Longtime Hinesville resident Babs Holtzman was honored Thursday when the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless named her 2012 Humanitarian of the Year during a benefit dinner at Connection Church. Approximately 150 family members, friends, associates and community members attended.
The Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless in Hinesville was founded eight years ago by Dr. Alicia Kirk and local entrepreneur Gary Dodd. KHC’s mission is to provide a safe, live-in environment for homeless men and women who are working toward independence. To date, the center has helped approximately 79 homeless people get back on their feet.
The benefit, which also serves to raise money for KHC’s operations, brought in $7,500, which was an increase over last year.
Holtzman was nominated and chosen for the honor for her contributions to the Kirk Healing Center and to Hinesville. She has been working to better the community since she and her husband of 44 years, George, first arrived in Hinesville about 34 years ago.
“It is truly in giving that we receive, and not in wealth, but in so many blessings and deep-felt love,” Holtzman said after she accepted the award.
In addition to KHC, Holtzman’s generosity and dedication have aided the Liberty Humane Shelter, Manna House, the Mary Lou Frasier Center for Counseling, Helen’s Haven and Ronald McDonald House.
Holtzman’s husband spoke for a moment, and the audience watched a video from the award-winner’s son Greg and his family, who were unable to attend. Longtime friends Wynde Wood and Jeannie Burch also lauded Holtzman’s character and compassion.
“When there is a job to be done, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty,” Burch said.
Proclamations from Rep. Jack Kingston and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas were read. The event culminated with the Humanitarian of the Year Award presentation by Gary Dodd, the previous award recipient, and Claudia Thomas, the co-chairperson of the KHC board of directors.
“There are so many opportunities to give to others ... all one has to do is open their eyes and ears and take in the needs that are available,” Holtzman said.
Hinesville resident Dean Bryant also was recognized with the KHC Phoenix Award, a distinction given to a KHC resident who has shown improvement, according to his or her house supervisors. Bryant is a Navy veteran who fell on hard times, ended up in legal trouble and eventually found himself homeless. He said he heard of the KHC and reached out for help. He came to the center about a year ago and the staff helped him find a job at the Fort Stewart commissary.
“Dean is one of the reasons that we do what we do. He is invaluable ... he makes me smile,” KHC board Chairman Sylvester Harris said.
“My first reaction upon hearing that I would receive this award was that I didn’t deserve it,” Bryant said. He attributed his success to the Kirk Healing Center and said the KHC staff opened doors for him when others wouldn’t.
“People tend to think that because they don’t see the homeless in Hinesville that they do not exist,” said KHC program coordinator Charli Shearer, who planned the benefit and once was homeless.
“It’s not just children who need the village to raise them — we need the whole community to embrace each other so that it can succeed,” she said.
According to Shearer, the center can house only 14 residents, and there is a waiting list. It can take up to two or three months for someone to get a spot. The KHC staff hopes that with increased awareness and fundraising efforts, they can expand and offer services to families.
For more information on how to get involved with the KHC, go to www.kirkhealingcenter.org or drop by the K&K Thrift Shop on Highway 84. The shop raises funds for the center and provides those in need with clothing and household items.