43 years and still going. Dee Dee Kerkes receives Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work on the Key Peninsula.

Longtime volunteer Dee Dee Kerkes receives the Key Peninsula Citizen of the Year award from Lions President Bill Jones Saturday at the 34th annual event.
Longtime volunteer Dee Dee Kerkes receives the Key Peninsula Citizen of the Year award from Lions President Bill Jones Saturday at the 34th annual event. Contributing writer

Dee Dee Kerkes was chosen as the Key Peninsula Lions Club’s 34th annual Citizens of the Year Saturday — and at first, she didn’t realize she had won.

“I didn’t even realize they had called my name until my sister said, ‘Hey, that’s you!’” she chuckled. Kerkes was one of 16 nominated for the annual award that recognizes outstanding community members that devote their life to volunteering with various organizations within the peninsula.

She made sure to thank her community when accepting her award at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, saying “without having you all support one another, we wouldn't have citizens of the year.”

Kerkes, who has been volunteering for about 43 years of her life, doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon as she’s always up for any activity that is needed.

“My volunteer stuff is pretty much whatever is needed at the time,” she said.

Kerkes belongs to several volunteer groups around Key Peninsula including the Citizens Advisory Board and The Ashes, which helps raise funds for the public as well as the needs of the local fire department.

The Ashes have donated monies to the general public, helping those who have lost homes due to fire to installing a fire alarm in the home of a blind person.

Kerkes said she volunteers because she wants to give back to her community.

“I just didn’t like to sit back and see where something needed to be done that I could do,” she said, “I’d rather get involved than not.”

Kerkes doesn’t discriminate among volunteer activities, she loves them all.

“I enjoy people,” she said, about activities that get her working directly with citizens.

She wants to recognize the community she volunteers for and thank everyone for their support of each other and giving her the chance to focus so much on what she loves.

“You can’t be a volunteer if people won’t allow you to volunteer. I really appreciate that the people do accept our volunteering out here.”

The rest of the nominee were also presented with a framed certificate acknowledging them as Citizen of the Year too.

Lion and emcee for the evening Hugh McMillan said, “If you are nominated, as far as this club is concerned, you are Citizen of the Year.”

Keynote speaker Derek Young, Pierce County District no. 7 council member, spoke about the work he was doing within the Pierce County District, including improvements within the emergency response system to have trained professional respond to individuals who are having a mental health crisis.

He said all the nominees were great members of the community, and he wouldn’t be able to pick a winner among them.

“You’ve all shown what we should be striving to be in our communities,” he said.

Lion George Robison presented special awards to fellow Lions Hugh J. McMillan and Ian Patrick Warren for their work, both known and unknown, within the community. A bronze plaque for the Rhys Wood Memorial Amphitheater to honor all Lions who served and are serving their community was presented by Lions president Bill Jones.