FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – How do you become the gold standard for volunteerism?

Providing nearly 16,000 volunteer hours over a decade certainly puts a person in the running. But there’s something even more important than just giving time. It’s the manner in which that time is given and for Flagler Humane Society volunteer Manny Confusione, it’s always with a genuine smile.

That winning smile was on full display Tuesday afternoon as friends and family gathered to celebrate his recognition as the ‘Outstanding Volunteer of the Year’ for the Florida Animal Control Association.

“We each have a chance to nominate employees, volunteers, and there’s a lot of different awards at the conference, and so I nominated Manny,” explained Amy Carotenuto, director of the Flagler Humane Society. “He’s volunteered over 16,000 hours for us, but his smile just does everything for the shelter.”

Accepting the formal award Saturday night during the association’s annual educational conference and event, it was a banner evening for Manny and those who find his enthusiasm irresistible.

“I had the pleasure of attending the Florida Animal Control Association banquet where he received his honor,” said Flagler Humane Society board member Kathy Vogel. “It was very, very special. He was ecstatic and he had a great night.”

Edging out two other nominees for the award, Manny was humbled by recognition.

His mother Fran says he’s always been a winner.

“From the second he left India he’s been a winner,” she said. “He’s always had that attitude, always smiling. He stopped speaking his language the minute he landed here and learned English within a year. I can’t take any credit because that’s who he is.”

His legacy is faithfulness said Fran.

“And he doesn’t let anything stop him,” shared younger brother Daniel Confusione.

“When he wants something, he gets it and he kind of inspires me to do the same thing, and I don’t let any excuses stop me from attaining my goals,” he said.

Watching for moment Manny arrived at the Flagler Humane Shelter on Tuesday for the surprise congratulatory reception, the room was packed to capacity with well-wishers, including Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly and deputies from the agency.

“I’ve known him for 10 years and he’s got the biggest smile,” said Nick DeSantis. “He’s the only person in the world that can make a person having a bad day have a good day.”

“It feels incredible,” said Manny, who really felt the love from the community and co-workers.

Always focused on the task at hand, his big dream for the future is to get more animals adopted.