United Way celebrates Live United ‘heroes’

Outgoing United Way Blount County chair for the 2009 campaign John Hinkle, left, gets a scrapbook of the activities in the campaign from Michelle Hankes, CEO and president of the United Way of Blount County.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Outgoing United Way Blount County chair for the 2009 campaign John Hinkle, left, gets a scrapbook of the activities in the campaign from Michelle Hankes, CEO and president of the United Way of Blount County.

United Way of Blount County celebrated “everyday heroes” who helped keep the agency “in the black” financially and recognized an individual and an organization with the first ever Live United Volunteers of the Year Awards during the annual meeting.

Before the lunch crowd of 160 attendees at First Baptist Church of Maryville, Year of Caring Chair Regina Jennings presented a Volunteer of the Year Award to an organization and to an individual.

Winner of the award for an organization was Community Food Connection. The Volunteer of the Year award for an individual went to Liz Mills of the Adult Education Foundation.

Accepting the organization award on behalf of Community Food Connection, Dean Moss, president of the organization’s board of directors, said his organization served about 58,000 people in 2009.

Regina Jennings, chair of the Year of Caring Committee, said the Food Connection does much to help those in the community. “This group feeds stomachs as well as spirits,” she said.

Moss thanked the many individuals who dropped food in donation barrels during the organizations food drives. “I am overwhelmed by the need in this community, and I’m overwhelmed by the support in this community,” he said.

Moss said the organization is currently located at 1402 E. Broadway Ave., Maryville, in a 1,600 square foot building, and they’re looking to get into a larger space. “We’ve got food stacked to the ceiling. Our biggest problem is parking,” he said. “We’re appealing to the community to donate change. We have 150 shoe boxes in stores around the community.”

For the individual award, Jennings said that Mills works directly with clients to help them study for their GED testing and goes above and beyond her volunteer duties. She gave examples of Mills studying Arabic to communicate with two of her English as a Second Language students and helping Heritage High School with their website.

“Here’s a volunteer every nonprofit should have,” Jennings said as she presented Mills with the award.

Mills said she and husband moved here five years ago. “We didn’t know anything about this area. We knew we were moving to the ‘Volunteer state.’ It was very refreshing to see that was not just a name. People really do volunteer here a lot. It’s a spirit,” she said. “I know there are a lot of volunteers doing good things in the community, and it is very humbling to be recognized.”

In her “State of Blount County United Way” address, Michelle Hankes, president and CEO of Blount County United Way, said she attends a lot of meetings and hears the same comments. “There is a reoccurring theme: Thank goodness 2009 is done. But we made it through 2009. The thing about bad years is they are full of opportunities,” she said. “Think about those years that stayed in our minds. The stories that get us are stories of everyday heroes. Everyday heroes get to us because we relate to them.”

Hankes said everyday heroes were the men on the ships at Pearl Harbor when Japanese Imperial forces bombed on the eve of World War II and the firefighters who entered the twin towers of the World Trade Center when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001.

“When bad things happen, you don’t know what you are getting into. Everyday heroes are those that showed up,” she said. “What today’s celebration is about is people in Blount County who showed up in 2009. It wasn’t an easy year, but it was an amazing year.” Hankes said that administratively, 2009 started out with a balanced budget after 2008 campaign chairs Denny and Cindy Mayes led an effort to raise $2.15 million in pledges. “But where we going to get it? I was terrified half way through the year we would not have the collections,” she said. “But we did it. We did not pull back on funds to any of our agencies, and we finished in the black.”

Hankes said part of the reason they finished in the black was because the staff and office tightened their belts financially. The CEO also recognized those United Way volunteers who went out during this most recent campaign and asked for donations. “It’s not an easy thing to do, to go to people who have not had raises or have friends who are laid off and ask them to give to United Way,” she said. “You are our everyday heroes. You asked or you allowed someone to come to your company and ask.”

Hankes said everyone on the campaign cabinet was concerned about where they set the goal for this year. “We set a goal of $1.9 million, and we hit it the night before the deadline at 8:30 p.m.,” she said. “At this moment, we’re $11,000 over goal.”

The 2009 campaign chair John Hinkle said this year’s campaign wasn’t easy but it was enjoyable because of how dedicated his cabinet was in reaching their goal. “It was a tough year. If it had not been for the campaign cabinet and division chairs, it could have been a bad year. They were diligent in going after goals we set because the money was not just going to come in on its own,” Hinkle said. “It was a stressful but fun year.”

Board Chair Brenda Sellers also recognized several volunteers with United Way of Blount County, including committee chairs, campaign chairs, loaned executives, and fund distribution executive committee members and volunteers.

Sellers took on her role of board chair in October when Dr. Bill Seymour stepped down as he accepted a position at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn.

New officers and board members were announced at the luncheon, and awards were presented to honor employees and organizations who participated in the 2009 campaign.

Retiring members of the United Way board include Brickey Beasley, Randy Burleson, Stone Carr, Tom Eustis, Carolyn Forster, Ed Harmon, Alvin Hord, Lea Anne Law, Mike Lewis, Brett McBrayer, and Dr. Bill Seymour.

In addition to Board Chair Sellers, officers of the 2010 United Way of Blount County board of directors include Kevin Painter, Chair-Elect; John Hinkle, Secretary/Treasurer; Greg Wilson, General Campaign Chair; Judith Craw, Community Impact; and Directors at Large Regina Jennings and Dave Ogle.

Newly-elected members of the board of directors to serve a three-year term include Rob Britt, Katherine Caputo, Melvin Covington, Bill Eanes, John Faulkner, Ron German, Chris Jackson, Doug Myers, Bethany Pope, Tara Rasher and Debra Whaley.

Mark Loudermilk, Kevin Painter, and Stephanie Thompson each were re-elected to serve a three-year term on the board of directors.

United Way of Blount County supports programs that address health, education, and self-sufficiency. For more information or to give to United Way, visit liveunitedblount.org or call 865-982-2251.

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