BY KATHY KNIGHT
Local citizens ranging from elementary school students to those of senior age were honored Thursday evening with "Volunteer Spirit Awards" recognizing outstanding volunteer service to the community in a wide variety of ways.
The awards were the highlight of the 12th Annual Volunteer Spirit Awards Celebration, held at The Crescent Office Building.
The annual program of the Volunteer Center of Greeneville-Greene County is presented in cooperation with The Greeneville Sun, which financially sponsors the awards although the newspaper does not select the winners.
All 12 nominees were praised for their achievements, with cash awards given to three individuals and five groups who were selected as the 2012 winners.
Winning groups each received a plaque and $400, while winning individuals each received a plaque and $250.
The award money was provided by the Sun in order for the winning individuals and groups to further help the cause that each winner most wanted to assist.
The individual winners included:
* Brandon Chapman, who was nominated by Jennifer Reynolds for his exemplary participation in the Greene County Youth Council.
A member of the Youth Council program for three years, Chapman has volunteered 203 hours, giving back to the community the equivalent of more than $4,423 in volunteer service.
* Donnie and Michelle Mace were two individuals nominated by Wendy Peay of the AIDNET program for their countless hours spent as Volunteer Project coordinators for the long-term recovery efforts following the April 2011 tornadoes.
Peay had written on their behalf, "Their stamina is amazing, their dedication is inspiring and their impact is indescribable.
"When such a devastating event happens, it is often the case that people step up and help others. The Maces have simply stepped higher, more often, and with more impact."
These organizations received awards:
* The elementary division of the Boys & Girls Club developed skills in leadership and teamwork by holding cleanup drives, working on coat drives for the needy, doing Christmas caroling and making Easter basket deliveries to nursing homes.
* The middle school division of the Boys & Girls Club has worked to make a difference in the community.
Activities this past year have included planting flowers, litter pick-ups, collecting food and coats, volunteering at the Greeneville Astros concession stand, volunteering at nursing homes with special activities, and much more.
* Those with the Natural Science Division of Walters State Community College's Greeneville/Greene County Center provided 5,348 pounds of food to the Food Bank, provided 350 toys to Gifts for Kids, donated 205 units of blood to Medic, judged 1,650 science fair projects at 10 Greeneville and Greene County elementary schools, donated $1,196.92 through the Multiple Sclerosis Walk-a-Thon, and more.
* The Greene County Youth Council, made up of 67 high school students from all five local high schools, volunteered a total of 2,700 hours.
Some of their activities included helping with family events at Comcare, Inc., Halloween Happenings, Gifts for Kids distribution day, the the GCP Antique and Appraisal Fair, the Parenting Fair and many more events.
* The Greene County Firewood Ministry provided 580 loads of firewood to approximately 160 households in the county this past year.
The group is under the leadership of Tony Williams and David Andrew, and they have many volunteers of several ages.
They informed the Sun that they would be presenting their plaque to Amy Thomas, widow of Dewey Thomas, who passed away earlier this month.
Williams said, "Dewey helped us so much and gave so much of his time -- he will be sorely missed, and we want to honor his memory by giving our plaque to Amy."
The other nominees recognized during the evening included Central Ballet School and Theater; Chuckey-Doak High School football team; Miriam Frazier, 4-H Extension Agent; Kiwanis Club of Greeneville; and the North Greene High School football team.
Leigh Ann Blalock and Grace Duer, members of the local Girl Scouts, with assistance from Unit Leader Sandi Blalock, showed a video about the Girl Scouts and talked about the organization's 100 years.
The duo made the point of how important service to the community is for Girl Scouting, and they quoted Juliette Gordon Lowe, founder of the Girl Scouts, as having said, "Be a giver, not a taker."
Each of the girls is working on a Gold Award Project, which is to the Girl Scouts what an Eagle Scout achievement is to the Boy Scouts.
Blalock's project involves working to prevent glaucoma, while Duer's project involves making gowns for indigent, premature babies.
The awards were presented jointly by John M. Jones Jr., editor of The Greeneville Sun, and his brother, Gregg K. Jones, the newspaper's co-publisher and the President/CEO of Jones Media, Inc.
John Jones congratulated the nominees on behalf of the newspaper, stating that he and his brother come from a four-generation family of volunteers, who taught them by example about volunteering.
He also mentioned that they see daily in their work at the newspaper the many contributions made by volunteers throughout the community.
"Volunteers are wonderful, essential, and vital, whether one volunteers individually or in a group. But people make a conscious decision to volunteer."
Jones' last comment for the evening summed it up best: "On behalf of the community and The Greeneville Sun, 'Thank you for what you do!'"
Others assisting in the program included Katie Leonard, Grace Duer, and Hannah Carlson, Girl Scouts, who presented the colors; Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles and Greeneville Mayor W. T. Daniels, who presented certificates to the nominees and expressed thanks to the volunteers present; Brian Cutshall, director of online operations for The Greeneville Sun, who served as master of ceremonies; Ken Earl, president of the Volunteer Center board; and Patrick Wine, board member.