Here is the situation:
There are a few very dedicated and helpful people who often solve users problems. They do it for a number of reasons, possibly the main one being it's actually nice to help people! But, they receive no real reward and I think they deserve it.
So here are a couple of ideas:
1. At the bottom of every topic are a few check boxes with the names of the people who have replied to the post. When your issue is resolved you check the box of the most helpful person (Could be two people, so check two boxes!). Every six months the checks are totalled and the winner receives either a book from their wish-list or something similar. Worry about the where the cash comes from in a minute.
2. Every six months the total number of responses is counted. (Not original posts). The winner is the person with the most. This one is obviously open to abuse and would need some sort of check to ensure people don't just make stupid replies. I believe that the people who really help here would do that but you have to check.
3. Every month you simply vote for the Helper of the Month, these names would need to be nominated beforehand.
I know you've been thinking "Well, where the hell is the cash coming from to pay for this stuff?"
Two thoughts spring to mind.
Firstly donations specifically for this project. A regular cash drive to encourage users to donate a buck or two.
Sponsorship could be another option. I don't know what links WP has but maybe they could do a deal in exchange for a bit of advertising etc.
If the guys at WP set this up I will happily donate $10 to start things off. I have been helped a lot and I want to repay their time and effort.
One last point, has anybody suggested a special paid support area? Maybe you pay $2/3 per problem but they stick with you to solve it. Any solutions could then be incorporated into the next WP version.