Servants to community finally getting their due
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
March 20, 2013 12:00 AM | 1732 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Jean Harris Volunteer of the Year winner Dr. Sharron Brooks Hunt; Lamar Haley Community Service Award winners Clara Mae and Gus Van Brink, Jerry Cooper and Billy Hayes show their plaques during the awards ceremony on Tuesday.<br>Staff/Samantha Shal
From left, Jean Harris Volunteer of the Year winner Dr. Sharron Brooks Hunt; Lamar Haley Community Service Award winners Clara Mae and Gus Van Brink, Jerry Cooper and Billy Hayes show their plaques during the awards ceremony on Tuesday.
Staff/Samantha Shal
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CANTON — Five Cherokee County residents were honored by the Rotary Club of Canton on Tuesday for their unselfish and dedicated service to the community.

Four awards were given to those receiving the Lamar Haley Community Service Award, which recognizes both Rotarians and non-Rotarians who have exemplary volunteer service.

The award, begun by the club in 1989 under the direction of then-president Garland Pinholster, was named in memory of Haley, a club member and community volunteer.

Gus and Clara Mae Van Brink, co-owners of Aamco Transmissions & Total Car Care in Canton, were the first to receive the honor.

Presented by Mike Chapman, chair of the G. Cecil Pruett YMCA Board of Directors and immediate past chair of the Cherokee County Board of Education, the Van Brinks were honored for bringing effort and energy into everything they do, from helping several Cherokee County School District schools through the Partners in Education program to helping the young men at Goshen Valley Ranch to serving on several boards throughout the county.

While Gus is active in Cherokee County Rotary Club, Clara Mae serves as a member of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and vice chair of the G. Cecil Pruett YMCA Board of Directors.

After Chapman read the couple’s lengthy list of activities, Clara Mae said she was dizzied by all of the accolades.

“We get way more out of what we do than what we give and I feel like I should give this to somebody else because we have a blast,” she said.

Billy Hayes, CEO of Northside Hospital-Cherokee, also was presented the Lamar Haley Award.

Dennis Burnette, president and CEO of Cherokee Bank, said Hayes truly personifies service above self, listing his roles as Kennesaw State University Board of Alumni Chair, Reinhardt University Board of Trustees, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, United Community Bank Board of Directors, and Malon D. Mimms Boys Club Board of Directors and chairman of Canton United Methodist Board of Directors.

“Hayes has truly shaped our community and has been a true friend to so many of us,” Burnette said.

Hayes is also in the process of overseeing the development of the new Northside Hospital Canton campus, which Hayes said will break ground Dec. 1 and should open in late 2015.

“Billy’s got plenty to do and he doesn’t have to be dedicated to community service, or he could be dedicated to one thing. But I truly believe the reason that we’re getting what we’re getting in the new medical facility is because of Billy’s involvement in the community and his recognition of what the community needs are,” Burnette said.

Hayes thanked Burnette and his wife Brittany, saying his family’s experience living in Cherokee the last nine years has been a positive one.

“Everyone has been so open and welcoming to us,” Hayes said “We are just so honored and blessed to be a part of this community.”

The final recipient of the Lamar Haley Award was Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper, who was presented the award by Reinhardt Vice President for Advancement JoEllen Wilson.

“This gentleman has all of the qualities we seek for leaders: dependability, integrity, creativity, knowledge, tactfulness, plus he’s one of the friendliest people that you and I will ever have the privilege to know,” Wilson said.

Cooper, who has served over 24 years in local government, spearheaded governmental transparency and accountability initiatives through his work, but has also been active with the local Boys & Girls Club since 1999.

Cooper was also past chair of both the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and the Reinhardt A-Day Leadership Council. He is also past board treasurer of the Cherokee Child Advocacy Council and received the Signature Service Award from the Anna Crawford Children’s Center in 2012.

“Jerry Cooper’s entire professional career and personal life have been dedicated to promoting ethical ideals,” Wilson said. “His decisions and influence have promoted ethical behavior throughout this county and beyond.”

In his acceptance speech, Cooper gave credit to God and his wife and family.

“I can think of a lot more people out there that are much more deserving than I,” he said. “I do it because it’s just the right thing to do to help the needy.”

The Jean Harris Volunteer of the Year Award, given to a non-Rotarian volunteer each year, was presented by former Waleska mayor and author Marguerite Cline.

Cline said this year’s recipient, Dr. Sharron Brooks Hunt, worked with the Georgia Department of Education and Cherokee County School Board, among others, prior to her retirement and becoming a full-time volunteer.

“It’s hard to catch her at home because of the things she’s out doing,” Cline said, noting she always sees Hunt’s silver car driving all around Cherokee delivering lunches to underprivileged children.

She also volunteers with the Cherokee County Historical Society once a week and works with Cherokee Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

“Recently I read something that said ‘Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress.’ That describes Sharron Hunt,” Cline said.

Hunt said the recognition is meaningful coming from an organization with high ideals such as Canton Rotary.

“We both know about meeting the needs of people,” she said. “I accept this for hundreds and maybe thousands of volunteers who just do every day what I do and many of those people are in this room.”
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