Residents recognized for improving their communities
Project We Care recognized 140 local residents who donate their time and efforts to better the community during its annual volunteer recognition ceremony at City Hall on Oct. 7.
The 60 organizations and individuals recognized during the ceremony amassed 773,331 hours of community service between June 30, 2012 and June 30, 2013, according to Christopher Mack, Community Services Project supervisor for the City of Winston-Salem.
“I think it shows that Winston-Salem is a vibrant community that is concerned about its neighbors,” said Mack, the brother of Dr. Sir Walter Mack Jr., whose church, Union Baptist, was among the biggest volunteer service contributors this year. “…It’s important to let the citizens of Winston-Salem know that without them, we can’t provide the community of excellence that we continue to provide.”
City native Tatia Brooks was among those who helped Union top 300,000 volunteer service hours this year. Brooks, an alumna of East Forsyth High School, volunteers eight to 10 hours per week as a football and basketball coach. Brooks, a Union member for the past year and a half, leads the Judah Lions team for children in the 5-7 age group of the church’s Youth Character Football League (YCFL).
“We are 1-2; this is our first year playing tackle,” the mother of one reported. “Last year, we went undefeated.”
Brooks said she felt honored to be a part of the We Care ceremony.
“I think I’m deserving of it. I enjoy kids and I try to get involved as much as I possibly can with kids,” she stated. “…I think it’s a great thing for them to be able to acknowledge people outside of the people that work at the top, people that do things without asking for anything.”
Following a call to service from President Barack Obama five years ago, Mayor Pro Tempore urged the city to create Project We Care to honor local citizens for the valuable contributions they make through volunteering. Individuals and organizations must submit forms and log their volunteer hours during a prescribed period of time to be recognized.
“Without the people, the citizens in the community, we would have a struggle to do the kinds of things that make our community wholesome and livable,” Burke said. “Joining as partners, it makes a difference and an impact.”
Cheryl Lindsay, director of Diversity and Inclusion for HanesBrands, Inc., was recognized for her service to the community as board chair for RiverRun International Film Festival and founder of Red HEARRT (Help Educate And Reduce Risk Today), a heart disease awareness initiative she founded in memory of her late mother, who died of heart related issues at age 46. Red HEARRT set a record in February, when 1,121 area school children gathered at the Benton Convention Center to take part in the world’s largest Zumbatomic exercise class.
“I’m very humbled that they decided to recognize me as well as the volunteers. What I hope is the more people see it, the more people think about heart health,” Lindsay said. “…I want everybody to fulfill their purpose and they can only do that if they’re healthy.”
The We Care ceremony is typically held around Martin Luther King Day but was moved to the fall this year, so recipients and the community could better appreciate the labor of the volunteers, many of whom participate in beautification efforts that are most evident this time of year, Mack said.
The North Winston Neighborhood Association was among those recognized during the event, which drew a standing room only crowd that overflowed into the hallway outside the City Hall Committee Room where it was held. The Association is fighting back against unsavory activities that take place in the area, from drugs to prostitution, said President James Barber. Although they appreciate the We Care accolade, Barber said the association’s membership is motivated by a desire for change more than anything else.
“It was just something we needed to be doing anyway,” he said. “You just can’t allow folks to take over your neighborhood – we just can’t do it.”
Hazel Neely, president of the Piedmont Circle Residents’ Council, said she was thrilled to see her neighborhood get the recognition she believes it deserves. Thanks to initiatives like the GIDE-YEA after school program, which currently serves nearly three dozen children in the community, conditions in the Piedmont are improving, Neely said.
“To be honest, it’s better than money because at least we are being recognized for the things that we like to do,” she said of Project We Care. “As president of the Residents’ Council, I care about my residents, and therefore being recognized is a blessing to me.”