Impressive Service Award – May, 2021
Ethel Sanders and Vera Elgin

We have a regular Volunteer of the Month program where we honor a volunteer (or group of volunteers) for their service. But occasionally there are long time volunteers who seem to deserve something more than just VOM recognition. This special award is for volunteers who evoke our admiration (who “impress” us) through their length of service and skills they contributed to WVGS. Each has had a significant long term impact on the Society. The award is given when they retire from “active” service.

WVGS recognized Jean White a couple of years ago for her impressive contribution to the Society through her teaching, leadership of the Collection Development Committee and service on the Board. It was partly that experience that led us to create an Impressive Service Award.

We have two such impressive volunteers we would like to honor now – Ethel Sanders and Vera Elgin.

Ethel and Vera both saw the need for a library building early in our history and served, along with others, for many years on the Building Committee, finally resulting in the Society’s purchase of the current Library.

Ethel Sanders has probably filled more roles during her more than 15 years of volunteering than most – from President to head of the Rummage Sale, from the “We Care” program to swearing in all new officers. But her enduring project has been our Obituary collection. It was Ethel who recognized the value of the obituaries donated by members and then local newspapers, her perseverance in getting them first onto library cards our members could access and then shepherding them into our first digitized database – a 15 year project that is still in process. Ethel’s almost daily involvement has resulted in an impressive 141,000 obituaries in the WVGS data base.

Ethel had the idea for the obits project around 1998 when she began clipping obits from the local newspapers and pasting them on 3×5 index cards with an eye to the project being a resource for WVGS members and a potential source of income for the society. She was able to get obituaries from local newspaper archives, religious organizations and churches in the Sun Cities area. She also added memorial folders to the collection which contain even more information than an obituary.

In January 2005 Ethel asked for volunteers to put the information into Excel spread sheets and the Obits Committee was formed. When the State Library decided to rid themselves of the 20+ binders of Nevada and Idaho obituaries, Ethel took them all. Ethel always went the extra mile to give anyone requesting an obituary additional information. Ethel would check local phone book, local church records or club, and obituaries and memorial folders of relatives.

Vera Elgin began her volunteer journey with the beginning of the search for a Library for the Society, continued through the negotiations, paperwork and move and then the 15 years of maintaining the building once we owned it. Vera has been an outstanding property manager, and it all started with a mistake. The volunteer in charge of finding a property manager asked for suggestions, and Jean White gave him a member name. This volunteer took our membership directory and went down the page and stopped, not at the suggested person, but the next entry – which was Vera Elgin. What a wonderful mistake!

All of you who are home owners are well aware of the care a building takes. From finding volunteers for Cleaning Teams to arranging for roof, HVAC and plumbing inspections and fixing the problems, from getting the carpet cleaned, the insurance renewed, the fire marshall’s inspections scheduled, Vera was on top of it without anyone knowing that the job had been done. She also found the time to to serve six years on the WVGS Board and to chair the nominating committee twice.

West Valley Genealogical Society has benefitted from the time and talents of Ethel and Vera IMPRESSIVELY over more than 15 years – congratulations to them both.

Stephanie Sparks and Jean White co-wrote this presentation.

West Valley Genealogical Society