Betse Gump can't remember when she first started volunteering. She just always has.
Now, the 47-year resident of Summit is being honored by the United Way of Summit, Berkeley Heights and New Providence as Citizen of the Year.
"I get involved because I really like people and I like being a part of a group," she said.
Gump said she began volunteering because her husband Frank was a surgeon with the Summit Medical Group and she stayed home to raise their children and needed something to do outside of the home.
"This is the most welcoming community," she said. "You can move here and people will embrace you. If you put out your hand someone will take it."
Gump has volunteered with the Junior League and the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey over the years and continue to stay active in the community.
"I've always thought that being involved with the arts is the most wonderful world," said the 75-year-old Mount Holyoke College graduate with a degree in art history.
Even her children are involved in volunteering. Her daughter Sarah works in affordable housing in Denver but still tells her mom she wants to be more involved.
"You made volunteer work seem like an important part of life," Sarah told her mother.
But Gump says in this day and age when people are working harder than ever, they are still finding time to volunteer. She said many people rush off the train after work and coach teams or do other work with children.
"They probably don't see it as volunteer work," she said.
But those who haven't yet should make time to volunteer, Gump said.
"You gain a lot of insight about people and what their needs are," she said. "It's good to be with people."
And Summit, she says, offers that connection to volunteer work that she and many others desire.
"It's the essence of the community," she said which provides the atmosphere for as many volunteer organizations and non-profits as Summit has.
The message she has for those not yet volunteering in the community: "Even those that can't have day-in and day-out committment to a volunteer job, that they can still make a difference with spot jobs."
Gump also thanked her family she giving her the freedom to express herself through her volunteer work.
"I just love being in this town," she said. "I've been happy here."