More than 250 supporters and celebratory friends turned out Thursday night to honor this year’s recipients of Spirit of Good Neighbors awards.
Good Neighbors took nominations from the public for weeks, wanting to know who out there silently goes about the business of humbly helping others.
Board chair Eric Weatherbee, vice-chair Matt Webb and board member Julie George of Good Neighbors’ helped introduce the community to the newest recipients. Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell was the emcee for the evening. Attendees were treated to a free dinner provided by Jeff Hutchison, at New Providence Presbyterian Church. National Honor Society members at Maryville High School and Bonner Scholars at Maryville College assisted.
Good Neighbors is a nonprofit based in Blount County that helps people in temporary crisis. This year, it has added a budget coach to its team, and already 50 families have taken advantage of the assistance.
A prayer breakfast for Feb. 6 was announced.
Here are the 2019 recipients of the Spirit of Good Neighbors awards:
Julie Hays is the recipient in the Adult category. She resigned her teaching position several years ago and since then has been helping our Hispanic neighbors. She interprets for doctor appointments and dentist appointments and helps register kids in school. She’s arranged visits with immigration lawyers and is in constant contact with the lawyers to make sure the law is followed.
Some of the families have to go to Memphis and she arranges for someone to drive them. She keeps a list of Hispanics needing dental assistance and she has arranged for a dental office to see them four times a year. One of the people who nominated Hays said, “Hays does it all for the love of the people and their culture. She does not receive any payment for all she does.”
There aren’t a lot of people in the community that know she does all this, the nominee said, but her name is known well in the Hispanic community and she is very loved by them.
She is a founding board member of Welcoming Immigrant Neighbors — Blount County where she serves on three accompaniment teams for three local neighbors who are seeking asylum. In that role she has translated, served as liaison with lawyers, helped find washing machines and furniture, navigated consulate appointments and much more.
“Julie personifies what I think the Gospel is about,” another person nominating Hays said.
Polly Morgan is this year’s winner in the Senior category.
Morgan is an active senior adult and volunteers for New Providence Presbyterian Church working with the Community Benefit Sale. She has served in several capacities for the organization since she began volunteering in 1989, including being the PWC Outreach Coordinator and heading the miscellaneous clothing and jewelry section. She has served as a mentor for many of the women who volunteer.
Her quiet demeanor, compassion and knowledge of the details of the many areas in which she has worked have set an example for the rest of the team to follow, the nominator said. She has an unlimited amount of patience with new volunteers. She always has a kind word for other volunteers and anyone with whom she comes into contact.
“One of the best examples of being a good neighbor involves Polly’s devotion to continuing to process, clean and package the jewelry for sale even when she was undergoing chemotherapy,” the person nominating Morgan wrote. “It is very detail-oriented work and takes a tremendous amount of time. She would normally take things home to work on, but when health issues prevented her from coming in on a regular basis, she still found the energy to continue to do the work from home.”
Above and Beyond
Julie Elder has been selected as the 2019 recipient in the Above and Beyond category.
She is extremely active in our community and has served as the past board chair for the Maryville City Schools Foundation, her nominator wrote. Elder is on the Advisory Board for Maryville City Schools’ Family Resource Center, and serves on the Maryville City School Board. In addition, she serves as a volunteer at Maryville Junior High School and at Sam Houston Elementary.
Elder is also the current chair of the Leadership Blount Board of Directors, the board chair for Harmony Family Center and serves on the Board of Directors at New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center.
“Julie sees the world as a place that everyone can succeed,” the nominator wrote. “Julie understands that there are different barriers that are up in our community and she works diligently to remove the barriers.”
For the past 20 years, the the Harmony Family Center has helped children they serve to live their best life. In working with children and families they have faced the challenges of drug abuse, violence and poverty and the impact on the families.
This year the Harmony Family Center developed a forum to Building a Trauma-Responsive Community locally. These sessions centered around educating members of the community on trauma and helping people understand trauma as a “What happened to that child or family?” rather than “Why do they behave that way?” Forums will continue.
Lifetime of Service Award
The Chilhowee Club has been serving Blount County for 128 years and is the second oldest women’s club in Tennessee. It founded the Blount County library and helped the library celebrate its 100th birthday. The club is part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs with clubs throughout the world. The national headquarters is in Washington, DC and has had past members including Eleanor Roosevelt and many of the original women’s suffrage advocates.
In August 2019, the club raised over $1,300 worth of art supplies for our local schools donated in memory of Clark Riley Reagan. This is just a very recent example of the thousands of dollars the club has raised throughout the years and donated to the benefit of Blount Countians. The club in 2019 also collected hundreds of shoes to send to those in need of shoes outside of the U.S. as part of the “Soles for Souls” campaign.
Chilhowee Club sponsors the Blount County poetry contest open to all students k-12 in Blount County schools, Alcoa City Schools, Maryville City Schools, and all private schools and home school children within the county. This year’s contest, held in April 2019, had dozens of entries from all grades, and some of the Blount County winners went on to receive district and state awards.