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National vote underway for all-time greatest heroes - five per state - in 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards


Vote for top heroes at; $1 million in financial contributions provided; winner receives Volvo car for life



IRVINE, Calif. (October 16, 2006) - Who would you give a Volvo to? How about Lynne Ballew, who opened Alaska's first non-profit motel, exclusively serving homeless families and individuals with disabilities? Or Lisa Busch, who created an organization to improve Alaska’s existing trail system, provide jobs for unemployed residents and bridge a bitter rift that formed between environmentalists and timber proponents? Or Britt Constantine, who advocates for environmental responsibility in Alaska’s legislature?


These are just three of the five extraordinary Alaska heroes named as semi-finalists in the 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards – Volvo’s annual search for hometown heroes across America. This year, in honor of the Awards’ 5th anniversary, Volvo selected the top five heroes from every state in America and is asking the American public to visit to vote for their favorites now through February 4, 2007.


Who in Alaska would you give a Volvo to? Representing Alaska in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • In 1979 Lynne Ballew, of Anchorage, founded Bean's Cafe, a place where homeless and low-income people could receive a hot nutritious meal in a safe environment. Today, Bean’s Cafe serves approximately 20,000 meals each month to the disadvantaged and the hungry. In the late 1990s, the city once again experienced a growing number of homeless families. This time, increasing numbers of disabled persons for whom traditional shelters proved inappropriate, had joined the swelling ranks of the homeless. Again, Ballew rallied community support and succeeded in opening the Safe Harbor Inn––Alaska's first non-profit motel, exclusively serving homeless families and individuals with disabilities. Every day Safe Harbor Inn provides a home to at least 120 guests, half of them children.
  • In 1993, the Alaska Pulp Corp., Sitka’s largest employer, shut down its pulp mill. Almost overnight, two thirds of the workforce lost their jobs, and 100 families in the 8,500-person community moved away. Political leaders blamed environmentalists for the mill failure. The town was bitterly divided, and the economic outlook was bleak. Inspired to help the community get back on its feet, Lisa Busch spearheaded the formation of Sitka Trail Works, an organization that provided retraining money for dozens of displaced timber workers to become trail crew workers. The program was designed to improve an existing trail system, provide jobs and new opportunities for unemployed residents and increase tourism. But perhaps most importantly, it bridged a bitter rift that had formed between environmentalists and timber proponents. Today, Sitka Trail Works has more than 500 members and has built more than $2 million worth of trails.
  • As the legislative outreach manager for the Alaska Conservation Alliance, the state’s only environmental lobby, Britt Constantine, of Juneau, advocates environmental responsibility in Alaska’s legislature. For example, when Alaskan politicians and the All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) industry worked together to pass SB 85 to open up 80,000 square miles of pristine public lands for ATV use, Constantine dedicated countless hours of time to unite people statewide to challenge SB 85. Her efforts succeed, as the citizens of Alaska generated enough votes to shut down SB 85 for at least another year.
  • Junietta Steinbeck, of Kenai, provides children in her community counseling and direction towards positive extracurricular activities. Steinbeck works at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenai and spends one-on-one time with pre-teens, serving as a sounding board, while helping them deal with their troubles. Many of these pre-teens frequently call Steinbeck at home asking her for advice, as they know she makes herself available to help nearly 24 hours a day.
  • As a teacher, Nita Towarak, of Unalakleet, educates the community’s children to value, practice and share their native cultural traditions. Her efforts frequently involve local elders, bringing together the energy of the young with the wisdom of the old. Each year her class stages plays that bring to life traditional Eskimo folktales. Her class also holds potluck dinners for parents and elders, where the students learn everything from the preparation of social events and division of responsibilities, to the joy of traditional gatherings among the generations.


Once the public vote concludes, the top three vote getters in the categories of safety, quality of life and environment will be named finalists. Then, a panel of distinguished judges – including Hank Aaron, Sen. Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride, Val Kilmer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and previous Volvo for life Awards top winners – will select winners in each category. Winners receive a $50,000 charitable contribution from Volvo; remaining finalists receive a $25,000 contribution.


On April 4, 2007, Volvo will fly the winning heroes to New York, where Volvo and members of the celebrity-judging panel will honor them at the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards Ceremony. At the climax of the ceremony, Volvo will reveal which of the three top heroes is also the Grand Award winner of a Volvo vehicle every three years for the rest of his or her life.


“Over the past five years the Volvo for life Awards initiative has received more than 15,000 hero nominations,” said Anne Bélec, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars of North America. “All of these heroes demonstrate incredible conscience, care and character. Having the public help us select the winning heroes is a truly exciting – and democratic – addition to this year’s program.”


To learn more, or to vote for your favorite hero, visit A Spanish version of the site can also be accessed at this address.


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Kim McMartin

Haberman & Associates



Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America



For photos and more information on the Volvo for life Awards visit

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