May 5, 2016
Democrat Staff Writer
When Carole Curry got to the podium to accept the 2016 Jefferson Award for Public Service, she had to speak through some tears of joy. As she approached the stage, the hundreds gathered in Florida State’s University Center Club ballroom were on their feet applauding.
Curry has been a mentor to the same special needs student, Joshua, for more than six years. She began as his mentor when he was about six years old and has made the transition with him to different schools. She recently began volunteering at Griffin Middle School, where he now attends.
“I never expected this, but I’m honored. I want to thank my baby Joshua, who I’ve been following since second grade,” Curry said.
During her short but powerful acceptance speech, Curry quoted a friend who used to do workshops in Leon County Schools, saying “Even on your worst day, you may be some child’s only hope.”
“I often think about that because I have fibromyalgia. Those of you who know about fibromyalgia, you never know when you might be in really bad pain. And sometimes I think ‘I just can’t do anymore.’ And then I think about Joshua.”
For 38 years, the Tallahassee Democrat has been recognizing the selfless service of individuals like Curry at its annual Volunteers of the Year Awards program. For winning the Jefferson Award, Curry will be sent on a trip sponsored by CenturyLink to Washington, D.C., to represent the Tallahassee area at the National Jefferson Award banquet in June.
Curry was the overall winner of the education field, but awards were given to volunteers in a number of categories.
Outstanding volunteers in the categories of arts, health and wellness, volunteer coordinators, social and civic services, business and government agencies, students and nonprofit groups were all called to the stage for recognition.
“Being in this room, you really understand why we have such a special community to live in,” Superintendent Jackie Pons said. “Sometimes we forget about all the individuals, those that help us raise dollars for the classroom and those that are in the classrooms every day.”The event also was in partnership with Leon County Schools and its annual volunteer recognition program.The Council on Culture and Arts sponsored the arts category.
COCA board chair Rosanne Wood was called up to name the finalists in the art category.
“COCA does an amazing job with the schools and supporting the arts, and today we’re here to honor and recognize the artists,” Wood said.
Sue Dick, president and CEO of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, lauded the volunteers who were being honored. They are one reason Tallahassee is an attractive destination, Dick said.
“This is a community where you can become involved,” she added. “One of our greatest competitive advantages is our quality of life in our community, and it’s because of our volunteerism and our citizens who give back.”
Volunteer of the Year Awards Category winners:
Education, adult: Amy Bentley, volunteered at Buck Lake Elementary, served as PTO Board Secretary
Education, senior: Ida Sampson, volunteered at Astoria Park Elementary since 2004
Education, mentor: Carole Curry, mentored same student for 6 years
Education, student: Rachel Rumana, founded Strides for Seizures nonprofit
Arts Category: Laura Johnson, Southern Shakespeare Festival executive director
Business/government agency: Jake Gaither Neighborhood Assn.
Health and Wellness: Jack Pittman, works with veterans in Big Bend Hospice Valor Team
Nonprofit: Sustainable Tallahassee, Inc.
Social/Civic Services: Pat Ashley, works with Alzheimer’s Project in Wakulla County
Professional Volunteer Coordinator: Ivy Nixson, volunteer coordinator with Elder Care Services