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Roper Corp. employees Hollie Evans, Alvin Thompkins, Scott Ossewaarde and Rick Peeler, from right, watch a video about their company Tuesday as they are named the Corporate Volunteer of the Year at the United Way's Volunteer Awards and Recognition Banquet.

Volunteer of the Year award winners

* Community Volunteer of the Year: Jim Houghton, Northside Neighborhood House
* Emerging Volunteer of the Year: Kristen Edgeworth, Signal Centers
* National Service Volunteer of the Year: Bertha Ware, Foster Grandparents Program, city of Chattanooga at Orange Grove
* Family Volunteer of the Year: Pam, Cage and Chloe Gary, SpiritHorse at Eagles Rest Ranch
* Health & Environment Volunteer of the Year: Joyce McNish, SpiritHorse at Eagles Rest Ranch
* Youth Programs & Education Volunteer of the Year: Erica Moreland, Northside Neighborhood House
* Corporate Volunteer of the Year: Roper Corporation

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Bertha Ware is congratulated after being named the National Service Volunteer of the Year.

Other events

United Way's Volunteer Center, Directors of Volunteers in Agencies and the Chattanooga Corporate Volunteer Council scheduled the awards banquet to coincide with National Volunteer Week, April 12-18. Other activities are scheduled, including a special volunteers' night out at the Lookouts on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, volunteers are needed to sort food at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank warehouse from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Jessica Sullivan at 622-1800 or JSullivan@chattfoodbank.org for more information.
A Mark Making day is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the new studio in East Chattanooga 2510 N. Chamberlain Ave. where volunteers will paint the exterior of buildings, landscape lawns and paint a new mural for Glass Street. Call 227-3288 or email Zach Atchley at zach@markmaking.org.
For more information on how or where else to volunteer, call United Way's Volunteer Center at 423-752-0316 or visit www.iHelpChattanooga.org

No matter how big the rivalry in athletics, local Georgia, Alabama and UT fans can all agree that Tennessee is the Volunteer State because there is a goldmine of volunteerism here.

That's according to Chattanooga Times Free Press President Bruce Hartmann, who spoke at United Way's Volunteer Awards & Recognition Banquet Tuesday night.

And there are stats to back him up.

In the past two years, United Way's Volunteer Center recruited or managed more than 15,000 volunteers areawide and those volunteers worked some 100,000 hours at a value of nearly $2.5 million to the Greater Chattanooga area.

"I might be new to town, but to me, that is having an impact," Hartmann said, addressing the nearly 200 people at Tuesday's banquet. "Volunteers are the lifebloods of nonprofits," he added after applauding volunteers for their work.

Some of those volunteers assisted low-income residents with taxes, children with special needs, disabled veterans and children with art projects. And on Tuesday, seven -- one corporation and six individuals -- were named Volunteer of the Year in seven categories.

Among the recipients is high school student Kristen Edgeworth who was named Emerging Volunteer of the Year. She has volunteered at Signal Centers, befriending people with special needs, for nearly two years.

"It has changed my life," Kristen said.

Because of the friendships developed, she wants to study genetics and help people with disabilities.

Foster grandparent Bertha Ware earned the National Service Volunteer of the Year for the work she does to assist children at Orange Grove Center.

And Joyce McNish said she's seen lives changed while writing grants and assisting parents and children in the SpiritHorse program at Eagles Rest Ranch. She's been a volunteer for six years since the program started.

"The pay isn't great," she said jokingly. "But benefits are out-of-this-world."

Her own daughter with special needs died at age 24. She never spoke or walked, but riding instructors at the ranch taught her to ride horses by using her feet. McNish said she uses her experience with her daughter to support other parents with special needs children.

For this she received the Health & Environment Volunteer of the Year award.

Anna Baker, associate director of United Way's Volunteer Center, addressed all volunteers at the end of the program.

"We could not do what we do without you," Baker said. "Chattanooga would not be half as great without you."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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