By Tim Gardner
The recent Leonard & Marjorie Williams YMCA of Avery County Volunteer Awards Party recognized achievement and philanthropy from its contributors and other patrons for 2018.
More than 75 attended the awards celebration Feb. 26 in the newly renovated Hugh Chapman Center in Linville, a building developed especially for Avery County’s teens. Each award recipient continues to play an important role in moving forward the North Carolina High Country in general and the Avery County community in particular. Everyone touched in various ways by the YMCA has a story to share of its many positive benefits, and every story can be traced back to a YMCA volunteer such as those honored at the ceremony who believed positive change was possible.
Of the ten awards presented, one in particular stood out-The George Williams Award, named for Sir George Williams who founded the YMCA in London, England in 1844. The farmer-turned-department store worker became deeply troubled at age 22 as he witnessed other young men turning to dangerous influences. Wanting to make a positive influence on others, Williams organized eleven friends for Bible study, prayer and escape from life on the streets. Thus the YMCA was formed.
The YMCA started around a common purpose – meeting the social needs in the community. The Leonard & Marjorie Williams YMCA of Avery County continues that 175-year tradition, which fulfills its mission “To put Christian Principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
The first recipient in Avery County of the George Williams Award is Dr. Charles Baker of Cannon Memorial Hospital. Since the Williams YMCA of Avery County was founded, Dr. Baker has been an advocate for YMCA Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention and Management programs. Through his life’s work and his YMCA involvement, Dr. Baker has affected positive change in the lives of many people.
Besides Dr. Baker, nine others received Williams of Avery County YMCA Awards, including: Board Member of the Year-Kathy Rimmer; Volunteer of the Year-Judy Baris; Community Partner of the Year-Avery County Schools; Philanthropic Business of the Year-Food Lion of Banner Elk; Youth of the Year-A.J. Ayers; Member of the Year-Bill Mann; Arthur Servant Leadership Award-David Brooks; Employee of The Year-Lauren Wilson; and Board of Directors member-Pattie Tennille for 2012-2018.
Williams YMCA Chief Executive Officer Trey Oakley offered glowing praise of Dr. Baker, Rimmer, Baris, Avery County Schools, Food Lion of Banner Elk, Ayers, Mann, Brooks, Wilson and Tennille in his comments during the ceremony for their “tremendous and continuous outpouring of support to help others through the YMCA.”