Gina Riddle doesn’t think she does anything more than the other people in her community. Others disagree.
This week, Riddle was selected as a WTOC Hometown Hero.
“It’s a huge honor, but honestly, I feel so undeserving,” Riddle said. “I feel like I don’t do anything more than a lot of other hard-working people around the community do. I am very honored by being selected.”
Riddle reportedly was nominated for her work at her church, First Baptist Church of Ludowici; her job as a paraprofessional in the media center at Smiley Elementary School; and her tireless work as a volunteer in the community.
She volunteers as a cheerleading coach, supports the high-school booster club and has worked the ticket gate at county sporting events. Riddle also has helped raise money for a veterans’ memorial and serves as a team volunteer with the Long County Relay for Life.
“I’ve always been involved in my church’s children’s ministries,” she said, forgetting to mention her work with vacation Bible school, the Awana program and nursery. “I’ve worked in children’s church, I helped start the children’s choir, and a couple years ago, I started working with the youth in the sign language choir.”
Riddle and her husband, Mike, a Hinesville fireman and Coastal Courier correspondent, moved to Long County from Liberty County about 12 years ago. She began working for Smiley 10 years ago.
“When my son was little, there was a little boy in his class that came to school,” she said. “His belt was so frayed that it was taped with duct tape. He’d also wear the same clothes a couple days in a row.
“I started bringing him my son’s clothes that he’d out-grown. (My son) was so much bigger than him. To him, it meant the world because he had something new to wear.”
Riddle continued providing clothes, coats and shoes to children who came to school lacking. She said when her kids’ classes had activities that required them to bring money for treats or T-shirts, she’d always send the teachers extra money for those students whose parents couldn’t afford it or wouldn’t give their child the money.
She continued to do this even after her own children got into high school. One of her son’s fellow football players was wearing sneakers because he couldn’t afford football cleats, so she bought him some cleats.
Sandi Rentz’s theory as to why Riddle gives so much of herself to her family, church, school and community is that she is a Christian. Rentz, who teaches third grade at Smiley, is the pastor’s wife at First Baptist Church.
“I’ve known Ms. Gina for several years. She’s just an awesome person,” Rentz said. “The best way I can describe her is that she exhibits the kind of love that Christ has to die for us. She shows no partiality, no favoritism. She shows love to everyone she comes in contact with here at Smiley, in the church and in the community. She’s just a wonderful person.”