Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and first lady Sandra are in Washington, D.C., today accepting a $10,000 check from Newman’s Own and a USA Weekend Make A Difference Day city award.
“It proves even more that we are ‘The City With Spirit,’” Rowland said. “To go and represent so many volunteers who give of themselves to help others is an honor.”
The awards luncheon was to be held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Award winners had the chance to meet one another during a reception before the luncheon.
Four music, political and network news celebrities were scheduled to present the awards. They included Jon Bon Jovi, a legendary rock music star; Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of former President George Bush; and NBC “Today” show hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. All four are well known for their philanthropic work.
Recipients were offered a chance for a two-hour tour of the city, but the Rowlands did not participate because they had visited the sights and city before.
Cleveland’s volunteer efforts as part of last year’s Make A Difference Day have been highlighted nationally in the USA Weekend and internationally on the USA Today website.
Numerous activities took place around town Oct. 25, the day chosen as Make a Difference Day and the days surrounding it.
Two job fairs were held. People for Care and Learning held its Bike 2 Build fundraiser for the Build a City project in Cambodia. Lee University students packed bags of food for underprivileged children. The 40 & 8 Society 5-kilometer road race raised funds for nursing scholarships. Walks were held by New Hope Pregnancy Care Center and CASA of Bradley County to raise money for their respective organizations. New Hope Pregnancy Care Center helps women and families facing unplanned pregnancy; CASA provides Court Appointed Special Advocates to speak for the best interests of children of abuse or related cases that come through the Bradley County courts.
More than 800 volunteers were estimated to have participated, and tens of thousands of dollars were raised.
Rowland said he had worked to bring awareness to the service recognition opportunity since 1991.
While Cleveland had been featured in the USA Weekend in the past, it had never been chosen as an award recipient.
Rowland had hoped since there were so many organizations involved that the award money could be divided among several of them. However, the award requires the money to be given to one nonprofit.
The recipient was chosen at random and CASA was selected.
“I really couldn’t believe it, but I was really proud of the work we had done,” said Suzanne Wisdom, who is executive director.
She said she knew the Melisha Gibson Light of Hope Moonlight Walk had meant a lot to the community and she “was glad to see that recognized.”
Wisdom said the funds will go toward recruiting and training new volunteers.
“Funding has been a challenge for us. The work we do — I think a lot of people don’t understand,” Wisdom said.
Prospective volunteers undergo an intensive background screening and 35 hours of training, including hands-on court training.
These volunteers represent the needs of the child in specific cases to advocate what is best for the juvenile.
Wisdom said judges appoint a special advocate to the case if child abuse or neglect, or other conditions deemed harmful, are suspected.
Court advocates typically work on one to two cases at a time. Wisdom said one advocate could handle up to 20 cases a year.
USA Weekend is a regular magazine provided to Cleveland Daily Banner readers in the Sunday edition.
Rowland and Cleveland Daily Banner Publisher Stephen Crass will present the prize money to Wisdom and her group at a later date.