To celebrate the importance of volunteerism, Northwestern Mutual, through its Foundation, recently presented St. Vincent De Paul of Barnesville with a $15,000 grant on behalf of Bill Hunkler, a recipient of the company's 2017 Community Service Award.

The annual program honors the company's financial professionals for extraordinary volunteer work. Each year, 16 Northwestern Mutual financial professionals who demonstrate extraordinary service are awarded grants to benefit their nonprofits of choice. Hunkler presented the grant on Wednesday, March 15 at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church.

In 1981, Hunkler was one of 10 local citizens who helped to form St. Vincent of Barnesville, and he has served as a board member since that day. He oversees operations of the organization, including the day-to-day business of its retail store, food donations to local families, utility assistance programs and more.

Since then, the need in the community has continued to grow. Ten years ago St. Vincent was serving 26 families and today, they help over 125 families each month with food and vouchers to pay utilities. At Thanksgiving time last year, they gave vouchers to over 145 families. Last year alone, St. Vincent provided over $29,000 in local assistance to the needy.

"My personal passion for the organization comes from a heartfelt concern for those less fortunate," said Bill Hunkler. "The resources provided by St. Vincent's make a difference in people's lives, and I'm truly honored to work alongside an organization that does so much for local children and families in need."

The entire St. Vincent project is served by volunteers, and does not receive financial help from any state or federal government agency. They rely solely on store sales, donations from individuals and groups, Riesbecks, and several churches. Most of the food is purchased at a discount from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

"When members of the community come together to make a difference, there are no limits to what can be accomplished," said Eric Christophersen, president, Northwestern Mutual Foundation. "Bill has demonstrated the true value of dedicating one's time and skills to improve the lives of others through his commitment to St. Vincent of Barnesville."

A total of $295,000 has been awarded on behalf of financial professionals this year. Since 1995, the company has donated more than $5 million through its Community Service Award program.

The current location of St. Vincent on West Main Street was recently purchased by the Village of Barnesville and will be one of two buildings torn down to make way for a parking lot and a planned street-level park. A new and larger, one-story handicap accessible building will be built at 161 South Gardner St. on a lot owned and donated by the church.

St. Vincent also recently received $10,000 toward the project from the Smith-Goshen Rice Enrichment Fund, through the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley (CFOV).

St. Vincent has also received many local donations and volunteers have held various fund raising efforts for the building project.

Volunteers are asking for the public's help and are very grateful for donations.

Checks may be sent to St. Vincent of Barnesville, 114 W. Main St., Barnesville, OH 43713. Please mark checks "building fund."

Donations are tax deductible.