Leaders honored at GALA Awards

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

AHOSKIE – Roanoke Chowan Partners for Progress (RCPP) recently held its second annual GALA awards where many gathered at the Gallery Theatre in Ahoskie to celebrate accomplishments and contributions in the area of economic development over the past year.

RCPP, which has been in existence for five years, is a consortium of grassroots organizations, non-profits, local governments and community-based organizations from Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties whose mission is to coordinate economic development efforts.

According to GALA Chairwoman Mary Coates, RCPP was birthed to serve the community by gathering various organizations and businesses to work together on the common goal of economic development to rise up to a common speed for the betterment of the community as a whole.

The group, which meets on a weekly basis to discuss strategies for securing a brighter future, didn’t think they would be able to hold this year’s event as a result of the damage sustained by Hurricane Isabel, but due to community efforts the GALA awards continued as scheduled despite the setback of the storm.

Bishop J. C. Watford joked with the audience in a skit about competition, that one would think businesses and other organizations would be bound to a struggle for power rather than partake in a partnership for the furtherance of the whole by working together, but that was exactly the tone of the celebration.

The importance of the theme of cooperation, so valued by RCPP, resonated in the words of a song written and performed by Pamela Chamblee, &uot;We are one in our minds, one in our spirits, one in our homes and one in our schools&uot; working together to &uot;erase the barriers and tear down the walls&uot; because &uot;where there is unity, there is strength.&uot;

Awards were presented in the categories of General, Business and Organizational, County Government and Special Recognition.

In the General category, the Amanda S. Cherry Community Resource Center of Hertford County was honored with an award for Children and Families or its extraordinary demonstration of commitment to meeting specific needs in the lives of families and children. R.L. Vann School Reunion Community Resource Center of Hertford and Gates County Cooperative Extension New Choices Strategies for Success Program received awards for Health and Human Services Community Outreach for its efforts in targeting the prevention of diseases most prevalent in the region and demonstrated impact of their efforts to make the community healthier.

Also receiving awards in the General category were Roanoke Chowan Farm and Garden in Hertford County for the Agriculture and Environmental Award for its environmental stewardship in ensuring a healthy balance between economic development and the preservation of the environment; Gates County Public Access Site earned the Technology Innovation and Education Award for creatively using technology to enhance the educational achievement of students in preschool, programs for three-year olds, elementary or high school.

The Katheryn Elizabeth Chavers Adult Day/Health Center in Bertie County was honored with the Shining Star Award for reaching out to the adult community and seniors by encouraging participation in activities like art festivals, fishing and praise songs to emphasize the idea that everyone has something to give at every stage of life.

The spokesperson receiving the award commented, &uot;Studies show the more active a person is, the better their quality of life. Continued learning stimulates the mind and this program not only offers mental stimulation, but fellowship and interaction as well.&uot;

Guy A. Holley, a high school senior from Gates County and member of 4-H since age five, received recognition via the Young Bright Star Award for having achieved success in the community, region, state and nation for his contribution in the 4-H legislature as one of the 26 delegates selected to represent North Carolina.

For the Business and Organizational category, Katheryn Elizabeth Chavers Services to Seniors Award was given to Senior Education Corps of Northampton County for demonstrating outstanding and ongoing commitment to improving the lives of the elderly.

The Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce, in Halifax County, was presented with an award for Excellence in Community Service for its contribution to making sure young people are prepared for a future in the job market.

&uot;It is wise to make an investment in the school community,&uot; said Brenda Bonner from the NCUSDA. &uot;Providing an opportunity for students to gain a good education through the partnerships between businesses and schools will yield productive members of society.&uot;

Receiving the award for Friends of the Northeast were the NC Institute of Government, USDA Rural Development, Kennan Flagler Institute, all of Wake County, and Partnerships for Children, who act as an umbrella for the Smart Start program in Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties.

The award is presented to the region that has demonstrated ongoing commitment to improving lives of the grassroots community.

&uot;We are here because we believe in engagement,&uot; said Kevin Fitzgerald, spokesperson on behalf of the NC Institute of Government.

Fitzgerald commented that he felt it was his duty to help counties progress by teaching them how to position their community for economic development and expansion.

