Volunteers of the Year award winners
• Youth Volunteer of the Year: Andrew Manard
• Youth Organization of the Year: Liberty County High School student body
• Civic Organization of the Year: Kiwanis Club of Liberty County
• Social Club of the Year: Sistaz and Soljaz with Vizionz
• Individual Volunteer of the Year: Layton Gilroy
• Soldier Volunteer of the Year: Sgt. 1st Class Lori McCampbell
The United Way’s mission to give, advocate and volunteer intersected Thursday night as the nonprofit kicked off its fall campaign at the Liberty College and Career Academy.
New to the event were the Volunteer of the Year awards, presented by the Coastal Courier in conjunction with the United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County branch.
“Every single person we want to recognize because without them, and without what they do, what we do is absolutely not possible,” United Way Liberty Executive Director Jennifer Darsey said.
Coastal Courier Publisher Mark Griffin quoted historical figure Edward Hale on the power of one person before he announced the winners, who were selected from more than 30 nominees.
“Volunteers know that it is the smallest of kindnesses that carry the most weight and have the power to transform not just a situation, but a life,” Griffin said.
Youth Volunteer of the Year Andrew Manard was recognized for his tireless contributions to the United Way food bank, where he helped with logistics such as packing and distributing meals.
The Liberty County High School student body won for Youth Organization of the Year for its participation in the Backpack Buddies program, which raises about $1,200 each month to provide weekend meals for children in need at two elementary schools.
The Kiwanis Club of Liberty County was named Civic Organization of the Year for its 12-14 members and their breadth of involvement in youth literacy initiatives such as Read Across Liberty.
The group Sistaz and Soljaz with Vizionz took honors for Social Club of the Year for its quiet but powerful involvement in campaigns such as Toys for Tots, Relay for Life and at locations such as the Senior Citizens Center and Manna House in addition to providing college scholarships and support for individuals in need.
For his dedication to leading the Boy Scouts, Awana at his church and other efforts, Layton Gilroy was crowned top Individual Volunteer of the Year. He has logged more 492 hours so far in 2012, and his nominator said “He tirelessly gives of himself, never says he cannot do something and always keeps his word.”
Sgt. 1st Class Lori McCampbell is the Soldier Volunteer of the Year for her initiative during last year’s Toys for Tots campaign, where she took over sorting and bagging and ensured more than 2,700 children each were accounted for during toy distribution.
UWCE campaign chairman Samuel G. McCachern, senior vice president of Thomas & Hutton engineering, spoke about the importance of giving to the UW Liberty campaign, which has a $195,000 goal.
“The need is greater now than it has been; that would come as no surprise to you all,” McCachern said. “It is an increase of over a million from what it was this time last year, so there is a lot of work to do in this campaign, and thank you for what you will do as part of that.”
Money raised will benefit organizations in four basic areas: education and youth development, economic independence, health and wellness, and basic human needs.
“Remember that dollar for dollar, what is given goes to the agencies,” he said, because United Way administrative funding is provided through the Herschel V. Jenkins Trust Fund.
“It’s not everybody writing the big check, it’s everybody giving what they can,” Darsey added.
To bring the event full-circle, Darsey provided context for local needs and how advocacy groups help meet them.
Representatives from 26 agencies that receive UW funds gave out information about their causes and how the community can get involved.
“This is an amazing turnout, but what we do is not possible without every single agency and program that’s represented here, and what we do is not possible without all of you,” Darsey said.
“We had so many families come into the United Way office who were homeless this week; three of the families we have been working with for about a month, and they were living in their cars … and they all had small children,” Darsey said.
“These are families that are right here in Liberty County. This is not something that’s in a big city, it’s not something that’s somewhere else … but I want you to know that what you do does make a difference, it makes a tangible difference in the lives of people; it helps provide food, it helps provide shelter, it helps provide after-school care.”
The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce also provided support as it was a Business After Hours networking opportunity, and Liberty College and Career Academy culinary arts students provided catering.
The Coastal Courier will recognize award-winners’ efforts in a six-part series.
Liberty campaign is up and running
Liberty’s goal is $195,000, up 7 percent from $181,000 in 2011. Collections run through Nov. 15. Many area employers will coordinate in-office campaigns, but individuals can donate through the Liberty office at 368-4282.