The Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless held its fourth annual Honors Benefit Dinner on Thursday at Club Stewart, this year honoring retired nurse Gale Dent as Humanitarian of the Year.
As family members from Clarksville, Tennessee, and friends from the area gathered in the main ballroom, Dent discussed the honor she was about to receive.
“I am very surprised but pleased that I was selected,” she said. “I know there are many other people who are probably due this much more than I. I appreciate the work that the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless does because of the problem that we have in our community, the communities throughout our state and the communities throughout our nation.
“It’s something that we must do something about … It’s not a political thing; it’s a humanitarian thing. We need to help people get back on their feet when they’re having hard times because one day it may be (us). One day we’re up, and one day we’re down. We never know what life is going to bring us.”
She said she first became a nurse when she was only 19 years old through a special program offered in Tennessee due to the shortage of medical personnel in her small hometown.
Dent retired from nursing after 40 years, having served in military and civilian hospitals near where her husband, Ray, an infantry officer, was stationed.
After he retired, they moved to Hinesville when Ray responded to a job opportunity. For her, it was an opportunity to serve in another community.
There was no shortage of friends or family members willing to talk about Dent, including Leutrelle McKee, who called Dent her “adopted mom.” She said Dent is a compassionate, caring woman who helped start a support group for parents of autistic children.
Dee Wright said Dent’s motherly attributes enable her to involve her friends in all her projects and will not argue why someone needs to participate but will say, “Just do it” then “Bless you, my child.”
Dent’s sister, Veronica Broomfield, also a retired nurse, agreed, saying her sister’s motherly concern for others made her the family leader.
Dent, the oldest of her brothers and sisters, said she was grateful that four of her five surviving siblings were there for her special honor.
Veronica is three years younger than Gale. Other siblings attending Thursday’s dinner included sisters Linda and Evelyn and brother Elvin.
“She’s the matriarch in the family,” Broomfield said. “She and I are the ones everybody goes to when they need advice, counseling or just words of encouragement. She loves people, and she loves to get involved in whatever is going on.”
Throughout the evening, music was provided by gospel artist Donna Jackson and Cindie Rigdon, manager of Fort Stewart’s pet-boarding facility. Connection Church Pastor Dr. Tim Byler told everyone that in order to be a humanitarian, you have to love people, and Dent truly loves people and God. He said she always looks for the value in others.
Prior to receiving her award from Hinesville first lady Claudia Thomas, Mayor Jim Thomas delivered a city proclamation honoring Dent.
“Ray has always been there by her side, and Gale has always been there by his side during his military career,” he said. “Anytime a wife spends as long as a military wife like Gale has done … I think God has a special place in heaven for military wives. Anytime a person spends as much time helping other people as (she) has, it’s truly a blessing.”
Thomas’ proclamation noted that Dent’s community service included critical-care nursing at local hospitals, nursing educator, Sunday-school teacher, Cub Scout den mother, Girl Scout troop leader and Red Cross volunteer.
After accepting her award, Dent joked about her children and grandchildren helping her get ready for the evening’s event as if they thought she couldn’t do it herself.
“In everything I do in life, I want to honor God,” she said. “I want to show the love of Jesus to everybody … I’m a nurturing person. I don’t know if it’s because I was the oldest in my family … but I don’t like to see people hurt. I don’t like to see people homeless … My friend, George Holtzman, told me once, ‘I don’t know where you get all these people. It’s like they’re waiting in the bushes for you to come along and help them.’”
After recognizing Dent, Judy Shippey introduced this year’s Phoenix Award, given to someone in the community who has risen from bad circumstances to personal success.
This year’s Phoenix Award was presented to Rigdon, who she was too shocked to say anything other than “Thank you” to Shippey and Kirk Healing Center founder, Alicia Kirk.
Kirk delivered the closing remarks for the evening.
“God does what we can’t do,” Kirk said, referring to some serious health issue that caused her to question how she could continue to help others when she was limited in helping herself. “As long as we’re on this Earth, it’s our duty to trust God … We’ve got to get over disappointment, and we’ve got to forgive those who disappoint us. We begin to lose track when we forget that we’re the children of the living God.”