Mayme Ohnemus, of Cooper Landing, displays the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award given to her by Gov. Sarah Palin. Ohnemus was among a dozen recipients of the award, whittled down from the nearly 200 people nominated. She was the only one from the Kenai Peninsula to be honored this year.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Volunteering for civic duties is frequently a thankless position, but that’s not so for Mayme Ohnemus of Cooper Landing.
Ohnemus and 12 other Alaskans were honored last month in Anchorage with Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards.
The dozen recipients were whittled down from the nearly 200 people nominated, and Ohnemus was the only one from the Kenai Peninsula to be honored this year. She was humble about her recognition.
“It’s so embarrassing. I’ve seen other people get awards, and I always thought ‘I’m so glad it’s them and not me,’” Ohnemus said.
The awards are presented to those who engage in unpaid volunteer activities within Alaska, show remarkable personal commitment to long-term volunteer service and have made a substantial impact on their community or the state.
This year’s recipients were chosen by a committee chaired by Gov. Sarah Palin’s mother, Sally Heath. Al Fleetwood of Anchorage nominated Ohnemus for her tireless commitment to carrying out selfless good deeds.
“She is the most remarkable person. Incredible doesn’t even come close to describing her,” he said.
Fleetwood’s nomination letter lists a litany of her work. To name just a few, he said some of the things that grew from Ohnemus’ fertile imagination include: The Snug Harbor Road Snail-a-thon, a community fundraiser that has been running since 1980; The Force youth group which has harnessed the power of children since 1982 to direct them toward community service projects, such as shovelling snow for seniors; and in 1997 she founded the Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners, which keeps the roadside solid waste transfer sites in Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and Hope clean on a weekly basis and donates money earned through their cleanup efforts to several senior clubs and organizations in the area.
“Through fundraisers and Dumpster cleaning contracts, an 11-passenger van was purchased that provides seniors a means for medical and shopping trips to Soldotna,” Fleetwood said.
Ohnemus frequently is the driver on these excursions, he said. This has not been her only driving responsibility over the years.
“Mayme met a critical community need by volunteering with the local ambulance squad starting in 1975 through 1994. She took the required first aid and advanced emergency care classes and drove and maintained the ambulance,” he said.
Fleetwood said Ohnemus has always been a community leader. She served as president of the Dall Homemaker Club for three years and the Cooper Landing Community Club for two years. In 1997 she was among those who organized the Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Corp. Inc., and she served as its first president.
“She gets things done,” Fleetwood said.
In her spare time, Ohnemus is continually working on other ways to benefit the people of her community, both sourdoughs and cheechakos. She recently released a housing directory with the names, addresses and phone numbers of most residents in Cooper Landing to make it easier for people to connect with each other. She also released the third printing of “Forget Me Not,” a recipe book made up of favorite meals from the Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners. The proceeds of book sales are channeled back into the community.
As to what drives Ohnemus to give so much of her free time to serving others and the community, she said it just comes naturally.
“I just see a need and try to help out. I like the community feeling, and community to me means bringing people together and helping each other out,” she said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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