Pat Gustke Sustainer of the Year award honors JLSJ Sustainers embodying League’s motto, “Women building better communities,” for their dedication to volunteer work and inspiring role models.
Congratulations to the 2022-2023 Pat Gustke Sustainer of the Year Award Winners!
Women Building Better Communities is the League’s motto, and Maureen Deal exemplifies it as a Sustainer. One of her Active Member service highlights was co-chairing the Next Door initiative for two years, during which time the committee’s efforts were honored with an AJLI award. She worked full-time and performed various Sustainer duties. Shortly after she retired, she and her husband relocated to Lincoln, California, where she is still making a difference.
Maureen’s educational background, according to Joanne Johnson Felt, “has made her acutely aware and empathetic with youth who may not fit the cookie-cutter mold and often feel left out or excluded in the traditional classroom.” Maureen asked the Principal of Phoenix High School, the local continuation school, whether there were any volunteer possibilities when she moved to her new town more than ten years ago. She started as a math tutor but quickly started a tutoring program as a trained Junior League volunteer, enlisting additional volunteers and planning their schedules to ensure the best possible student support. She engaged the neighborhood and started mentoring other retirees so that Phoenix teachers in various subject areas could access professional coaching. Many of these children have specifically mentioned their sense of success from their time with a tutor, and the instructors and counselors have seen the difference one person can make when they spend time with one student once a week.
Maureen noticed something else as she worked with students and fellow tutors at Phoenix.
Many students come from disadvantaged living situations, often impacting their learning ability. Displaying her enthusiastic spirit, she became one of the founders of The Phoenix Angels, which raises funds for supplies at the school. Through their efforts, the school expanded its arts program, a source of inspiration and motivation for the students. Maureen has helped build the program to provide gift cards for needed groceries, gas, general living expenses, and clothing. During the Christmas Holidays, she leads a team that purchases and wraps gifts for families the school has identified needing extra help. In addition, she implemented a scholarship from The Angels for graduating students.
A high school senior who faced many challenges wrote a note expressing his gratitude for the school, staff, students, and especially The Phoenix Angels. They were “the biggest uplift for me;” they “have helped me and shown me that there are good people in the world.” The Principal recognizes Maureen and writes her “dedication, compassion, and leadership have been an inspiration to everyone at Phoenix High School.”
In addition, Maureen volunteers weekly at Petal Connection in Roseville, California, where she creates colorful bedside bouquets for hospice patients and seniors in the community.