The Caring Place honored the volunteers Monday night who help make the nonprofit organization’s day-to-day operations happen.
The event’s emcee, Dr. Leonard Albert, said the organization is “100 percent volunteer-driven,” and those helpful people put the “Caring” in organization’s name.
Located in Cleveland, the group offers different types of help to those in need, including donations of food and clothing and a feeding program that gives children in local school who may not have food at home some to take with them for the weekend.
Albert praised the “vision” of the organization’s executive director, Reba Terry, and said he was able to watch the organization go from operating on intermittent donations to having an annual budget of $1 million to help those in need.
He also recalled how his father had abandoned his family when he was 10 years old and how he, as “the man of the house,” was sent to pick up government-subsidized food to help his family survive. He said those who gave out the food then were not as “caring” and would sometimes make him feel bad for needing to get food.
“We were just ‘those people,’” Albert said. “Thank God for volunteers like the ones at The Caring Place.”
Terry and volunteer coordinator Sandra Woodard then presented awards to the volunteers of the year and chose this year’s recipient of the Danny O’Neal Servant Award.
The Danny O’Neal Servant award was named after a late volunteer who “always did the things that needed to be done,” Terry said. The award is given to honor a volunteer who had the same quality of wanting to go above and beyond to help the organization.
This year’s recipient was Lorraine Alton, who has been with the organization for more than nine years and has provided help in a variety of areas, including language translation. Terry said Alton exemplified the same kind of volunteer spirit O’Neal had.
Alton said she was “undeserving,” but she loved helping. She also joked she was the only volunteer who could talk to everyone because she is multilingual.
Because there were so many volunteers to choose from, Terry said they decided to choose volunteers of the year from each of The Caring Place’s departments to recognize the roles people in each department play. Volunteers receiving awards had been helping the organization for at least a year.
The volunteer of the year from The Caring Place’s food department was Earl Page. It was awarded to him posthumously, and his son, Kelvin Page, accepted it on his behalf.
Page said he, unfortunately, didn’t find out until after his father’s death just how much of an impact he had made on those around him. He thanked The Caring Place for honoring his father.
The volunteer of year award for the Sac Pac program, an award that is new this year, is called the Madison Jackson Award. Elaine Samples received the award for her work with the program.
Jackson is a young girl who found out about the feeding program for local school children and wanted to do whatever she could to help. That included volunteering, raising money for the organization by making and selling bracelets and other jewelry and trying to talk her parents out of taking a vacation to Disney World and asking that they donate to The Caring Place instead.
The volunteer of the year from the clothing department was Gaynelle Keeling.
The registrars and monitors department’s volunteer of the year was Pat Burris.
Terry also gave certificates to all the volunteers marking their anniversaries of volunteering with the organization for five or more years. She stressed what The Caring Place does is dependent on loyal volunteers. She said God is using them to help their community.
“We’re amazed at all God is doing in and through The Caring Place,” Terry said.
The event’s main speaker was Mark Williams, the general overseer of the Church of God denomination. He said it was “an honor” to speak to a group of people who had committed to serving an organization the way they had.
He told the story of how he once met a homeless man while beginning a church pastorate and how the man taught him the importance of serving the less fortunate. The church was a large one that had congregants with fancy clothes and cars but was just steps away from a bridge under which homeless people lived.
Williams said he and his congregants had to decide whether they wanted to serve others or “keep the poor at a distance.” While he said donating money is a good thing to do, he cautioned against choosing to “hide behind” check writing.
He read a few different verses from the Bible outlining the importance of helping the poor, and urged the volunteers to continue doing what they had been doing.
“The Lord calls upon us to be actively engaged with the poor,” Williams said.