Story last updated at 1:51 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Health center volunteer wins Knowles award
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Florence Dilallo is surrounded by staff at the Homer Public Health Center on Thursday of last week.  
Florence Dilallo smiled at the applause and praise showered on her at a gathering of Homer Public Health staff last week, but balloons and cake aren't why she spends much of her week helping others as a volunteer.

Dilallo, a slight, 74-year-old woman with a strong smile who often greets people at the Bunnell Avenue public health office, said she's spent a lifetime donating her time, and has never been sorry.

"I think people who refuse to volunteer" are missing out, she said Friday while being honored for receiving the Susan Knowles First Lady Volunteer Award. "I have spent much of my life as a volunteer because I saw the need. Volunteering is something that gives rewards money can't give."

Public Health Nurse and supervisor, Donna Fenske, who nominated Dilallo for the award, said Dilallo has been known to go to great ends to donate her time for others since moving to Homer from Kentucky a decade ago.

"Florence is a generous and committed individual who willingly and cheerfully gives her time (any time she is asked) to promote the health of folks on the lower Kenai Peninsula by her dedicated support of the Homer Public Health Center staff," Fenske said.

Dilallo came to volunteer for the center in part because of her past interest in health. Initially, she enrolled in school to be a nurse, but hearing problems prevented her from pursuing that career.

"I couldn't hear people's blood pressure, so I switched and went into psychology," she said.

After years of teaching college-level psychology, she said the health center also fulfills her desire to work directly with people.

"That's something that always intrigues me," she said.

Dilallo said she and other volunteers at the center, several of whom have received similar awards in the past, stay volunteers for the organization because of the positive work environment.

"If they can keep volunteers as long as they keep some of us around, it says something," she said.

Dilallo was not the only person at the health center honored last week. Public health nurse Bonnie Betley received the state Public Health Nurse Professional Award for her dedicated work with teens, and Donna Fenske received the Barbara Berger Award for excellence in Public Health Nursing. Staff member Judith Dean was recognized for five years of service, while DiAnne Hardy and Denise Carlson received certificates of appreciation.

Fenske said the awards and recognition are just part a continuous effort to give praise where it is due to the hard-working center staff and volunteers who serve more than 12,000 clients each year from Clam Gulch to the South Kachemak Bay villages.

"I was so impressed with the super positive attitude here," said recently hired public health nurse Nelda Walker. "This is a great team. I can already tell."