Homer City woman's volunteer efforts earn her citizen award
Homer City's fire hall may have been without power for the town's Old Fashioned Christmas Light-Up Night Dec. 6, but it didn't stop the spotlight from shining on this year's Good Citizen of Homer City winner, Julie Vought.
Vought was recognized for her volunteer service with several community organizations including local Scouting groups, the Homer-Center Public Library and the Women's Club of Homer City.
“I've known Julie for quite a while,” said Sheila Charnego, who nominated Vought for the award. “I've worked with her in the Women's Club, and she was very instrumental in working with the library and getting it started, which I always thought was commendable.
“She always the first to volunteer. I've always heard the saying, ‘Ask a busy person if you want something done,' and I've always thought that applied to her.”
Vought and her husband, Scott, are longtime residents of Homer City. They moved to Butler for a few years but soon found themselves drawn back to their small hometown and the sense of community it offered.
“It's nice to be close to family and people that you grew up with, so it was good to move back home,” Vought said.
It's through the couple's three sons — Jared, 19, Brandon, 16 and Zachary, 13 — that Vought became involved in local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts units, starting in 1999.
Her oldest son started as a Cub Scout when he was 6 and eventually turned to other pursuits, but his brother, Brandon, has advanced through the entire program and will start work on his Eagle Scout project in the spring.
Julie Vought serves on the troop committee, helping to decide on activities for the boys and assisting with fundraisers like a T-shirt sale held at Light-Up Night.
“The boys do a lot of planning, too,” she said. “We help them continue planning and getting things organized.”
The committee also plans the troop's field trips. The Homer City boys have hiked in the Laurel Highlands, attended local camporees, visited Gettysburg several times and traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2010, to march in recognition of the Boy Scouts' 100th anniversary.
A past treasurer at the Cub Scout level, Vought is also the advancement coordinator for Boy Scout Troop 24. As boys move through various ranks, she completes the necessary paperwork and orders the badges that are earned. She also sits on the board of review for boys advancing to a different rank.
Vought has been involved for 10 years with the Women's Club of Homer City, an organization she was introduced to through the longtime membership of her mother, Linda Mollo.
The club's community efforts include co-sponsoring Light Up Night with the Homer City Area Business Association, organizing the town's annual Halloween parade, conducting litter clean-ups and sponsoring a Girl of the Month from the senior class at Homer-Center High School.
In her second year as the club's second vice president, Vought has been in charge of the group's major annual fundraiser, a spring Calendar Party.
The event raises funds for a scholarship the club presents annually to a senior Homer-Center girl. It features 12 tables decorated with a theme for each month, each hosted by a club member who has to sell tickets to fill the 10 spots at each table. Entertainment, a luncheon and a Chinese auction are also part of the fundraiser.
“It's a fun event,” Vought said. “A lot of the ladies in Homer City look forward to it. You get to see how people decorate the different tables, and they have neat ideas.”
In past years, Vought has served as secretary of the Women's Club, as well as its first vice president, which had her planning the club's programs for each year of her term.
Vought and her family have attended the Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Indiana for the past five years, where she serves as a deaconess. She helps plan meals for people who were in the hospital, organizes pot luck dinners and carries out seasonal decorating of the church.
Vought also is the church pianist and helps with children's programs when needed.
When her sons were in elementary school, Vought was in charge of the school store and volunteered at the book fair.
“I pretty much was involved with anything my kids were involved in,” she said, including the Homer City Boosters soccer program her sons participated in when they were younger. She helped with fundraising for the program.
While she enjoys her work with other groups, Vought finds the most satisfication through her involvement with the Homer-Center Public Library.
When a group of four people met in 2007 to devise a plan for forming a community library, Vought became involved as a board member.
With a few acquisitions from other libraries and donations of books from the community, the library opened the following year.
“It's a work in progress, but we're really proud we finally have a library,” Vought said.
Vought also serves as the library's children's coordinator. She orders the children's books and plans story hours and a summer reading program.
To ring in the new year, the library will introduce winter and holiday themes for sessins held one Saturday each month. Tuesday night tutoring hours for readers are planned as an additional service, she said.
Vought's involvement at the library is hands-on, as she also helps with fundraisers and volunteers to help patrons check out books at the front desk.
Continuing an annual tradition for the library, Vought read a story and led a related children's craft during Homer City's Dec. 6 Light-Up Night. Participating children had a chance to win two books.
Vought fits in her various volunteer efforts around duties as a registered nurse at Indiana Regional Medical Center.
She works the night shift at the hospital two or three days a week — a schedule that has allowed her to see her children off to school in the morning and then sleep while theyre attending class.
“I've been doing this for 11 years now,” she said. “It works for us.”
Vought, who graduated from Homer-Center High School in 1986 and from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1991, credits her mother with instilling in her the importance of community volunteerism.
“She absolutely is why I get involved,” Vought said. “From the time I was in Girl Scouts and she was the leader, I grew up seeing her involved.”
“She's a very busy girl, but I know she's always willing to help,” said Mollo.
Mollo said she and her husband, Dan, didn't make a conscious effort to steer Vought and her sister, Susan Hatch of Dillsburg, toward volunteer projects.
Mollo noted she also taught Sunday school as her children were growing up and later in life got involved with Meals on Wheels and the Homer-Center library. “I like to help other people, and I guess maybe they saw that,” she said of her daughters. “They enjoy helping others, too.”
Charnego, a past Good Citizen award winner herself, also nominated Mollo the year she won the award, in 2009.
Charnego said she tries to find someone to recognize for their good deeds each year through a nomination for the award, which is coordinated by the Homer City Police Department.
“I always try to look for somebody who is a good volunteer — not only in their personal life but also in their church, in the community and in school — just an all-around good person who is heavily involved,” Charnego said, noting that both Mollo and Vought fit the bill.
“Julie's a chip off the old block,” she stated.
Vought was announced as the award recipient on a night when sleet and snow kept many from braving the roads and a power outage had dimmed visibility at the fire hall where the event took place.
“It wasn't one of our best years,” said Charnego, who has been involved since 1975 with the Women's Club of Homer City, one of the co-sponsors of the Old-Fashioned Christmas event.
She said the power was out for only a portion of the town, but the outage happened to include the fire hall. With help from the firemen, she said, the kids in line to visit Santa had some lighting rigged for them, but local nonprofit groups holding a bazaar in another area of the fire hall were operating only by flashlight.
“It was a difficult situation, but nobody complained, and everybody did the best with it,” she said.
Vought was caught unaware when she was announced as the winner of this year's Good Citizen that night. Charnego contacted her husband that day to make sure she would be present, and since she was helping out with the library's activities, she'd planned to be there anyway.
“I was actually shocked and surprised,” she said, noting that initially she thought her husband had nominated her. “I don't like a lot of limelight,” she said but noted that winning the award “validates everything I've been doing for years. Not that I want recognized, but it's nice to know people appreciate it.
“I just like helping make the community a better place for the people here. I'm Homer City proud.”
Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.