While yesterday was filled with great April Fool’s Day pranks (I’ll share mine later), it was also filled with appreciation for people who contribute their hearts to the Atlanta metro area. Last night, I was afforded the honor to attend the 11Alive Community Service Awards. A good friend of mine (shout out to Jamar!) got a last minute invitation from the Atlanta Braves Foundation and needed a +1. I’m usually available for a formal event lol! So in addition to eating a delectable crab cake and delish red velvet cake WITHOUT nuts (how common is that?? yay!), I was fighting back tears since community service shows my soft side.
The program was so inspirational. It is so great to be reminded that there are several people out there giving without qualms. All 11 award recipients have taken their passions and used them to help others–and that’s what it’s all about. God hasn’t put us here to torture us in our giving. He gave us gifts so that we can freely give them away. And so that we can feel good after giving. No matter how small your talent or passion or what you genuinely enjoy doing may seem, you never can tell how much it will mean to the person it helps.
So! Let me run through the recipients and the amazing things they’re doing for this community.
Frank Ski – You know, I’ve listened to V-103 and heard some of the things Frank Ski does, but it wasn’t until I watched the video of his contribution last night that I really paid attention. The Frank Ski Kids Foundation is creating opportunities for kids to be exposed. Frank Ski was abandoned by his mom as a kid, but his dad stepped in after some time in foster care and took him to see a rocket take off. He said that moment changed his life; and since then, he’s been trying to provide those moments to disadvantaged kids in Atlanta. He’s taken kids on trips to places I’ve definitely never been, including the Amazon, and he sponsors kids to go to Space Camp since he wanted to go and was never able. He also provides $1,000 scholarships to kids each year entering college. I definitely have a new respect for Frank Ski–kudos!
John and Jeanette Murphy – This couple currently has 18 adopted kids–and all of them have special needs, which touched a special place in my heart because I have a line sister and friend who has a brother with Down Syndrome and is now his guardian. Since 1983, they’ve adopted 27 children who need love and special care, and they do it with such zest. Their house is in bad condition, so some folks in their community have helped them out since they were overlooked by a home makeover show who picked another house in their neighborhood. They’ve lost 6 of their kids to the battle with their disease, which really made me misty-eyed. Their love for these kids that most people steer clear of was definitely a sight to see.
Mac Secord – This guy has been a pilot for almost all of his life. And now that he’s retired, he uses his flying to help folks. How, do you say? Well, he volunteers with Angel Flight, which provides free flights for people who need medical care. In his video, he helped a toddler and his mom get back and forth to Augusta, Georgia, from Jacksonville, Florida. The toddler had burned both his hands in 150 degree water (they didn’t explain how, so don’t ask), but through Angel Flight, he was able to get to a burn center in time to save his hands and his mom doesn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get back and forth and more importantly, how to pay for it. Again, talk about using what you love to do to be a blessing!
Eslene Richmond-Shockley – From Guyana, she was born in poverty and her family depended on a truck that came weekly with free groceries. She said in her video, “I am glad I grew up poor because I am able to deal with adversity.” She moved to the US to try to become a dentist but couldn’t afford it, but with the help of an advisor, did earn a business degree. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor around the same time MCI went bust, leaving her without a job. She and her clearly dedicated hubby worked through all of that and she not too long after founded Caring for Others, which provides clean clothes and furniture to the needy at a really low cost and guess what else–yep, free groceries. She has beat the odds and has taken her adversity and used it to help others.
Jean Guneysu – This lady is a prime example of how you can take your hobby and help others. She knits. So…? Well, for years, she has made knitting her ministry. She knits for people who need a dash of love in their lives. In particular, she helps the Atlanta Knitting Guild knit special outfits for donated bears that are given to the kids at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. This foundation has the daunting task of interviewing kids who have been victims of sexual abuse. So the teddy bears kind of help them to stay calm and give a little comfort as they have to tell their stories (and let’s remember that only 10% of kids across this country actually tell). This knitting angel also knits skullies for soldiers to go inside their helmets, neck pieces for people who have gotten tracheotomies, and lap blankets for people bound to wheelchairs. She told us at a young age, her mom told her after wiping up a small mess at a restaurant dinner table that she should always leave a place better than she found it, and she said “Oh what a world this would be if everyone made their little corner of the world a little better.”
