Former Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver recently was recognized by the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless as its 2013 humanitarian of the year.
Hinesville Pizza Hut shift manager Margaret Bergelt also was recognized at the award dinner with this year’s Phoenix Award.
A part of this year’s banquet included a memoriam to the Kirk Healing Center’s co-founder Gary W. Dodd. A local businessman, community leader and philanthropist, Dodd died July 13 after a battle with cancer. A moment of silence was observed for Dodd, whom Dr. Alicia Kirk and others remember as a friend and as someone who cared about the homeless.
McIver, a lifelong Liberty Countian who served five terms as Riceboro mayor and three terms as commission chairman, was selected for his support for the homeless and service to the community, program coordinator. Charli Shearer said. She said McIver has been the go-to person for help through his connections with his church and the community. McIver was an important part in the development of the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, she said.
Shearer said the center’s mission is to provide a safe environment where homeless people can live as they work toward independence.
Hinesville Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard, who introduced the 2013 humanitarian of the year, said McIver also helped the center by working with agencies like the Coastal Georgia Community Action Authority and the Coastal Regional Commission.
He said McIver was responsible for getting grants for programs that benefited the people of Liberty County.
“Back in my early years, working in Riceboro, we started the Riceboro Community Organization,” McIver said. “We were successful in starting programs that benefited citizens, like getting the preschool Hea Start school started and initiating a program to assisted mothers who had to work out of town.”
He said he and Pastor Hermon Scott went to Washington, D.C., with Mayor Jim Thomas and talked about what they could do for homeless in the county. That led to the Liberty County Homeless Coaltion.
McIver and his wife of 45 years have six children and 16 grandchildren. They also have worked with the foster-care program, he said, noting that about a dozen foster children have “come through our home.” In 2011, he and his wife adopted a 3-month-old boy.
The Phoenix Award was presented to Bergelt by last year’s humanitarian of the year, Babs Holtzman. Bergelt said drama has described her life. She said she is a former alcoholic and drug user, but has been alcohol- and drug-free for 11 years. And, thanks to the center, she has started a new life and career.
“I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict,” Bergelt said. “At the time I first came to the Kirk Healing Center, I was going through experimental drug therapy. I couldn’t work. The center allowed me to live there for free until I got back on my feet.”
Bergelt said she has held her current job with Pizza Hut for six years. Although she has a son and daughter, she said they don’t live near here and have little to do with her due to her history.
Shearer called Bergelt the “absolute epitome” of what the center is about.
“We provide the opportunity for homeless men and women, but it’s up to the individual to make the changes necessary to start a new life,” Shearer said. “Margaret has done that.”