Volunteer of the Year award winners
• Youth Volunteer of the Year: James Fox Jr.
• Youth Organization of the Year: Red Club
• Civic Organization of the Year: Guardians In Action Inc.
• Soldier Volunteer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Candler
• Veteran Volunteer of the Year: Walter Helmick
• Social Club of the Year: The Classy Ladies Social Club
• Individual Volunteer of the Year: Andrew Williams
The United Way of Liberty County held its 2013 fundraising campaign kick-off party and Volunteer of the Year awards ceremony Thursday evening at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center. The Volunteer of the Year awards, co-sponsored by the Coastal Courier and the United Way, recognized charitable efforts made by groups and individuals in seven categories.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background,” said Jennifer Darsey, director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Liberty office. “We work 12 months out of the year.”
Darsey said all the money raised for the United Way in Liberty County stays in the county to help the local community. She said the need has been increasing each year.
The United Way advisory board members stood on stage as Darsey announced the organization’s fundraising goal of $199,000 for the 2013 campaign. Last year’s goal of $195,000 was met. The United Way of Liberty County already has raised $101,672 toward this year’s goal, according to Darsey.
The fundraising campaign began Sept. 4 and ends Nov. 22. Liberty County United Way is part of the United Way of the Coastal Empire.
The United Way’s mission is to “improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities,” according to the United Way website, uwce.org. The United Way supports a variety of community program and services, focusing its efforts on education and youth development, economic independence, health and wellness, and basic human needs.
Coastal Courier business manager and United Way board member Kathryn Fox said this year the organization received “double the number of nominations” it would typically receive for Volunteer of the Year.
Fox said the increase in nominations shows a significant number of Liberty County residents are dedicated to serving others.
“Hopefully, they will inspire you,” Fox told the audience before she announced the nominees and winners.
The volunteer of the year award winners were James Fox Jr., youth volunteer of the year; Red Club, youth organization of the year; Guardians in Action Inc., civic organization of the year; Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Candler, soldier volunteer of the year; Walter Helmick, veteran volunteer of the year; The Classy Ladies Social Club, social club of the year; and Andrew Williams, individual volunteer of the year.
The impressive list of Volunteer of the Year nominees included youth nominees Megan Higgason, Kelsey Higgason, Bobbie McDonald and Ashli Smith. Civic organization nominees included the Liberty County Relay for Life committee, Chemtall and CenturyLink. Social club nominees included the Star Social Club.
The 14 military and individual nominees included Kenneth Bell, Laura Betts, J.F. Turner, Beverly Carradine-Gilmore, Larry Golden, Courtney Davis, Cynthia Jordan, Millie Wilson, Venasta Thomas, Joyce Stotts, Paula Hall, Jessica Molina, Freddie Young and Pamela Viscarra.
United Way board chairman Anthony Burns presented a lifetime-achievement award to members of the Brantley family, George Brantley’s daughter, Debra Coleman and grandson Joseph Hargrove. The Brantley family has showed the United Way substantial support over the years, including housing the Liberty County United Way office in one of their commercial properties, Burns said.
United Way board Vice Chairman Richard Hayes presented the spirit stick to Liberty Elementary School. The school raised $3,790 during its employee campaign.
Like the many dedicated volunteers who crowded the stage, Fox said caterer Debra Stevens of “By His Hands Catering” gave back to the community by donating food and service for the kick-off party.
The United Way in Liberty County and its volunteers manage several programs and services to help local residents, including a literacy program, which puts readers in several schools to read aloud and give children age-appropriate books to take home, and Medbank, which helps provide prescription medication to those who may not be able to afford it. The United Way helped collect new and gently used school uniforms and school supplies for needy students and participated in the 13th annual Project Reach G.A.N.G. back-to-school rally in Riceboro. The United Way also heads up the Backpack Buddies program, which provides weekend meals to children who receive free and reduced-price school meals, and several mass mobile food drops per year.
For more information, call the Liberty County United Way at 912-368-4282.