Carey Carter – This guy owns and runs three salons in Phipps Plaza and still finds time to go outside of the city and help kids who are in foster care. He supports financially and physically the Murphy Harpst Children’s Treatment Center, which helps kids with emotional and behavioral problems. Carey was abandoned as a child so he can identify with the kids and help them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He too has used his bad memories to provide good outlook for others.
Ruth Parham Manning – She believes that parents want to be good parents–so she mentors them. She spends alot of her weekends at the Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy at the Fernbank Center (which I had no idea existed–you know I’m a math nerd at heart). While the kids are learning about how airplanes fly, she is helping the parents strengthen their parenting skills. She also volunteers at the Salvation Army, where she just brightens people’s day through song and kind words. In her acceptance speech, she said, “Yes, I am a retired educator, but I am not a retired servant.” I hear you, girl!
Retired Brigadier General Russell Weiskircher – First of all, this guy has been married to his wife for 63 years. I was already holding back tears before he told us that during his acceptance speech to explain to us why he had to thank her–every time he thinks about sitting down, she reminds him that he’s on this earth for a reason and he goes right on back out to educate the public, and particularly, youth. He was the 2nd guy over the wall when the camp at Dachau during the Holocaust came down. This guy had to see for himself the thousands of stacked bodies of innocent people who suffered for no reason. And at first he didn’t talk about it–until he heard it said that the Holocaust didn’t happen. He’s spent his time since then being a soundpiece on the Holocaust–he even serves on the Commission for the state of Georgia. He teaches kids lessons from the past and lets them know it’s up to us to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. I have special affinity for history lessons about racism and hatred, and I’m so happy that he didn’t let history be rewritten. He stood up to make sure people see how ugly the truth can be sometimes. And he’s still standing.
Tom Glavine – A baseball star, he and his wife have dedicated their resources to fighting childhood cancer. They have 4 healthy kids, but they understand that anything can happen. They raise funds, they host events, give information packets to parents with newly diagnosed kids, and they spend time with actual kids. He says that while the survival rate is up to 75%, he really wants to see the day where the other 25% is taken care of. And of course he had to quote another baseball star: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson
Jewell Brannen – Fiesty on purpose, she brings character to the gift shop at Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite. She is a retired nurse, and she wanted to spend her retirement years being a joy to people. She still parks in the garage despite the hospital’s offer to give her free valet parking, and she enjoys talking with the kids in the hospital and their loved ones. She’s a spitfire, like I imagine I’ll be one day. And she’s full of smiles to pass on to those who need them.
Last, but definitely not least–the Boisfeuillet Jones Award went to
Arthur M. Blank – We all know that this Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner has wads of money and is definitely an Atlanta fixture. What you might not know is how dedicated he is to the Atlanta community. In addition to all the community service that Home Depot is doing, through his Arthur Blank Family Foundation, he has given over $250 million to non-profits, mostly in Atlanta. His 94 year old mother was in attendance, and he discussed how his father passed when he was 14 and it left her to try to run his dad’s business while raise two sons. And even with her problems/issues, she was always helping someone else, and she instilled the importance of giving to others in her boys. Now, he’s a billionaire who gives back.
Overall, the night was definitely worth my time, attention, hair woes, and makeup. 🙂 I was happy to see the stats on what Coca-Cola, UPS, and the Sheperd Center are doing for our community; and I was happy to hear about what these award recipients as well as the 2009 Kids Who Care Winners have done. Inspiration and motivation is the name of the game. I hope with my long post full of my memories of these folks’ stories has done that for you. As Emeril says, let’s kick up a notch. Be a blessing!