It’s that time of year again when the Daily American Republic recognizes the often unnoticed work of individuals in the community who go above and beyond to help their fellow man.
In today’s newspaper, you’ll find a special section featuring this year’s top 10 finalists, and you’ll undoubtedly notice each one is a solid choice as a Difference Maker.
Spending time over the last week or so recording videos of each nominee at the Bloodworth House was an eye-opening experience, and while it may be cliche to say “there are still good people left in the world,” the work each of these people do really enforces that notion.
Brenda Allen is a retired teacher and school administrator, and even after battling her own health problems, she still works through Habitat for Humanity, the Philanthropic Educational Organization, the foster care system and others to “pay it forward.”
The Buddy Ball committee works to open doors to children with physical and mental disabilities on the baseball field. It’s a place where those children typically would not prosper, but Buddy Ball changes that. I’ve said it before - Buddy Ball is my favorite assignment of the year - and if you witness a game, you’ll understand why.
Tom Burns was a banker for decades, but when he wasn’t at the bank, he worked as a Butler County Sheriff’s deputy. What most don’t know is he did that for 25 years as a volunteer. In all those years, Burns worked an estimated 40,000 hours, filling in where needed, and never took one dime of pay for it.
Misty Dodson has a soft spot for children, especially those in the foster care system. As a court appointed special advocate and through other efforts, she works tirelessly for children in need and estimates she’s worked with 4,000 of them directly.
Michelle Hessling took note of how many homeless people she saw while driving one night and prayed for guidance on what she could do to help. Today, she works behind the scenes to provide much-needed necessities for the homeless population and tries to dispel many misconceptions about them.
RT McCain and Jason Matlock work to build confidence in local at-risk youths by removing what they call roadblocks to success. They host back-to-school events and provide school supplies and clothing, offer free hair cuts, host cook-outs and more, something they say is “purely from the heart.”
Linda Nelson volunteers in a first-grade classroom at O’Neal Elementary, serving as a grandmother figure for many children who don’t have that relationship at home. She believes “every kid needs somebody to make them feel special” because “sometimes they’re not getting enough of that at home.”
Jimi Waggoner battled drug addiction and won, and today, he works to help other men win that fight as well. As founder of Crossroads Ministries, Waggoner oversees the daily activities of up to 20 men, who work in roofing, construction and other trades in the six-month rehab program.
Jim Ward is a founder of the Bread Shed, which provides food, clothing, diapers and other necessities to those in need each week. He’s also instrumental in connecting those in need with others who may be able to help when he can’t.
The work each one of these finalists does is vastly different, but they all have a common thread, and that is their strong desire to help their fellow man.
Each would say it’s not about them, but instead it’s about lifting people up. It’s truly inspirational, and that’s what being a Difference Maker is all about.
Paul Davis is assistant editor at the Daily American Republic and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.