By ANGYE MORRISON
Two local women were honored by the American Red Cross of Georgia on July 30 as part of the organization's first ever virtual recognition event.
The annual event, usually conducted in person, was hosted by the eight Red Cross chapters in Georgia and was streamed online due to COVID-19.
Honored locally were Debbie Nessmith, who was named Rookie of the Year, and Katelyn Johnson, who was presented with the Youth Award. Both are residents of Bulloch County.
"Our volunteers are crucial to our mission," said Maria Center, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast Georgia. "It's so important that we thank them and recognize their contributions to our organization and those we serve, even if that looks a little different this year."
The event recognized the 4,229 registered Red Cross volunteers in the state of Georgia, and the 374,102 hours they served in fiscal year 2020. Their donated time, valued at $25 per hour, equates to $9.7 million in services that helped prevent and alleviate human suffering in local communities.
The Youth Award is given to a volunteer between the ages of 14 and 24 who has volunteered with the Red Cross for at least two years, and has a strong track record of leading and inspiring fellow volunteers, creating a positive impact on the community, and exemplifying dedication to the Red Cross mission.
Johnson says she was both excited and surprised to receive the award. She's worked as a Red Cross ambassador for about four years, traveling to assist with blood drives throughout the area.
"I just enjoy helping people," she said, adding that she plans to continue volunteering with the organization.
The Rookie of the Year Award is given to recognize a new volunteer who has shown outstanding performance in his or her volunteer role during the first year. Nessmith was not available for comment.
Also recognized were Pat and Garry Brown of Evans County, who were presented with the Disaster Preparedness Award, given to a two-plus year volunteer who "leads the way in enhanced preparedness in our communities, resulting in a more efficient disaster response."