co-chair of the Foundation’s Annual Giving, Stefanovich is “creative in using fresh ideas” to motive the college board to raise funds for student scholarship and faculty grants totaling more than $1 million over the past five years, she said.
“As a City Councilman, he takes a personal interest in the people of his district by following up on individual concerns, and he helps mentor and guide young people starting out in business by encouraging them to get involved in their community,” Turlington stated. “Steve genuinely cares about people and leads by example in volunteering.”
Stefanovich currently serves on the SCC’s Finance Committee and the Executive Board. His business sponsors at least one local community theatre production each year and has often worked to promote and support local artists, serving on a public art board that ultimately saw a work of fabricated glass erected in the downtown.
Along with serving in various leadership roles at Graves Memorial and with the Chamber, Stefanovich has been recognized as a Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizen and is a past president of Sampson County United Way.
Wanda Smiley, Governor’s Volunteer Awards Coordinator for Sampson and regional director for the N.C. Association of Volunteer Administrators, recognized Stefanovich and Jan West at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. The two were honored at a recent Chamber reception as the 2015 recipients of the Governor’s Volunteer Award.
West devotes countless hours each Thursday as a hospice volunteer with the 3HC program.
“The award selections are based on the nominee’s efforts and commitment of time, community impact and the enhancement of the lives of other people,” Smiley said. “The nominations are evaluated at the county level and up to 10 nominations are submitted to the Commission as nominees for the Governor’s Volunteer Award.”
City Council members offered their congratulations to Stefanovich, absent from Tuesday’s regular meeting for the governor’s ceremony.
Alongside his wife Julie, daughter Annie and her husband Russell — Stefanovich’s son Peter lives in Oregon — the Councilman said it was a proud moment.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Stefanovich on sharing that moment with his family. “If I can keep my family around me and they’re healthy, nothing can be any better for me.”
And Stefanovich has no plans to stop volunteering. He is just following his dad’s words, and those in the Good Book, he said. He cites Bible verse, Luke 12:48, which states in part: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
“That completely sums up why I do what I do,” he said. “My family and I feel like we’ve been extremely blessed after coming to Clinton 30-some years ago. My father always said ‘don’t ever be a taker, always be a giver.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do.”