Joanne and Mike Benjamin were named recipients of the 25th Annual Robert N. Pursel Community Service Award in November by the Community Giving Foundation: Danville. They will be honored at this year’s holiday season on November 6 at the Pine Barn Inn. Tickets will 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 all their lives. Individually, and as a couple, they lived the qualities honored by the Pursel Award.
Joanne Benjamin joined the volunteers at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland when she was 16 and later became a licensed practical nurse. Mike Benjamin enlisted in the Navy in 1962 and qualified for “Medical Officer’s Independent Duty” six years later. In 1977 Mike was selected for the Physician Assistant Program at the University of Nebraska Medical School where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honors and was commissioned.
Joanne and Mike moved 14 times during those military years. As a military wife, Joanne served as the ombudsman – squad leader, confidante, cheerleader – for the wives of the men who were stationed aboard the USS George Bancroft submarine. For more than five years, Joanne’s quiet confidence, absolute understanding and willingness to help were the reasons spouses turned to her during their husbands’ deployment at sea. Those same skills served her well. throughout his work with educational, religious and community organizations.
When Mike retired from the military in 1983, the Benjamin family—with sons Ryan, Chris, and Rilee—moved to Danville so Mike could start a new career as a clinical physician assistant in family medicine. He held the position for 20 years. Their three sons are graduates of Danville High.
In Danville, Scouting, American Red Cross, Geisinger Hospice, and Shiloh United Church of Christ became their service center. Working with the hospice, 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 serves on the church board and the Danville Tri-County “After 5 Club” committee for many years and has traveled as a speaker for other groups. Because he loves to cook, Mike joined the church’s welcoming 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 Scouts in his early days as a father. After the Benjamins moved to Danville, Mike worked with Troop 33 at 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 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 was also honored with 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 of the Danville Chapter of the Red Cross. As representatives, the Benjamins assisted at numerous disaster sites both locally and nationally, helping to relieve Hurricane Wilma in Florida and wildfire relief in California. They also reported to the Blooming Grove State Police Shootout to help feed responders.
Not surprisingly, 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 event presidents in 2015, the Benjamins were disappointed to learn that the Red Cross would no longer support the celebration or awarding 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 about 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 grants throughout the region to improve the quality of life in the Central Susquehanna area. For more information, visit csgiving.org or call 570-752-3930.