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WoodmenLife recognizes community volunteers

By Will Whaley

The Selma Times-Journal

The WoodmenLife Selma Chapter 3 filled the back room at the Golden Ranch on Thursday night to celebrate members of the community who have worked to make the city and Dallas County a “better place to live.”

The first award, the Environmental Award, went to Caleb Smith.

“This award goes to a young man who came up with the idea of Selma Recycles,” said Ashley Pruitt the Community Outreach Manager for WoodmenLIfe. “That is a program that teaches people how to recycle and the importance of it. Caleb told his mom about the idea and they worked hard to write a grant to help with the project.

“He was awarded the grant last year and has been working hard to teach people about how to recycle and where. This award is for his outstanding efforts in conserving natural resources on a wide scale and devoting his time to cleaning up the environment.”

“I have a great team that helps me with Selma Recycles,” said Smith. “I would like to thank my mom and dad for everything that has happened. Without them nothing would have ever started.

“It started when my mom was looking at grants and she wanted me to do something productive,” Smith said. “She found something that was called a Disney Grant, and she asked me if I wanted to do something to apply for the grant.

“I thought well Selma has not been doing a great job in keeping the environment clean,” said Smith. “I wanted to create a recycling program, and now it has grown and is thriving a lot.”

Karen Pettaway received the Caring for Others Award.

“Last year, I received a text message saying a woman in Orrville needed a flag pole for her new resource center,” said Pruitt.

“So I followed up with the message and Selma Chapter 3 donated a flag pole to her. On the day of the flag pole dedication, upon walking on the little campus, I knew there was something special out here.

“There is front of me was a beautiful building, with a big yard, a brand new flag pole, chairs and a podium out for the ceremony,” she said. “I walked into the building, and there was the kindest, most caring soul, with a heart for special needs adults there to greet me. That is the day I was able to meet Karen Pettaway face to face.

“A few years ago, Karen had a vision of a place for special needs adults to spend their days interacting with their days interacting with their peers, learn at their own pace and make friends and memories along the way. She has since built The Resource Center out in Orrville, here special needs adults can enjoy their day playing games, singing, exercising, doing crafts, reading and spending time with friends. She has between five and six adults who attend regularly and hopes to grow.”

Jeff Harrison received the Community Leadership Award.

Harrison is the director of the Selma Area Food Bank.

“This guy deserves a lot of awards,” said Pruitt. “He is quite a busy man. He always says yes anytime I ask him to do something. His biggest priority is running the local food bank that covers four counties and is constantly delivering food on a mobile pantry to these four counties.

“This past year, he helped put on a huge crawfish boil for the Selma Train Depot, and even made the news on Al Jazeera, and just wrapped up his second annual Bass Tournament in April, which is quickly becoming a mini-festival.

“He always has a smile on his face and a positive outlook at the day,” said Pruitt.

Leith Wilson was awarded the Contribution to Youth Award.

“The youth are our future, and we want them to excel in all areas of life,” said Pruitt. “The Boy Scouts of America is one way in which children are able to do so. Tonight we want to recognize someone that makes that possible. Leith works hard each year to raise the money to keep the Boy Scouts up and running in Dallas County, through campaigns and shrimp boils. He spends his summers at Camp Tuk teaching children outdoor activities and much needed life skills.”

Buddy Wiltsie was surprised by Pruitt with the Fraternal Spirit Award.

“Every month this Woodmen member faithfully turns in financial reporting like clockwork, this member makes sure this chapter is always striving for five stars by presenting flags, checks and helping with the food bank. He is always ready to say yes to whatever I throw at him.”

The Community Partnership Award was presented to Candice Irwin and Katie Simmons from the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center.

“We serve Bibb, Wilcox, Hale, Perry and Dallas County,” said Simmons. “We interview abused children, any allegation of abuse, and law enforcement or DHR will set up the interview, and the main reason is so that the child would not have to repeatedly tell their story. It is such a tough thing for a child to have to tell. I am the victim’s advocate so I work with the children and their families.”

“I do a lot of our fundraising, outreach, scheduling training and awareness about child abuse,” said Irwin who serves as the outreach coordinator for the center.

“April was child abuse prevention month, and we plant pinwheels for how many abuse cases they have had in each county,” said Simmons. “Last year, there were 100 cases of child abuse reported in Dallas County. That is staggering to believe that in this county that has happened. For every one case that is reported there are nine other cases that are not reported. Just getting them to tell their story is an important job.”