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Seven volunteer staff teams honored for their successful partnerships

The Volunteer Staff Partnership Award selection workgroup is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Volunteer Staff Partnership Award. The winners will be recognized locally and during the virtual Volunteer Impact Series later this spring.

These partnerships demonstrate volunteers and staff successfully impacting our mission by increasing community engagement, growing revenue, impacting mission outcomes, enhancing stewardship, and creating new opportunities despite the challenges we all experienced in 2020. Each team member plays a different but important role to their project's success!

Let's meet our outstanding award winners and congratulate them on a job well done!

North Central

  • Volunteer: Adam Schlesinger, president, Chicago Associate Board of Ambassadors
  • Staff: Chris Way, senior development manager

Together Adam and Chris have worked tirelessly to build a strong group of young up and coming leaders in the Chicago community who are focused on increasing engagement with each other, impacting our mission, and creating new and innovative ways to keep members engaged and continue to raise funds in a global pandemic. In 2020, they exceeded their pre-COVID goal of $247,000 by getting creative with virtual ways members could raise funds and ended up raising more than $321,000. This team also attended many of the Illinois Area Board meetings to ensure the young professional group was well represented in the broader market strategy. Their work has positioned the Chicago Associate Board of Ambassadors as the pinnacle of how a young professional group can grow and impact our organization.


  • Volunteer: Alice Lin Pomponio, ACS CAN Research Breakfast
  • Staff: Shalini Vallabhan, managing director, government relations

The strength of Alice and Shalini's partnership became even more evident during the difficult year caused by the pandemic. They originally planned to leverage the success of the 2019 record-breaking Research Breakfast by moving the event to a larger venue and engaging even larger audiences and sponsors. Under the circumstances, Alice and Shalini pivoted to a virtual event held in October. The Reigniting Research event was able to raise an incredible $328,000 out of $400,000 goal with approximately 400 people tuning in. Contributing to the success of the event were the strong sponsor relationships that had been established the previous year, the integrated marketing and communications plan that was used to promote the event, and the incredible speakers that they were able to secure.


  • Volunteer: Jeff Mader, ACS volunteer, donor
  • Staff: Twin Cities Market Team

The unique nature of Jeff's partnership with the Twin Cities Market Team shows how a one-time event participant has grown to work with almost every staff team member and volunteer leadership committee within the Twin Cities. Through listening, opening doors, thinking innovatively to finding a path to "yes" the partnership has brought dozens of new volunteers, donors, and sponsors to ACS. This team has also inspired major philanthropic donors to contribute significantly and created opportunities to connect individuals, friends, and companies to the Society in a meaningful way. Alongside the Twin Cities Market Team, Jeff's passion for building community and making an impact through fun and collaboration creates opportunities to think outside of the traditional box of fundraising tools.


  • Volunteer: Mike Moore, chair, Hope Ball Gala
  • Staff: Celeste Pendarvis, senior development manager II

Mike accepted the responsibility as chair for the Hope Ball Gala around the same time Celeste took on the staff partner role for this event. By 2019, Hope Ball grew to nearly $1.1M in gross revenue because of the commitment of this team. When Covid-19 initially hit, Hope Ball 2020 was just beginning its sponsorship asks – it was a challenging and unfamiliar situation. Celeste's guidance and support gave Mike the confidence to become one of the most active and outstanding volunteer leaders for the Southeast Region. Mike utilized his role with Delta to secure significant live auction packages, talent, and major influential honorees. Through their joint efforts, ACS has applied for and received a $1M grant from Emory and $75K gift from the Blank Foundation, along with a total Delta contribution of $145K annually (through 2020).


  • Volunteer: Navkiran Shokar, MD, MA, MPH, colorectal cancer screening
  • Staff: Martha Zepeda, cancer control strategic partnerships manager

Dr. Shokar and Martha have been working together since the first Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) grant was awarded for colorectal screening in 2011. With the help of their work, the 80% by 2018 initiative was implemented communitywide and a strategic plan was developed to help hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and primary care physicians increase screening in their community. Additionally, Dr. Shokar has implemented the Promotoras-bilingual community health care workers to connect with at-risk individuals. She utilizes ACS materials to educate over 160 community organizations in El Paso and surrounding counties to help make screening more accessible for breast, cervical, and HPV. Her priority is to include interventions in cancer prevention and control, shared decision making, and community-based research to address cancer health disparities and increase screening rates.  


  • Volunteer: Jeff McGreevy, Real Men Wear Pink
  • Staff: Christine Trunick, senior development manager

Jeff and Christine worked together to recruit fellow Real Men Wear Pink candidates including police and fire departments in their community. As an officer himself, Jeff leaned on those in his community to drive awareness and support for our mission. Of course, there was a friendly competition between the different departments to help candidates raise the minimum of $2,500. The candidates were recognized through social media and the local radio station KHAY. With the help of Christine, Jeff raised more than $28,000! Jeff and Christine's partnership works so well because they always lead with our mission in mind. Their commitment to the mission led them to share breast cancer information with their community alongside their fundraising efforts.

Global Headquarters

  • Volunteer: Bryan Sherwood, Relay For Life
  • Staff: Lindsey Pew, strategic director, RFL & Community Fundraising and Sarah Hsi, senior vice president, Information Technology

Bryan and Lindsey worked together to replace an external vendor for Relay Connect. For a longtime, this has been a great resource for Relayers to find tools, resources, training, and community. With the financial impact of COVID-19, finding a more cost-effective platform for Relay Connect was needed. Sarah worked alongside Bryan and Lindsey, to identify an ACS supported platform that could meet the critical needs of Relay Connect with virtually little to no cost. Bryan stepped up as a volunteer to carry the weight of coding the website. With Bryan's help, the team was able to switch over to the new platform in late 2020 and go into 2021 without the extra expense of an external vendor. Bryan not only helped save the Society tens of thousands of dollars annually, but also increased the quality of the product offered to Relayers.

If you have any questions about the Volunteer Staff Partnership Award, please Michelle Brady, volunteer engagement manager. 

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