United Way honors locals, kicks off campaign Thursday

Published 4:16 pm Friday, September 6, 2019

Alicia B. HIll

The United Way supports a variety of programs in the community ranging from early learning to senior activities, but on Thursday, the focus was on the people who make a difference in Troup County year after year during the Be the One Awards.

The awards ceremony was part of United Way of West Georgia’s 2019 campaign kickoff luncheon.

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During the event, Ginger Zachry was recognized for her contributions to the community as a board member for Harmony House Domestic Violence Shelter. Zachry has been most visible in the community in her work with the annual West Point Lake Dragon Boat Race, but her support for Harmony House and those it serves reaches far beyond the annual event.

“She talks of a stronger, healthier and better-educated community, and she lives that life by giving of her time, energy and resources to ensure that our community becomes just that,” said Melissa Miller, a presenter and chairman of the United Way of West Georgia’s board of directors. “Since 2004, she has donated thousands of hours to Harmony House.”

Zachry has done everything from pick up donations to advocating for victims of domestic violence to researching grants for Harmony House.

“I can’t thank our community enough,” Zachry said. “It takes us all to make LaGrange the wonderful place it is, and I sincerely believe that.”

Stephanie Williams was honored during the event for her contributions as a staff member at Communities In Schools of Troup County. Williams’ work has impacted students in schools throughout Troup County, and she helped organize a chance for students to get to know city leaders.

“The staff at CIS looks to this special individual for new ideas and ways to get the community involved with our youth,” said Katie Mercer Van Schoor, a presenter. “She organized a women’s health expo with several vendors to provide information to our high school girls and formed the Ladies of Royalty and Emerging Leaders, which have been duplicated at all middle schools to provide mentoring and to develop leadership skills and opportunities.”

Williams has also become a touch point for students even beyond the time when they would usually work with CIS.

“It is truly a blessing to stand here and represent Communities in Schools,” Williams said. “I love and enjoy what I am doing, and I am proud to see the impact that we are having in Troup County.”

Elaine Carr was recognized for her work with the Hogansville Empty Stocking Fund, and her commitment to ensuring that local children have a great Christmas every year for over 35 years.

“As a former daycare owner, she understands how important the Empty Stocking Fund is and the difference it can make in a child’s life,” Miller said. “During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, she never loses sight of helping children and families in our community.”

Carr has reportedly on more than one occasion used her own funds to purchase Christmas gifts for children in need on Christmas Eve because she learned about a family that needed toys.

Finally, Vinnie Shank was honored with a special award, the Exceptional Spirit Award, for her commitment to local children in her work with CASA of Troup County. Shank helped implement a program to ensure that children in foster care have a suitcase to carry their clothes in, instead of having to carry their belongings in a plastic bag, which is common in other areas.

“She worked tirelessly to start a suitcase campaign for all children going into care, which helps with a sense of value and worth to this world,” Van Schoor said. “She grew this campaign by later adding trunks for high school foster care, so that they would be able to keep their belongings safe while in group homes.”

Shank also implemented the comfort cases campaign, which gives children in the program a backpack with pajamas, a blanket, books and a stuffed animal.

“I love my CASA family. I love my CASA board,” Shank said. “They are always there for us no matter what I ask them to help us do. They will do it for children in Troup County.”

The event also served as a kickoff to the United Way of West Georgia’s fundraising efforts. The group raised $30,000 shy of its goal last year and hopes to meet or exceed this year’s fundraising goal.

“Have you ever heard the term ‘inspirational dissatisfaction?’ I’m very inspired this year. I hope you are,” said John Asbell, campaign chair. “Our goal this year is $1 million.”

Asbell asked attendees to consider having their organizations conduct campaigns for United Way and individuals to post about the kickoff on social media.

“Be the one who reaches out and makes the difference, shares this to make it a success,” Asbell said.

Patty Youngblood, UWWG president, said that the Be the One concept encompasses what United Way means to the community, and she hopes to see donors be the ones to make a difference by helping the charitable organization. To learn more about United Way of West Georgia and what it is doing in the community, visit Unitedwaywga.org.