Bonnie & Jim created a culture that welcomes all people, and they actively seek to integrate new volunteers and families from backgrounds not typically represented. They kept the Team engaged through COVID and continued with a significant transition from a small core of long-time volunteers to a combo of these veteran volunteers and newer, younger, and more diverse volunteers.

In the Volunteer Coordinator role, Bonnie was instrumental in bringing in AFS alumni from other cultures. Bonnie would reach out directly and invite them to Team meetings and social events and make them feel welcomed and appreciated. Two of these volunteers, from India and Turkey, have started to take on more leadership roles because of the welcoming encouragement they received from them. Jim, as Liaison Coordinator, was also instrumental by providing a space in the support area for Liaisons from different cultures to have influence on the Team style and methods of providing support to students and Host Families. Now the liaison meetings and training have these refreshing, young volunteers as leaders.

Bonnie & Jim seamlessly support each other and collaborate to create a sense of teamwork and confidence with all Team members. Working full time jobs, they keep close tabs on the needs of the Team so one is always available for issues that may arise. One example was a challenging support case with a student at school and required immediate attention. When Bonnie was not able to act due to work, Jim stepped in and gathered the appropriate Team members to act. They are great delegators and welcome others to step into leadership roles and support others in the decision-making process.

Bonnie & Jim’s continued commitment to in-person meetings and social events and in making everyone feel like an important part of a Team and a mission, has been essential to rebuilding the Team after COVID and incorporating multiple voices, styles, and values. The Team is much better because of them.

Peggy and Art Howe Award

Established in 2016, Peggy and Art Howe Award honors the outstanding service of AFS volunteer families. This award is inspired by the Howe family, who volunteered for AFS for more than six decades. Art Howe was a volunteer AFS Ambulance Driver in World War II, President of AFS (1965-1971), and Life Trustee until his passing in 2014.

In 2023, winners of the Young AFS Volunteer Award winners were:

  • Minttu and Antti Auvinen, AFS Finland
  • Bonnie & Jim Stark, AFS USA
  • Luigi Batista Seronni, Milena Rodrigues Araujo, Pietro, Maria and Fabiana Rodrigues Seronni, AFS Brazil
  • György Kugler, Ágnes Kuglerné Eper, AFS Hungary