"America is another name for opportunity."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Congratulations to Winton and Harriet Harris of Chattanooga, who were presented the National Spirit of '76 Award from Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge. The award recognizes the couple's outstanding service to Freedoms Foundation, a national nonprofit that promotes civic education, and their roles as exemplary U.S. citizens.
Michael Di Yeso, president and CEO of Freedoms Foundation, said the Harrises were selected because of the time, talent and effort they give, not only to the Chattanooga Chapter of Freedoms Foundation but to the community.
"Your efforts and achievements truly embody the American way of life," Di Yeso told the couple in his notification that they had won the award.
The 2012 award was presented at the Volunteer Leadership Conference in Philadelphia in late April. The couple couldn't attend the ceremony because of health reasons, so their nieces, Dr. Nancy Webber of California and Holly Taylor of Virginia, accepted the award on their behalf. The award was presented to them locally by Freedoms Foundation's William O. Perry.
"A lot of people in our community aren't aware of the Freedoms Foundation," Harriet Harris says. "It's a wonderful organization that helps students to become involved and to be more interested in our country's Constitution."
According to freedomsfoundation.org, the organization, founded in 1949 as a nonprofit education organization, is dedicated to helping students, teachers and citizens gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the principles of a free and democratic society. Its purpose is to educate and inspire citizens of all ages and encourage them to make a positive contribution in their communities.
Harriet Harris says the organization sends anywhere from eight to 25 students to attend an annual conference at Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, Pa. The number of students who attend is based on how much money the local chapter earns in fundraisers.
"One of our ongoing goals at Freedoms Foundation is to raise money, mostly through our fruitcake sales and our annual Tour of Homes, so that we can send high school juniors to Valley Forge every year," she says. "Interested students write essays [about patriotism] and a committee selects students who show an outstanding interest in our country and would benefit from attending the leadership conference.
"Every year, the students come back filled with enthusiasm and aspirations to be leaders. And," she says, "they realize how blessed we are to be Americans."
In a letter to the award selection committee on behalf of the Harrises, Valerie Rutledge, director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Education, says the couple have long been outstanding leaders in the community.
"From their days as college classmates [at University of Chattanooga, now UTC], throughout their married life, and even still, their record of hard work, leadership and significant contributions has been one which clearly presents a couple that epitomizes the phrase 'a winning team,'" Rutledge writes.
Harriet Harris taught in the Hamilton County school system for 40 years and, during that time, was awarded numerous honors, including 1992 Teacher of the Year. She was inducted into the Tennessee Teachers Hall of Fame in 1994.
Winton Harris, retired from the Electric Power Board after working there for 32 years, served in the 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division during the Korean War.
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.