Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman presented the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award to Linda Putnam, Catherine Ackerman and Matthew Morse during the Florida Cabinet meeting this week.

Governor Scott said, “It is an honor to present the Champion of Service Award to these hardworking, deserving volunteers. Their commitment to helping others is commendable and I thank them for their continued service.”


From left: CEO Chester Spellman, Catherine Ackerman, Linda Putnam and Matthew Morse

Linda Putnam is a volunteer ombudsman for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. As a volunteer ombudsman for over 30 years, Ms. Putnam has successfully visited long-term care facilities to evaluate conditions and to consult with staff and administrators, while safeguarding the rights and services to which long-term care residents are entitled. Since the late 1970s, she has provided countless hours of advocacy between residents, family members, and facility staff, which has led to the many resolutions of residents’ complaints. Additionally, as an ombudsman volunteer, she has assisted with establishing and supporting resident and family councils in long-term care facilities.

Catherine Ackerman is the Director of the Fifth Circuit Public Guardian Program, which provides public guardianship services in Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. A public guardian is appointed to represent indigent individuals who are in need of a guardian to make decisions to protect themselves and their property when there is no family member who can serve as their guardian. This program has been in operation in the Fifth Circuit since 2001 and Ms. Ackerman currently provides guardianship services for approximately 60 individuals. The Statewide Public Guardian Office, which is responsible for monitoring Ms. Ackerman’s public guardianship program, has found that this program provides exemplary guardianship services and has repeatedly received praise from the wards and the communities in which they reside. Ms. Ackerman serves as the attorney as well as the Director of the program, and provides these services on a pro bono basis.

Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Charles Corley said, “Volunteers like Catherine and Linda are making a difference in the lives of Florida seniors. The Department of Elder Affairs relies heavily on volunteers for many of our programs. They are the heartbeat of the aging network, and we honor them today for their dedication to our elders.”

Matthew Morse, 19, of Tallahassee, is a Tallahassee Community College student who is committed to ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry. He has been committed to alleviating hunger since entering high school, where he learned that 1 in 6 people in Florida are considered “food insecure,” including 1 in 4 children. In 2011, Matthew was instrumental in organizing a Hunger Awareness Day at the Florida Capitol, and he also served as a Children’s Week Teen Panelist and Youth Commissioner with the Florida Children and Youth Commission from 2011-2013. Matthew can be found spending most of his time volunteering with Grace Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank and Florida Youth Against Hunger. Just weeks before entering his first year of college, he recently partnered with the Timothy Training & Development Center and Farm Share to give away more than 4,000 pounds of food to area residents.

Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman said, “These volunteers have proven their longstanding commitment to the causes they are passionate about. They are a shining example of the 3.4 million Floridians who volunteer their time and talent every year to make Florida’s communities stronger.”

The Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award honors individuals and groups for their outstanding volunteer efforts. For more information about the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Awards, click here.