By Jason A. Smith
The United Way of Butts, Clayton and Henry counties recently held its Tenth Annual Henry County Volunteer Recognition ceremony.
Henry County State Court Judge Ben Studdard served as master of ceremonies for the event, which was held at the Merle Manders Conference Center in Stockbridge. Local volunteers, according to him, "are taking care of people with every kind of need imaginable."
"They're feeding the hungry, they're housing the homeless, they're taking elderly widows whose houses are falling down around them, and building them back up," Studdard said. "They're taking people who have been told they're disabled, and they're enabling them to do things and reach for their dreams."
The ceremony, the judge continued, helps to paint a picture of Henry as a good place to live.
"This event shows what a community can do, when it cares enough to reach out to those who are in need," Studdard said.
Jackie Prillaman, the office manager for the United Way in Butts, Clayton and Henry counties, said the spirit of volunteerism has been evident in Henry over the past 12 months.
"This year, we had 54 nominees, which is about 15 to 20 folks over what we had last year," she said. "So each year, it seems to increase, and we get different organizations each year as well."
Prillaman added that Thursday's event allowed organizers to shine a light on local volunteers' generosity.
"I think we have some very caring ... folks in this community, and this is how they ... give back to the community," she said. "It's because they care about folks."
Organizations which nominated honorees for accolades during the United Way volunteer program included A Friend's House, Sacred Journey Hospice, Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children's Care Home, the Kiwanis Club of Henry County, and Henry Medical Center.
The hospital served as a sponsor for the recognition occasion. "We have a volunteer base of 150 volunteers" at the hospital, said Donna Braddy, director of marketing and public relations for Henry Medical Center. "They've been role models about volunteerism. But when you look county-wide, these [United Way honorees] are the backbone, the core, the unsung heroes. They're the ones that help so many people, from children to the elderly to the special-needs population to the abused. They truly do it because they have a great heart, and that's what it's all about."
Braddy added that the 2010 honorees' actions are particularly "inspirational," when considering financial pressures which have affected non-profit organizations in recent years.
"When the economy is good ... it's easier to do the kinds of things that these organizations are trying to do," said Braddy. "It's harder when you have a couple of years like we've had. These people ... are not stopped. It's unshakable."
Jean Pattishall has been a volunteer with the Henry Medical Center Auxiliary for 18 years, and was among the volunteers honored with a certificate at the event. She said she was surprised to learn, last month, that she had been nominated for an award.
"I just said, 'No, I don't think that's me,'" said Pattishall. "I thought they made a mistake. I've always felt like I get much more than I give when I volunteer."
Pattishall said it "feels good" to be recognized for her volunteer endeavors.
"It also lets me know that I can do more," she added. "There's more to be done."
Seth Hoover accepted a certificate of appreciation during the ceremony, on behalf of Momentum Christian Church, where he is involved in community-centered projects. He said 20 to 25 members of the church were honored for their work on a 2009 effort, with the Southern Crescent Habitat For Humanity organization.
"They had a home in Henry County they were refurbishing," Hoover said. "They called us, asking for some help to get it done. We helped to finish the refurbish [project], but then we kind of adopted the family, too."
Hoover described the recognition he and his fellow church members received as, "a huge honor."
"We're blown away by it," he said.
Elaine Bird, of McDonough, received recognition for volunteering with the Helping In His Name Food Pantry in Stockbridge. Bird works in an administrative role at the facility.
Bird said she began learning about the food pantry three years ago, through Stockbridge First United Methodist Church, where she attends services.
"It kept coming up that they needed volunteers," Bird said. "God kept telling me, 'You need to go do this,' and I kept hesitating. But now that I do it, I just love it. I enjoy working with the different families that come in. There are times when it's really sad, but it's also very rewarding."