By: Chelsey Kimmel-Kendrick

“I’m a real humble person,” a line Dee Sturgeon knows all too well. She has been a volunteer for more than 25 years as an events coordinator for American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event, and has been a coach for Special Olympics Iowa for more than 30 years. Sturgeon doesn’t do it for the recognition though. She does it to inspire others.

“I have the time,” she says. “I just think that it’s the right thing to do; Volunteers can inspire others to do it.”

And that she did. Sturgeon is also an instructional assistant for students with special needs, in addition to her volunteer work. She says her classroom kids were motivated by her work. For their middle school Spread the Word to End the Word® campaign, they offered to help. Some of the kids volunteered to make PSAs to inform the media about the event; others wrote speeches to share — all of which, Sturgeon says, were attributed to her volunteerism.

“It’s kind of cool to see the kids get involved because I get involved,” she says.

Because she is involved throughout the Sioux City community with fundraising and organizations, Sturgeon was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service, a prestigious award that is given to individuals who do extraordinary things in the community. The Jefferson Award is given on both national and local levels to people who “recognize, inspire and activate volunteerism in communities, schools and workplaces,” but everyone is recognized on a national level. This award was given to her in January of this year. She was featured on KMEG where she let the principle and students speak, in addition to herself. The segment was shown to her class, and that’s when it all began.

“A lot of the kids have been coming up to me saying ‘Miss Sturgeon, if you need help, let me know!’” says Sturgeon. “It’s awesome!”

She also does a lot with Unified Sports, a program that the Special Olympics does that brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together to compete in sports on the same team. She even plans several events for her students like going to the circus, going to truck shows and taking them on outings with their peer partners so they can get to know each other better.

“I don’t do it for the recognition, and it’s really hard for me to accept the recognition,” she says. Sturgeon wasn’t even sure what to do with the award when she received it; she said it was just sitting in her car.

Even though Sturgeon says she’s a “behind-the-scenes” person, she does a lot around the community to make a difference and to make herself well-known. Sturgeon herself is a cancer-survivor, which is why Relay for Life is an organization that means a lot. Because of what she has experienced, she is always searching for ways to help others.