Joanne and Mike Benjamin were named recipients of the 25th Annual Robert N. Pursel Award for Community Service in November by Community Giving Foundation: Danville. They will be honored at this year’s Holiday Happenings event on November 6 at the Pine Barn Inn. Tickets go on sale through the Community Giving Foundation next week.
According to a statement from the Community Giving Foundation, “Joanne and Mike are neighbors who have helped other neighbors their entire lives. Individually and as a couple, they experienced the qualities that are honored by the Pursel Award.
Joanne Benjamin joined the volunteers at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland at the age of 16 and later became a Licensed Practical Nurse. Mike Benjamin enlisted in the Navy in 1962 and qualified for “independent duty of a medical officer” six years later. In 1977, Mike was selected for the Medical Assistant program at the University of Nebraska, College of Medicine, where he received a Bachelor of Science with Distinction and was appointed an Officer.
Joanne and Mike moved 14 times during those military years. As a military wife, Joanne served as an ombudsman – group leader, confidante, cheerleader – for the wives of the men who were stationed aboard the USS George Bancroft submarine. For over five years, Joanne’s quiet confidence, absolute understanding and willingness to help were the reasons the wives turned to her during their husband’s deployment to sea. These same skills have served her throughout her work with school, religious and community organizations.
When Mike retired from the military in 1983, the Benjamin family – along with sons Ryan, Chris and Rilee – moved to Danville so Mike could begin a new career as a clinical medical assistant in family medicine. He held the position for 20 years. Their three sons graduated from Danville High.
In Danville, Scouting, the American Red Cross, Geisinger Hospice and Shiloh United Church of Christ have become their centers of interest. Working with palliative care, Joanne often sat with patients to provide relief to caregivers. She especially enjoyed making “memory bears” and delivering them to families, a program she continued in Shiloh. Joanne has served on the church board and the Danville Tri-County “After 5 Club” committee for many years and has traveled as a speaker to other groups. Because he enjoys cooking, Mike joined the church hospitality committee. He also participated in the Living Last Supper.
Mike’s service to the Boy Scouts of America began when he was a young man. He holds the Eagle Scout rank and went on to work with Cubs and Boy Scouts in his early days as a father. After the Benjamins moved to Danville, Mike worked with Troop 33 in Riverside for many years. Some Scouts will remember him as “the Ranger” at Camp Lavigne and as “Mr. B” on the summer camp staff. For over 10 years, Mike served as the chairman of the council’s camping committee. For his service to the organization, Mike received the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow in 2000, the Silver Beaver Award in 2009, and the National Eagle Scout Association’s Outstanding Eagle Scout Award in 2015. He also received the Columbia Montour Council BSA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Joanne and Mike continued their dedication to the Danville community by serving on the Board of Directors for the Danville Chapter of the Red Cross. As representatives, the Benjamins have helped at many disaster sites both locally and nationally, helping with Hurricane Wilma aid in Florida and wildfire aid in California. They also reported to Blooming Grove State Shooting Police to help feed responders.
Unsurprisingly, Joanne and Mike were involved in the planning and execution of the annual Holiday Happenings fundraising event hosted by the Danville Chapter of the American Red Cross. As chairmen of the event in 2015, the Benjamins were disappointed to learn that the Red Cross would no longer support the celebration or presentation of the Robert N. Pursel Award. A letter sent to community members seeking solutions to this dilemma was received by members of the Community Giving Foundation: Danville (formerly Danville Area Community Foundation). The result was a new home for Holiday Happenings through a renewed partnership with the Foundation. As experts on the committee, Joanne and Mike continued to lead the planning, organization and celebration of holiday events to raise funds for local organizations.
For more information on the event, visit csgiving.org/holiday-happenings.
Community Giving Foundation: Danville is an affiliate of the Community Giving Foundation, which manages nearly 300 charitable funds and invests in grants throughout the region to improve the quality of life in the Central Susquehanna region. For more information visit csgiving.org or call 570-752-3930.