United Way Hosts Inaugural Celebrate Awards To Recognize Local Nonprofits And Volunteers

Thursday, May 13, 2021

United Way of Greater Chattanooga and its nonprofit support arm Venture Forward virtually hosted the inaugural Celebrate Awards event on Tuesday. Three awards were presented to the winning finalists in the categories of Innovation in Action, Volunteer of the Year, and Nonprofit of the Year. The finalists and winners for each award were selected by third-party volunteer judges from a pool of nominees submitted online from individuals in and around the greater Chattanooga area.

The Innovation in Action award, sponsored by Bridge Innovate, was presented to Clínica Médicos for the agility and ingenuity they utilized to provide full access healthcare throughout the pandemic. Other nominees included WTCI-PBS and Reflection Riding Center.

The Volunteer of the Year award, sponsored by Lawson Electric, was presented to Friends of Special Children for their outstanding and continued commitment to their work supporting Signal Centers. Other nominees included Habitat for Humanity of Chattanooga Crew Leaders, and Rebecca Parton, a volunteer with Northside Neighborhood House.

The Nonprofit of the Year award, sponsored by Double Cola, was presented to YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga for their expansive work in the community, which included providing meals to thousands of children in the absence of regular school meals, and transforming their East Brainerd location into a tornado relief hub following the natural disaster, among many other works. Other nominees included The Creative Discovery Museum and ArtsBuild.

The Celebrate Awards event was formed as a celebration of the outstanding community work done by local nonprofits in the past year in the face of multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Easter tornadoes, and many instances of racial injustice. The keynote address was given by Coach Will Healy, a Chattanooga native and coach of the North Carolina-based Charlotte Forty-niners and United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s forthcoming 2021 campaign chair Dr. Elaine Swafford, who currently serves as CEO of the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy.

"I have the best job in the world because I get to learn and experience life with people who are from different backgrounds and walks of life,” said Coach Healy. “Hope comes from being a servant and living for things that are bigger than you."

Attendees also heard from Lesley Scearce, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

"We received an incredible response in nominations for these awards, which is not a surprise because our social sector is strong,” said Ms. Scearce during the event. “As you have heard, while much of the world was slowing down, many nonprofits were ramping up. There are only three finalists per award, but the work goes so much deeper and farther than those 9 organizations. No one person or nonprofit can move the needle alone – above all else, we celebrate the impact we have been able to make together. This incredible amount of effort, care, and dedication to the community of Greater Chattanooga itself is worthy of celebration."

Time was also taken for outgoing campaign chair Charlie Brock to celebrate and thank the generous corporate partners which contributed at the highest levels over the last year, as well as the corporations and entities which stepped up to support the Restore Hope Fund, which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it presented for the community. Read more about the partner organizations who helped make Restore Hope Fund a success and the impact it has had for greater Chattanooga by visiting https://unitedwaycha.org/restorehopeimpact/.

Congratulations to the winners, nominees and the Greater Chattanooga community for their incredible work this past year. A full recording of the virtual event can be viewed on YouTube. 


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