Volunteerism is just a natural part of her life—and so, for Bridgewater resident Allison Caulfield, being recognized for it was a shock.
Caulfield was chosen among several other women to be honored as one of Somerset County’s Outstanding Women for 2012, receiving an award in the category of Hometown Hero for her volunteer work.
“It is really flattering,” she said. “I do what I do because it needs to be done, and it’s part of my life.”
Caulfield will receive her award along with the other recipients throughout the county at a special dinner hosted by the county’s Commission on the Status of Women March 23 at The Imperia in Somerset.
Caulfield has lived in Bridgewater for about 24 years now, and it was about 23 years ago that she began working for Somerville FISH, an organization that takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide food, clothes, medication and financial assistance to those in the county who are in need.
“We take those calls, and there is a volunteer on duty,” she said. “That volunteer calls someone like me, and I have a pantry in my basement and deliver the food.”
The food, Caulfield said, is donated by churches, boy scouts and other service projects, and she holds it in her basement to deliver to those in need.
“When I get calls, I go out,” she said.
In addition, Caulfield said, there is a clothing pantry, and the organization takes in clothes and gives them to those in need. And, she said, there is a treasurer who is responsible for making checks for clients.
“All money is donated, and the organization is completely self-funded,” she said.
Caulfield said she heard about the organization from a member of her church.
“I had just moved to the community, but I had volunteered my whole life,” she said. “I had two young babies, and this seemed like something I could do at that point in my life.”
“It means everything to be part of this,” she added. “It has been an intrical part of my whole life, and my family life because the pantry functions in our house.”
But, Caulfield said, being part of the organization has also been an eye-opening experience, particularly living in the community. She said clients mostly come from Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Raritan, Somerville and Manville.
“I could be out 305 days a year,” she said. “With the economy like it is, I literally walk to doors and hand people food.”
“It’s the sustenance of life, I am handing someone their dinner because they need it,” she added. “It really provides a social eye opener and lots of intimate contacts.”
Caulfield is also part of , and has been for about six years. With that organization, she said, she tutors people in English, and teaches them how to read.
“I tutor ESL as a volunteer in the school system, and I have been doing that for 14 years,” she said.
Caulfield said she was reading a newspaper, and saw that Literacy Volunteers was looking for more assistance, and she answered the call.
“I love to read, and I love different cultures,” she said. “I went through the training, and this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
In her time with the organization, Caulfield has worked with a Taiwanese woman and a Chinese woman, and someone just learning to read.
“I had an illiterate man from the south,” she said. “He was 61, and just finished learning the alphabet.”
For Caulfield, she just cannot say no to any kind of volunteer opportunity.
“I don’t like to say no, I prefer to say yes,” she said. “I currently drive a girl back from Raritan Valley Community College because she doesn’t have a car. I was a youth leader at my church.”
“I’m really blessed in life to be able to have time and support, I get a lot of support from my family, and I am able to say yes,” she added.
Caulfield said she was thrilled to be nominated by Sonja Galyon-Kamonika, someone she knows through her volunteer work.
“She told me she was going to nominate me, and I was very flattered to be a hometown hero,” Caulfield said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the other women at the dinner.”
But Caulfield said she will continue her volunteering, and hopes others get into it as well. She said she is lucky that her husband is an attorney, and she is privileged to be able to spend her days volunteering and helping those in need.
Caulfield said she started her volunteering when she was in college at Villanova University, where she studied economics and statistics. She said she would tutor inner city kids two times a week in Philadelphia.
And that love of volunteering has carried over the years.
“If everyone would take a moment in their lives and look at the person next to them as a whole person, we would be a better nation,” she said. “Volunteering has always been in my heart, and now I have the time and ability to do so.”
The other award recipients are Debbie Kirsch, of Bernardsville, and Nicole D’Angelo, of Warren, for arts and entertainment; Christine Schneider, of Bridgewater, for athletics; Carleen Kelly, of Bernards, for business management; Janet Camargo Wahba, of Somerville, for education; Diana Kramer, Ph.D., of Bernardsville, as an entrepreneur; Sherry Frawley, of Bernardsville, for environmental initiatives; Raritan Borough Council woman Stefanie J. Gara and Kathleen O’Brien, of Branchburg, for government and public service; Joanne Liscovitz, of Hillsborough, and Patti Sofran-Herrling, of Franklin, also as hometown hero; Susan R. Rubright, Esq., of Gladstone, for law; Andrea Gaito, M.D., FACR, of Bernards, and Barbara Ronca, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW, of Bridgewater, for medicine and health; Suzann B. Goldstein, of Warren, for public service; Katie Meyler, of Bernardsville, for social services; and Barbara Marchio, of Gladstone, and Nancy Yuzuik, of Bound Brook, for volunteerism.