Volunteers honored Thursday with Giving from the Heart awards were offered congratulations, but more importantly, the winners were offered words of thanks.
The Catawba County Volunteer Center held a reception Thursday at the Catawba Country Club honoring selfless volunteers from across the county.
"Every year, I'm touched, encouraged and excited by what I read about what's going on in our county," said Cheryl Abee, director of the Catawba County United Way's Catawba County Volunteer Center.
Organizations submit nominations of volunteers who "give from the heart." A panel reviewed nominations for the annual award and selected the winners.
Dr. Ric Vandett, former superintendent of Hickory Public Schools and director of the Southwest Education Alliance, spoke at the event honoring volunteers of all ages.
"Giving from the heart means you don't need any exterior motivation from others," Vandett said. "It's simply because it's the right thing to do."
The Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation donated $1,500 for the event, which will allow winners to donate $500 to a non-profit organization of their choice.
Volunteers were honored for their service work as individual, group and youth winners.
Fred R. Jones, individual winner
Jones was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and watching people volunteer their time for him inspired Jones to serve others.
"I sat in my house watching people cut my grass and bring food," Jones said. "I found out that it's absolutely more blessed to give than it is to receive."
Jones retired from Duke Energy after 34 years on the job, and since retiring, he made volunteering his full-time job. He donates his time to Habitat for Humanity, The Corner Table and Palliative CareCenter and Hospice of Catawba Valley, to name a few of the organizations he serves.
Mary Wiggs, from Duke Energy, nominated Jones for his service.
"Everyone knows they can count on Fred at all times," Wiggs said in her nomination.
Jones also loads and delivers blankets to the Salvation Army and Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry through Duke Energy's Share the Warmth program.
Southern Hospitality Workcamp volunteers, group winner
The Southern Hospitality Workcamp volunteers worked to apply for, plan and execute a massive volunteer project last summer in Newton.
The volunteers coordinated a group of more than 400 student volunteers from the Group Workcamps Foundation based in Colorado. The student volunteers completed 62 home improvement projects, including seven handicap-accessible ramps, at area residences.
"The winners in the group category are truly an example of one small group of volunteers managing and coordinating another huge group of volunteers," Abee said.
Jim Ten Kate accepted the award on behalf of the many men and women who helped make the workcamp a success.
"This community suffered a lot of economic woes," Kate said. "We were glad to be able to help out the area."
Southern Hospitality Workcamp volunteers also provided snacks, meals, drinks, lodging and handmade pillows for student volunteers and their advisors.
Olivia Neely, youth winner
Neely, 17, volunteers with the Rape Crisis Center of Catawba County as a mentor, leader and guide for victims of sexual abuse and violence.
"As a victim myself, it's reassuring to know that there's a place where people can go to share their feelings," Neely said. "This topic isn't well known, and it's great to be able to reach other people. If I can do anything to help out, I'm glad to."
Neely also designs and creates jewelry, which she sells to benefit the Rape Crisis Center. Her designs raised more than $200 for the organization.
The center moved to a new building in March, and Neely donated more than 30 hours in a week to help unload, organize and paint the new facility.
Sarah Baker, a victim advocate at the center, nominated Neely.
"She is one of the unique young people who is wise beyond her years," Baker said in her nomination of Neely.
The reception also recognized three individuals who received the 2010 North Carolina Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. The awards recognize service in North Carolina through the Office of the Governor. More than 15,800 volunteers received the award since its creation in 1979.
Winners were Walt Thomas, for his community watch program; Daniel Aberle, for his Eagle Scout war memorial; and Cole Reitzel, for his service to elderly members of his church.
Other nominees for Giving From the Heart awards include Max Fox, Frank Delmerico, Wayne Trammell, Michelle Cloninger, Frank Schwartz, Anita Mapes, Christine Cavendar, Keith Hansen, Trina Stamey, Bailey Eckard, Tara MacIver, Faith Miller, Sydnie Taylor, Morningstar Youth Missionaries, Bi-Lo volunteers, Hospice Thrift Store volunteers, Catawba County Youth Council, Sarah Brown, Darien Gerami, Tara Starnes, Piedmont Natural Gas volunteers, Destiny Management Incorporated, Girls on the Run coaches, Elizabeth Pate, David Doolittle, Unifour Christian Fellowship Church, Stephanie McGee, Phrank Moses and Gregory Cole Reitzel.