Philanthropy day debuts in Blount

Chamber Foundation honors those serve others

Blount County’s “givers” - individuals, businesses or agencies who serve others - were honored Thursday, Nov. 18, during the Chamber Foundations inaugural Philanthropy Day.

Held at the Airport Hilton, Chamber Foundation chair Sharon Hannum served as master of ceremonies. She said the Foundation nurtures and trains start-up non-profits and educates leaders. “We help those who are passionate about serving the community,” she said. “We exist to serve you.”

She thanked sponsors Kizer and Black attorneys, Vulcan Materials, First Tennessee and Denso.

Jeff Hutchison, founder of Patch Ministries, a home-repair non-profit organization focused on home remodeling for low income clients, shared how the Chamber Foundation helped him get Patch Ministries started by dealing with the paperwork and other issues related to starting a non-profit.

Hutchison praised the Chamber Foundation for having a Philanthropy Day. “We are called givers or philanthropists. We give out of our hearts, purses and checkbooks,” he said. “To be able to celebrate that and recognize those who give is great.”

Hannum said she selected a committee - Leslie Rutherford, Kim Frye and Chris Soro - to handle the tough task of choosing the winners. “We had 23 nominations in eight categories,” Hannum said. “The selection committee had a difficult time choosing the winners, as all of the nominees deserved to win for their work with area nonprofits.”

Clayton Homes was honored as the Large Business of the Year. Nominated by Maryville College, Clayton Homes was selected for providing “tremendous financial and volunteer support to the Clayton Center for the Arts.”

Sharon Kennedy, human resources director at Clayton Homes, said that while the company appreciated the recognition, making a contribution to the community was more important. “We put our customers first, and we want to support the community through the arts, education and feeding the hungry,” she said.

In the Small Business category, LeConte Wealth Management was recognized as Small Business of the Year. Nominated by Experience Your Smokies, the firm was selected for providing financial and volunteer support to several area nonprofit organizations.

LeConte co-founder Kevin Painter said he was surprised by the honor because there are so many other deserving businesses. “We live in a wonderful community filled with great businesses and unbelievable volunteers,” he said.

In the Nonprofit of the Year category, the Blount County Community Action Agency was recognized for its economic impact in the community. “In fiscal 2009-10, the BCCAA paid $1,054,773 to local utility vendors for low income residents,” Hannum said.

Kim Garrison accepted the honor on behalf of the BCCAA. “For anyone in business for over 40 years, it is nice to get the recognition,” she said.

In the Outstanding Service/Civic Group category, Leadership Blount was selected based on yearly legacy projects that benefit many nonprofits both financially and through volunteer support, Hannum said.

Katherine Caputo, executive director of Leadership Blount, said she is proud of the work of those before her who served the community. “I’m very proud to be working with an organization that has such wonderful alumni and volunteers,” she said. “It’s wonderful, and I’m very proud of the work done before me the last 20 years.”

The Non-profit Spirit Award was presented to local band Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. The band is made up of Edward Harper, Carl Gombert, Scott Hinds and Bill Cabage.

Nominated by New Hope, Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center, Pistol Creek Catch of the Day was selected for donating time and talents to help generate funds to over 25 local nonprofits.

Edward Harper said Pistol Creek was created as a community band to share music and good times with the community. “We are very honored to be nominated and more honored to receive the Community Spirit Award,” he said. “We can only accept this on behalf of the community spirit of other bands that are contributors to the common good.”

Gombert said playing music is important to him because it is a way to reach people. “Music is one of the most important things and when it is good, it is great,” he said.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Lolita Kressin of the Hearing and Speech Foundation.

She was selected for her work in establishing the Hearing Aid Recycling Program thereby saving the Hearing and Speech Foundation $20,000.

Kressin said she was thankful for the honor and said the agency has existed 30 years to help those who can’t help themselves. “I’m accepting this on behalf of other volunteers, people like Joy Bishop, Rachel Gibson and Becky Swann,” she said.

The Youth Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Nell Koneczny.

Nominated by the Richard Williams Leadership Academy, Koneczny, a recent graduate of Maryville High School, won this award based on her volunteer efforts with Mission Smiles, Santa in Appalachia program, Knoxville Zoo and the Susan Gray School Murray House Fellowship.

Koneczny attends Vanderbilt University in Nashville and couldn’t make the breakfast but her mother accepted the honor on her behalf. “I am very proud of her. She is always looking to be involved in the community,” she said.

Steve West was named the inaugural recipient of the Blount County Philanthropist of the Year Award for 2010. West was nominated by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Philanthropy Day selection committee member, Chris Soro, said, “Steve truly captures the spirit of philanthropy. He is always the first to lead the charge, and he gives so much more than financial support. He gives leadership and enthusiasm to our entire community. He is in and of himself a treasure to be appreciated. “

For the Alzheimer’s Association, West has been involved since the beginning of the Foothills Memory Walk eight years ago and was one of the visionaries of the dream for a walk that included Blount, Loudon and Monroe Counties.

West said most of the people honored during the breakfast felt the recognition was really for not just them but everyone who volunteers with them in their efforts. “We are a giving community and a volunteering community, whether it is through a non-profit organization, political activity or through church,” he said. “Blount County is a great place to live.”

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