Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman presented Sue Callaham with the Champions of Service award, recognizing her for donating over 2,000 hours to the museum’s educational and historical programs.

TALLAHASSEE, FL. – Amid thunderous applause, Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman honored six Floridians with the Champions of Service award at a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Jan. 13th. Among the recipients of Florida’s only statewide recognition program for volunteerism was Sue Callaham, a ship modeler who has donated more than 2,000 hours of service at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum since becoming a volunteer in 2012.

ChampionsofServiceAward“Sue’s enthusiasm and initiative are invaluable as the lighthouse and museum continues to provide education opportunities for students, lead preservation efforts and provide a positive impact to the community,” said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner as he addressed the assembly. Following Detzner’s speech, Scott, Spellman and state cabinet members presented Callaham and her fellow winners with their awards.

“It is an honor to recognize six outstanding volunteers today who serve Floridians of all backgrounds, from students to seniors,” said Spellman. “These Floridians have demonstrated a tireless commitment to serving their communities—and our state—and Volunteer Florida is proud to recognize them for their service.”

Callaham humbly accepted the praise from state officials. “You certainly don’t volunteer to get an award, you do it because it’s who you are,” she said. “I appreciate this honor very much, but I volunteer because I absolutely love what I do.”

Sue Ship ModelingOriginally from Key West, Fla., Callaham spent 45 years working in the medical field in both California and Florida before her retirement. Volunteering in her community has always been an important facet of Callaham’s life.

The mother of four first volunteered as an EMT in California following the devastating earthquakes of 1989. She went on to serve as the league medic for a youth football league, overseeing the health of 180 children. When her youngest daughter started high school and found out her home economics class didn’t have anyone to teach sewing, Callaham stepped in and volunteered as a classroom helper.

“People are doers or watchers,” said Callaham. “I’m a doer. When I see things that need to be done, I do them.”

Shortly after moving to St. Augustine in 2011, Callaham’s husband noticed an ad from the lighthouse looking for volunteer ship modelers. Callaham, who began ship modeling in the early 1990s, joined three other volunteers to help launch the program. In the last two years, the group has poured countless hours into recreating the HMS Victory, the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission. The project is so detailed Callaham and her fellow artisans spent six weeks adding over 3,000 individual dime-sized plates to replicate the ship’s original copper sheathing.

In addition to sharing her stories and skillset with thousands of museum visitors, Callaham also helped the lighthouse create a special ship modeling camp for at-risk youth. During its first run last summer, Callaham led campers from local middle schools in creating their own scaled replica boats.

Volunteer Sue“When they first start on the project, you can see in their faces they are thinking ‘There is no way this is going to ever be a boat!’” said Callaham. “But then you see their concentration in gathering the parts and doing a little research. Next comes the consternation on their faces when things just simply aren’t working out. And then, finally, you see the glow in their faces when things come together. There is nothing in the world like seeing that glow!”

The youth camp was so successful, Callaham and the lighthouse staff are currently planning an adult version of the program they hope to debut in late spring.

“Sue helped us to expand our at-risk education programs, which is something that’s very important to our museum,” said Brenda Swann, Deputy Director of Collections, Interpretations and Programs at the lighthouse. “Her passion for what she does is contagious. We are fortunate to have her as part of our volunteer family.”

Callaham is one of over 200 volunteers who assist the nonprofit museum in a variety of key roles from site interpretation to wooden boatbuilding. Anyone interested in volunteering at the lighthouse can contact Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator Loni Wellman at (904) 829-0745 or via email at



A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)3 non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port sm as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.