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2021 EAA Volunteers of the Year Announced

By Sam Oleson

July 26, 2021 – The 2021 EAA Volunteers of the Year have been announced, and this year’s winners represent many of the values that EAA holds important. This year, there are seven Volunteer of the Year recipients: Tim and Sherry Niederkorn, Pam Ratliff, John Mellberg, Bill Zierdt, John Wiegand, and Mert Taylor. The Volunteer of the Year recipients were honored at a ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Volunteer Park.

Tim, EAA Lifetime 1249996, and Sherry, EAA 1277308, have been volunteering for many years with EAA, primarily with EAA Chapter 5 in Middlefield, Ohio, as well as at EAA Chapter 228 in Mesa, Arizona, and at AirVenture. From event organizing to Young Eagles to scholarships, Tim and Sherry volunteer in a number of capacities.

“We were surprised [to be named Volunteers of the Year],” Tim said. “We just kind of go about our business. We’re very honored and surprised that someone thought so much of the things that we’re doing to nominate us for this.”

Added Sherry: “We’re very appreciative. Our chapter works very well together, and we receive a lot of compliments on things we do to keep things moving. Tim and I do a lot with the youth. Tim and I are retired teachers …. [The chapter] asked for our help and expertise in the youth area. They asked to help train the youth and expose them to opportunities and help them enjoy aviation.”

Pam, EAA 310504, has been an active member of EAA Chapter 91 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for around 35 years, serving as the chapter secretary and treasurer. At AirVenture, Pam has volunteered in a number of capacities, including in the ultralight and homebuilt areas. During her years as a volunteer with Chapter 91, Pam has seen the chapter become very active, and she’s happy she could help contribute to its growth.

“Well, it was a do-nothing group for a while, and after a time, after I’d been in it for say four or five years, we got more vital, got more involved,” she said. “We just stirred things up more and found things to do, and then the big thing was building the hangar. That was our first really big project, and I just jumped right in with two feet and helped raised money. We had different kinds of projects and donations and that kind of thing. It just gives me some satisfaction, especially when you’re among a bunch of people who are so involved and vital and interested in a particular subject. I just like being involved when I can.”

John Mellberg, EAA 109395, has been a docent at the EAA Aviation Museum for a number of years, helping to greet and give information to visitors. An avid modeler and history buff, John built and donated the 1-to-36 scale D-LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II model that hangs near the entrance to the museum and also gives occasional presentations on different aviation topics.

“It’s emotional. I’m overwhelmed by it,” John said about being named a Volunteer of the Year. “It brings tears to my eyes. I had no expectation for this.”

Bill, EAA 685278, has been involved with EAA as a volunteer since 2000. As an ex-Army helicopter pilot who has flown a variety of types, Bill began as an announcer during AirVenture when there was anything happening with helicopters on the field. In addition, Bill also volunteered at Pioneer Airport throughout the summer. Like many volunteers, Bill began his involvement because of his interest in aviation, but he has grown to enjoy it so much because of the people he gets to spend time with during AirVenture.

“Well, there are 18 of us who are the rotary wing team up there [in the announcer’s stand], and we get together once a year, spend a week together, and everybody goes home,” Bill said. “They’re really a neat bunch of people, and that’s the key to the whole thing.”

John Wiegand, EAA 129921, is a year-round volunteer at EAA’s print/mail center, doing anything that needs to be done, including running and fixing machinery.

Finally, Mert, EAA 156, is an avid homebuilder and has been volunteering at the Communications Center on the AirVenture grounds for over 20 years. As a bit of a handyman, Mert does just about anything needed. A three-numbered EAA member, Mert has been part of the organization since nearly the beginning and has stayed involved because of the people.

“I think it’s probably the people,” he said. “I think Paul [Poberezny] was right. You see more people are willing to volunteer, and the standard of excellence they’ve developed, and they’re proud to be part of EAA. I guess that’s, to sum it up, that’s about the only thing I can say. … I never imagined that it would be anything like this. When we started out, I really had a very small part of it, because I’m trying to put together a business, a farm business. Raising five children and putting them through college is not an easy chore. We managed it, and EAA has grown far beyond what we ever expected it to.”

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