As a sixth-grader growing up during World War II, Phyllis Burger wanted to do her part to help the war effort. Her mother worked at Boeing, and she realized that everyone — even the very young — could make a difference. So she rolled up her sleeves and took on her first volunteer project: organizing a newspaper and tin-can recycling drive at her school. That was the beginning of a lifetime of volunteerism for Burger, who lives in the Ridgefield area.
Last month, Burger, 79, received the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia. She was one of 40 volunteers to be recognized at the April 23 event.
Since 2002, shortly after her family moved to Clark County, she has volunteered more than 4,490 hours for several local nonprofit organizations through the Human Services Council. These include the Volunteer Mobilization Center, YWCA, Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities, Vancouver Food Bank and the Center for Volunteerism.
She serves as the volunteer coordinator of Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH), as a member of the Human Services Council and leads the Center for Volunteerism development committee. She also refers to herself as a “girl Friday” for the YWCA SafeChoice program.
“I like to give back. When I was growing up, volunteering was emphasized,” she said. “I probably learn more than I give. It’s an education.”
Debbie Everts, Center for Volunteerism coordinator at the Human Services Council, wrote in her nomination for Burger: “Her smile and vibrancy for life brings joy to those around her. Her commitment to strengthening our community is, without doubt, one of our greatest assets.”
Burger was surprised to receive the award. “So many volunteers are out there every day doing what I’m doing. We all make a difference.”
She is not all work and no play. She loves reading and travel, and enjoys trips to her family’s cabin in the summertime.