Posted 3:53 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020

UWL alum Amber Bydynkowski received a 2020 Governor's Service Award for helping lead WisCorp's response to COVID-19 and flash flooding in the Coulee Region.

Amber Bydynkowski, ’18, receives Governor’s Service Award

Amber Bydynkowski didn’t join WisCorps for praise or attention.

But she’s received a lot of each over the past few weeks, after Gov. Tony Evers presented her with a 2020 Governor’s Service Award for her and her team’s response to COVID-19.

“I had never won an award like that before and, frankly, I was shocked that I was chosen as the honoree,” says Bydynkowski, ’18, a disaster response crew leader and facility assistant at WisCorps. “It’s pretty outstanding to be recognized and feel so appreciated for the work I’ve done. I must say that it was not only me doing the work. My amazing crew members were also an essential piece to the puzzle.”

The Governor’s Service Awards honor outstanding national service members, volunteers and programs that have helped address serious social needs in their communities. And in 2020, much of that work has centered on the pandemic.

When COVID-19 emerged as a national health crisis in the spring, Bydynkowski’s team paused much of its existing work to focus on what the community needed in that moment.

Many local organizations were short-staffed, with many volunteers preferring to stay home and limit their risk of exposure. WisCorps — a nonprofit organization that develops leadership, self-confidence and a strong work ethic in young people through stewardship of Wisconsin’s communities and natural resources — stepped in to fill those gaps.

They served 385 meals and delivered 24 food packages to those in need.

They wrote 84 letters to nursing home residents who were unable to see their loved ones.

And they partnered with Coulee Region RSVP to help senior citizens complete projects around their homes.

This was in addition to ongoing restoration efforts in the wake of recent flooding in Vernon and Monroe counties. WisCorps rehabilitated a baseball field in Coon Valley, restored 600 feet of trails in Wildcat Mountain State Park, and placed more than 18,000 pounds of gravel for flood mitigation in Cashton.

During so many projects, Bydynkowski was struck by the generosity and gratitude of community members.

“I can’t even begin to explain how grateful the community was for our time and service,” she says. “Many had baked goods for us or some sort of extra way to say thank you.”

Bydynkowski, who holds a biology (pre-veterinary science) degree from UWL, was originally drawn to WisCorps because she connected with its mission. Since, her ties to the group have grown even stronger.

“I ended up sticking around,” she explains, “because I’m not only inspired by my coworkers to do better every day, but also by the people we work with in the community.”

Click here for the full list of honorees and descriptions of their service.