Congratulations to 2024 Volunteer Hall of Fame Vicki Leonard

Vicki Leonard has been a force for positivity and changing the lives of others for over 25 years.

Vicki connected with the Hills & Dales Residential Center through her role as an emergency dispatch officer in Dubuque County. Hills & Dales Residential Center in Dubuque County supports the most vulnerable in the community, including children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Each year, Vicki orchestrates the “911 Christmas” event where first responders, police officers, firefighters, and other personnel all provide Christmas gifts for each of the 59 children and adults at Hills & Dales with disabilities. Starting over 25 years ago with gifts to a few residents, it is estimated Vicki has facilitated nearly 5,000 Christmas gifts to Hills & Dales residents, and over $150,000 in additional financial support.

The 911 Christmas event is not just about providing gifts; it is also a community event where first responders and Santa himself arrive at the Hills & Dales Residential Center with all the fanfare required the Sunday before Christmas. If it weren’t for Vicki’s efforts, many residents may be left without anything on Christmas morning.

Vicki’s efforts include creating various fundraising events to raise money to support unanticipated needs for residents throughout the year and facilitating the purchase of gifts for each resident. In the past, various fundraisers have included a Law Enforcement Thanksgiving dinner and the Tri-State’s Largest Chili Cookoff. All of these events require significant amounts of time and additional volunteer power that would not happen without Vicki’s guidance and facilitation.

Hills & Dales is an organization that could easily be isolated from the larger community, though individuals like Vicki ensure this does not happen. The relationship she has built between Hills & Dales and the first responder community is incredibly special. Hills & Dales frequently calls on the 911 community to support individuals with their medical needs, and many police officers, firefighters, and other personnel have told us that the 911 Christmas event is their favorite and most meaningful event all year.

Vicki served the Dubuque community as a 911 dispatcher for 37 years, and upon her retirement in 2012 an anonymous benefactor was so moved by her support for the community and Hills & Dales that they gave $25,000 in her honor to Hills & Dales. In her retirement remarks, she referenced that each person calling into the 911 center was the most important person calling in at that time. Vicki has approached Hills & Dales and so much of her community service with this same mindset. From residents and clients to her own family, church community, and geographic area, Vicki always treats everyone as if they are the most important and inspires so many others to do the same.

Vicki stays in communication with Hills & Dales staff throughout the year – not just during the Christmas season. Beyond the 911 Christmas, Vicki has helped facilitate Hills & Dales benefit events such as the Tri-State’s Largest Chili Cookoff, which draws thousands of people to downtown Dubuque in early October each year. She is on the Board of Directors for the Irish Hooley event, a Dubuque tradition each summer hosted by the Men’s and Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians. This event also gives back to the community by raising funds for Research for the Kids, a local organization that gives back to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

In the words of her nominators, “When Vicki is involved in a project or an organization, she is all in! She is completely committed to supporting children and adults who need our community’s support and is an expert in rallying people around a cause.”

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