The United Way of Chatham County recognized several local volunteers on Thursday, May 3 for their outstanding volunteer work in the community. Held at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center, the event hosted almost 100 people. Sheriff Mike Roberson served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.
Sheriff Roberson noted that Chatham residents donated 81,265 hours of volunteer service to United Way and its member agencies last year. According to the Independent Sector, the most current hourly value of volunteer time is $24.14 per hour. This means that local volunteers donated work hours valued at more than 1.9 million dollars.
The keynote speaker was United Way Board member and former Chatham County Commissioner Betty Wilson. She spoke about the value of volunteerism and invited attendees to think about the powerful outcomes of making a difference, no matter how small, in someone’s life.
Chatham County Commissioner Chair Diana Hales presented the awards. Each honoree received a framed certificate signed by all of the County Commissioners. They also received a certificate of state recognition, which was signed by Governor Cooper.
Pamela Caruso, a volunteer of Council on Aging, received the first award. Caruso has volunteered with the Chatham County Council on Aging for the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) for more than eight years. She has also volunteered for the Volunteer Income Assistance Program (VITA) for over ten years. She has dedicated over 200 hours to these programs, assisting low-income families and seniors.
“Pam is the kind of volunteer that accepts assignments that other volunteers may turn down because of the time and distance required. She presents herself in a very professional manner and has a loving and sincere demeanor while interacting with seniors and adults with disabilities. Pam is a truly remarkable individual who views volunteerism as a calling,” said Hales.
Kay and John Combest, volunteers of the Galloway Ridge Retirement Community, received the next award. Kay Combest’s most active volunteer role is the Residents Welcoming Coordinator. She works with Galloway Ridge staff to identify new residents moving into the community and coordinates the delivery of welcome baskets. She also is the assistant manager of the Turnaround Resale Shop, where she volunteers 18 hours a month. John Combest was a member of the first Residents Council, which was charged with drafting and writing bylaws and procedures. He also started the original Volunteer Service Committee at Galloway Ridge to promote volunteerism among the residents. “John is the type of person who goes quietly about his volunteering out of the goodness of his heart. He will step forward and offer help wherever it is needed,” Hales said.
Mary Dickerson was honored for her work at Chatham County 4-H. Dickerson has been a 4-H volunteer for ten years. For the past year, she has served as the club leader of the Chatham County Horse-kateers. Within that club, Mary has taught numerous youth invaluable leadership and citizenship skills in conjunction with equine-based curriculum focusing on animal husbandry and care. When parents are unable to assist youth in the horse shows, Mary transports them, and oftentimes their horses, to competitions around the state.
“Mary is much more than a club leader to the children. She is a valued mentor and has many times been referred to as their ‘4-H Mom.’ Mary has been a solid fixture in the lives of many club members and has been able to provide them with emotional support, a warm meal and even a place to stay when families have needed it most,” said Hales.
The next award went to Ruth and Dick Flannelly who are residents of Galloway Ridge. Ruth is an excellent pianist and accompanies the Galloway Ridge Chorus at their weekly practices and semi-annual concerts. She selects the music for all chorus events and dedicates several hours each week to practicing with them.
The Flannelly’s travel extensively and record their travels together. On a weekly basis, Dick shares his travel experiences and videos with the residents in the health center. He also puts copies of each video in the library for others to enjoy.
“One of the most appreciated gifts that Ruth and Dick offer is that they are always there to help. This remarkable couple truly epitomize the spirit of community,” Hales said.
Edith and Joe Hammond were also recognized for their selfless dedication to their community. As residents of Galloway Ridge, Edith and Joe have been actively engaged in a multitude of volunteer projects there. Edith is highly involved in the work of the Residents Council. She is also the prime organizer of the “Neighbor Helping Neighbor” program, which assists residents with various needs. Many services are provided through this program; from transporting residents to doctor’s appointments to reading to those with limited sight.
Joe Hammond has led two popular groups at Galloway Ridge: a Men’s Non-Fiction Book Club that has more than 30 members, and a “Contemporary Religious Thought” discussion group that has more than 60 members. Joe also volunteers with the Galloway Ridge Woodworkers Group. The woodworkers accomplish an amazing number of repair jobs for residents and staff.
“The selflessness of Joe and Edith make them ideal role models. They are civic-minded and passionately caring people,” said Hales.
The next award was presented to Hilary Murray for serving as the Volunteer Coordinator at CORA Food Pantry for ten years. Over the last decade, the number of work hours contributed by volunteers has increased from 1,500 hours per year to more than 6,500 per year. During this time, Hilary has been instrumental in recruiting, training and recognizing volunteers. In the last five years alone, she has trained almost 250 new volunteers through monthly orientation sessions.
“Hilary’s manner is friendly, open and soothing. She makes a lasting, positive first-impression on all who meet her. CORA wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as much as it has in the last ten years without her,” Hales said.
Last but not least, Larry Ross was recognized for his volunteer efforts at the Chatham County Council on Aging, where he has been a member of the Board of Directors since September 2014. Currently serving as Board President, Larry is an innovative leader and dedicated to the agency’s mission. Since he became involved with the Strategic Planning Team, he has worked to help the organization become more data-driven. One example of this is his contribution in securing the support of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health for a Capstone Team of graduate students to develop the Chatham County Comprehensive Aging Plan.
“Larry brings his intellect, patience, ethics and enthusiasm to all that he does. Most importantly, he makes sure that Council on Aging decisions are made with the best interests of Chatham seniors in mind,” said Hales.
Sheriff Roberson provided closing remarks and encouraged agencies, churches and schools to submit their most active volunteers for recognition in the upcoming years.