Upon receiving their award, representatives from the various Smart Start divisions added that the caliber of children in the schools greatly hinges on the investment we make into their development and education. The representative from Bertie County added that the success of the future depends on caring for children who are &uot;our most precious resource.&uot;

Mable Mason, an independent success story who founded her own business, Maybelline Cleaning Service, right out of her home, boogied down the aisle upon hearing her name as the winner of the Women in Business Award.

Breathless and excited, she shared her joy in receiving the award, stating, &uot;I give thanks to God for giving me the strength to step out in faith to initiate this business endeavor. This is not the brightest my light is going to shine,&uot; she said as she victoriously held up her award.

Northampton County’s Roanoke Electric Care Trust Fund, who was also a Corporate sponsor for the GALA event, received the Business and Industry Philanthropy Award for its practices in partnering with the community to improve the quality of life by rounding up electric bills to the nearest dollar, living up to their motto that, &uot;small change changes lives.&uot; The organization raised $37,000, which it donated to help fund economic development.

Fitzgerald presented the awards for County Government to Bertie, Hertford, Gates and Northampton counties in honor of their commitment to &uot;greatness and excellence&uot; and lifted up the counties for their hard work and leadership amidst the storm. He commended county employees for the support they provided when residents had nowhere else to turn in the wake of Hurricane Isabel. Gates and Northampton county officials were unable to attend the event, but will receive their award at a later date.

Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church and Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church of Bertie County along with Beulah Baptist Church and New Hope Baptist Church of Gates County received plaques of Special Recognition for their efforts in assisting the community in the aftermath of Isabel, while Oxley Hill Baptist Church in Bertie County received an award for Faith-based Community Outreach.

Wake County’s North Carolina Rural Internet Access Authority (RIAA) was the proud recipient of the Technology Angel Award. The award was presented to the organization for the generous contribution toward enhancing the connectivity of the region as well as their commitment to connecting the rural community to the global community.

The organization has made it possible for rural communities to access the internet, commonly referred to as the &uot;eighth wonder of the world,&uot; while offering 18 classes and servicing over 200 new users for free.

Bertie County Relay For Life received the Hope Award for its efforts to improving the quality of life for cancer survivors. The organization, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, raised over $10 million for improvements in the lives of survivors. Bobbie Parker, who received the award on behalf of Relay, humbly stated that it was the survivors that were the &uot;true heroes.&uot; She said, &uot;Sometimes we forget how well we work together, but it is truly a beautiful site to see.&uot;

Parker stated that Relay for Life would continue to be &uot;merchants of hope&uot; to those in need.

Also given Special Recognition was the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) of Wake County. NCEMC was a corporate sponsor for the event. Nelle Hotchiss, who received the award on behalf of the organization, explained that the corporation exists to assist with market research and businesses relocating to NC. &uot;We are here to help you. We work for you and on your behalf and the reason we do what we do is because we believe in the saying that ‘what you keep you lose, but what you give, remains your own.’&uot;

For its ongoing successful outreach across county boundaries, resulting in partnerships to accomplish a mutual task, the Northeastern NC Partnership for Public Health received the NET Award, while Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) took home the Vision Award. Curtis Wynn, the founder of RCPP, received the award on behalf of REC and commented that it was &uot;an honor to be a public servant&uot; and that the people are &uot;the greatest people on earth&uot; to serve.

&uot;It is complete proof that those who see us as poor are in err because what we’ve witnessed tonight is pure riches!&uot; Wynn added, &uot;The best is yet to come and it is a step in the right direction to honor those who contribute to economic development and community advancement. You cannot overlook the efforts of all the people who had a hand in this endeavor.&uot;

Mary Coates closed the celebration by calling on all the youth who volunteered their time and talents to the event to stand before the audience and receive recognition for their contributions. Youth from Bertie, Gates, Hertford, Southeast Halifax High Schools and Ridgecroft were represented. Students blessed the event with musical and vocal performances as well as serving as ushers.

Patricia Ferguson, the coordinator of the event and Vice Chair, bid farewell to those in attendance and voiced her appreciation and gratitude for their dedication of strength, heart and passion toward seeing the community reach its full potential.

&uot;We’re still on the journey, so don’t give up and abandon it for more fertile ground,&uot; she said. &uot;We need you, all of you. It’s an incredible undertaking, but together we can make it happen. This is a great time of progress and celebration, none of which is important unless you celebrate it!&uot;