For Karen Bergin, volunteering is something that she learned to do at an early age. Raised by a single mother in Southern California, Bergin watched her mother make time to volunteer at church or in youth groups.

“Volunteering was modeled to me by my mother,” she said. “She would do immaculate things to volunteer. It just always seemed to me that if you want to be part of a community, you volunteer.”

Bergin has made a 20 year career of volunteering with various Petaluma causes. For her efforts, she has been honored with the Volunteer of the Year award at the Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence.

After leaving the banking sector to become a stay-at-home mom, Bergin, 63, began seeking out opportunities to give her time. She said she subscribes to the three W’s of volunteering: wealth, work and wisdom.

“If you aren’t in a position to donate money to a cause, you can offer to do work, or you can share your knowledge with others,” she said. “We all have the ability to volunteer. You just have to find the things you are passionate about where you can make a difference.”

For Bergin, those areas include education, the arts and helping the under-served. She has worked with the Committee on the Shelterless, The Human Race, the American Cancer Society, Women Against Domestic Violence, The Fabulous Women, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Redwood Gospel Mission PEP Housing, the Children’s Museum and Hospice, among other causes.

She has also served on several school PTAs and has been a supporter of Petaluma Educational Foundation.

Bergin said she is proud of her current work as sponsorship coordinator for TEDxSonomaCounty, an independently-organized event based on the idea of the popular nonprofit TED. The organization brings together speakers to share ideas that will help improve the world.

“It’s all about ideas worth sharing that can change the world for the better,” she said. “There’s so much out there that leads people to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. But there area ideas out there that point to the exact opposite.”

In nominating Bergin for the award, Krista Gawronski, founder of The Fabulous Women, said she volunteers with the intention of making others great.

“In some ways, Karen has contributed a lifetime of service and love to this community,” she said. “She is an amazing example of grace and an ambassador for philanthropy. In other ways, it feels like she is just getting started.”

Bergin, who works with her husband, Mike, in their glass etching business, said she was overwhelmed when she learned that she had been named the volunteer of the year. She said that Petaluma has a rich tradition of volunteerism, and she is honored to be a part of that legacy.

“I feel really compelled to share in order to make our community a place that we want to live in,” she said. “Petaluma has a remarkable spirit of volunteerism. There are so many others doing so much. Petaluma feels like a small town with a big heart.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)