The following is the nomination letter written by Judy Johnson and Sonia Williams nominating Denise Graham for the 2010 Citizen of the Year. The letter was read at the Baxley/Appling County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting held on January 25.
Appling County Chamber of Commerce
Citizen of the Year 2011
How does one choose a Citizen of the Year? Look around for a silent hero. A Citizen of the Year is responsibility-to-the-community personified. The one chosen must be an example of altruism - a representative of the area whose purpose is to help others. In this case, the individual has proven to be concerned with the future of residents of Appling County by giving of self to improve the lot of children. Most of the activities of this candidate have centered upon saving children from the cruelty or neglect of adults, and teaching children to accept their roles as ideal future citizens. Time and effort are spent promoting and emphasizing what is best for children. Why should it come as no surprise that the nominee is one who hopes and plans and works to “Pass it forward”? Simply stated, she is determined to make our community a better place to live by helping its future citizens.
Her calling is to promote and care for children: Both those who are seeking to learn more about life and religion at her church; and those who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected.
As Director of Tri-County CASA, she works with volunteers who are trained to speak for such children in the courts of Jeff Davis, Appling, and Wayne Counties. CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocate. Children who have no voice in court now have caring adults to represent them and prepare unbiased reports for the judges who determine their future. Why would she be involved? A faith that these children will break the cycle of abuse they suffer. The success stories of children who have been reunited with parents, sent to foster homes where loving care is given, or adopted into a “real family” make the efforts of this director and her volunteers worthwhile. The job can be heartbreaking, because not all children have success stories. As Director, she recruits and trains volunteers, and also encourages them to renew their commitment and efforts by attending training seminars, conventions, and in-service opportunities. In addition, her fund-raising efforts in conjunction with other dedicated supporters have resulted in an annual Holiday Gala which sustains the local CASA program.
She also volunteers as a group leader with “Rock Solid Kids” at First United Methodist Church each Wednesday night. In this children’s ministry, kindergarten through fifth grade children apply Scripture to daily activities such as visiting shut-ins and collecting items for Appling County Food Bank. She follows up Scripture-based character education with weekly personal contact to show each child her care. At her church, she also participates and leads in these areas: Sunday school teacher; nursery helper; prayer chain member; member of the “We Care” funeral team; United Methodist Women; and Staff Parish Relations Committee.
In addition to her passions for children and church, she is a leader of the Gideons’ International Auxiliary, supporting men whose purpose is spreading God’s Word by getting Bibles into the hands of people all over the world. In the past she served in a state office as Area Director and locally as Vice-President in charge of Programs. She currently serves as Scripture Distribution Chairman and has personally witnessed by speaking and providing Bibles to nursing graduates and hospital personnel. She was instrumental in forming and coordinating a weekly Bible ministry with the female inmates of the Appling County Jail.
As a founding member of the Arts Council of Appling County, she promotes exhibits, concerts, drama, book reviews and lectures — any activity that highlights culture in our community and promotes personal artistic expression. Through her enthusiasm, both children and adults in Appling County are exposed to the fine arts.
In terms of being a silent hero, she has been known to deliver food gifts to the elderly with perfect timing, expecting no recognition.
Her positions as daughter, wife, mother and grandmother are proof of her determination to make the world, and in particularly Baxley and Appling County, a better place. She supports her husband in his practice and personal interests. She reared Eagle Scouts, a lawyer, a physical therapist, a member of the U.S. Border Patrol, and a future physician. Her grandchildren inspire her efforts to improve the lives of children in Appling County. A friend and colleague so aptly stated: “She is a servant of Christ in all that she does.” Judy Johnson and Sonia Williams nominate Denise Graham for 2011 Appling County Citizen of the Year.